It took 48 hours, but the disciplinary sanctions the Orioles were hoping for were passed down by Major League Baseball on Wednesday.
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman was suspended six games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing at Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph’s head in the sixth inning Monday.
“Like I said the time, I had a lot of confidence MLB would look at it and do what needs to be done,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I have a lot of confidence that when something like that happens, and emotions of players get in the way of good decisions, that the league office will remind them that certain things aren’t tolerated.”
After Stroman’s 92-mph fastball sailed past Joseph’s head, the rookie right-hander and both dugouts were warned by home plate umpire Ted Barrett. The umpiring crew ruled that Stroman did not intentionally throw at Joseph, so Stroman was not ejected.
The league office saw it differently after a detailed review of the play, taking other factors into consideration. Perhaps the biggest factor: Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley were both hit in the head on the same day last week in two very scary scenes. Baseball wants to put an end to those situations as quickly as possible.
“In the last week, we have seen two guys get hit in the head, both guys go to the hospital. There’s life outside of baseball, and a lot of guys like going home to their wives and kids,” Joseph said. “I’m not the judge. I have no idea of intent. Doesn’t really matter to me. There’s just really no place for that in baseball here.”
Stroman, who is appealing the suspension, reiterated Wednesday that the pitch slipped from his hand. In the previous inning, Joseph stepped on the hand of Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes during a play at the plate.
“I would never intentionally throw at anyone,” Stroman said Wednesday. “I respect the game. I respect the players too much to ever do anything like that. Family, friends, teammates know the type of individual I am.”
Stroman said he intends to reach out to Joseph, but he hasn’t yet. “I am in the process of reaching out through a friend,” Stroman said. “It's fairly new.”
Joseph said if Stroman wanted to talk, he’d certainly listen.
“There’s been a lot going on here in Baltimore,” Joseph said, referring to Tuesday’s clinching celebration. “If he does [reach out], I’ll be ready to talk at any point.”
A day after clinching the American League East, the Orioles home clubhouse still smells of celebration -- champagne and beer -- as Showalter spoke to some of his veteran players individually and then held a team meeting to discuss the team’s plan going forward.
Showalter said the Orioles will still try to earn the top record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs -- they trail the Los Angeles Angels by three games with 11 games remaining heading into Wednesday -- but still try to give players some rest.
Showalter said he will stagger the days off. Right fielder Nick Markakis is out of tonight’s lineup. He expects to give Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy rest over the next few days as well.
“Nicky gets today and tomorrow off and then he plays Friday,” Showalter said. “Jonesy might get Thursday and Friday off. But I don’t want these guys sitting around two, three days without playing. We’ve got to keep that feel a little bit. We’re going to have three days off before the playoffs start.”
Christian Walker, whose contract was purchased Wednesday from Triple-A Norfolk, will make his major league debut in the series finale against the Blue Jays, starting at first base and batting seventh. Steve Pearce will fill in for Markakis in right field.
The organization didn’t anticipate calling up Walker this month -- he was part of a taxi squad working out in Sarasota, Fla., in case they were needed -- especially since he didn’t need to be placed on the 40-man roster until the end of the 2015 season. But the Orioles now want to get a glimpse of Walker at the major league level.
“Talking to a lot of people during the year, they think he’s got a chance to contribute here at some point, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity to see him in these environments that he’s going to have, Yankee Stadium, Toronto, home,” Showalter said. “It would help us evaluate better as opposed to 40 at-bats against Double-A and Triple-A guys late in a ballgame in Sarasota and make better evaluations.”
Walker was the Orioles minor league player of the year, earning this year’s Brooks Robinson Award after hitting .288/.357/.489 with 26 homers and 96 RBIs in 139 games at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
Walker said he hoped he might get a call-up after joining taxi squad in Sarasota.
“That’s what we used to stay motivated down there,” Walker said. “All the coordinators, they kept saying, ‘Just stay ready. You don’t want to be the guy that when they call your number you’re not ready.’ With that on the line it’s definitely easy to stay motivated.”
Other items of note:
-- Third baseman Manny Machado, who was expected to rejoin the team Friday, will remain in Los Angeles and rehab from right knee surgery there. Showalter said that Machado’s recovery is going well.
“Manny was actually telling me the other day that it actually feels better than the other one did at this point,” Showalter said. “I asked [head trainer] Richie [Bancells], ‘Is that a sign of anything?’ He said, ‘No, he said he’s good.’”
-- Showalter announced his starting rotation for this weekend’s series against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards. Right-hander Kevin Gausman will start Friday’s game on six days' rest -- he last pitched in Friday’s doubleheader against the Yankees. Chris Tillman will start Saturday and Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday, both with one extra day of rest following Thursday’s day off.
Showalter didn’t rule out another start for Ubaldo Jimenez, who earned his first win in Tuesday's game since Aug. 9. Jimenez needed 60 pitches to get through his first two innings, but he retired his last 10 batters to earn the victory.