When the phrases “oblique strain” and “baseball player” are intertwined, it’s usually cringe-worthy.
Rarely is it ever good news. An oblique strain, depending on its severity, can sideline a player more than a month. It usually is a slam-dunk DL sentence.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis left Friday’s game with a left oblique strain. After the game he said he didn’t believe it was too severe, that he was in some discomfort, but, “it doesn't feel so bad right now that I can't move or anything like that.”
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Regardless, the Orioles will add another position player from the minors Saturday (they optioned T.J. McFarland to Triple-A Norfolk after Friday’s game to create a roster spot).
It almost certainly won’t be Manny Machado despite his strong night in High-A Frederick. The Orioles have been very cautious with their prized, third baseman’s recovery from knee surgery. It would be foolish to suddenly rush him back now after playing one game at a minor league affiliate.
The best guess is that they bring up a stop-gap hitter – and Jemile Weeks is probably the most sensible choice. He has done well at Triple-A (.296 average) and is on the 40-man roster. He gives the Orioles another option at second base so Ryan Flaherty can play first.
The first base options at Norfolk – Brett Wallace, Chris Marrero and Johnny Monell -- aren’t on the 40-man and aren’t hitting, either. David Adams is on the 40-man roster and can play all around the infield, but he is batting just .200.
The hope is that Davis is out only a couple days. That way, the Orioles don’t have to rely on Ryan Flaherty as their primary first baseman for a long stretch. Steve Clevenger could also be an option at first base, but he’s the club’s only back-up catcher on the roster. Nick Markakis could come in from right field and Nelson Cruz or Delmon Young could play in right, but then you’re sacrificing one defensive position for another.
The easiest solution would have been Steve Pearce, but he was designated for assignment on Tuesday – meaning the Orioles have 10 days to trade, release or ask waivers on him. They can’t pull him back from the designation, and releasing him and then re-signing him doesn’t work in this situation because he wouldn’t be eligible to return to the active roster until 30 days after the release.
Their best hope is if he clears waivers and returns to the team -- and we’re not privy to when he was placed on waivers -- so it’s hard to say what that timetable could be. Or if he gets through waivers.
Ultimately the Orioles have to hope that the ultra-fit Davis can rebound from the injury in a couple days. Or the club will have a major hole to fill and not a lot of appealing options.