Orioles left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, one of the club’s top offseason acquisitions, has been shut down indefinitely after experiencing discomfort in his throwing elbow.
Wada — who pitched in Japan for the past five years before signing a two-year, $8.15 million deal with a 2014 club option with the Orioles in December — did not participate in the team’s workout Sunday.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said X-rays on the joint were negative and he had fluid drained from the elbow to help with the swelling and also received a cortisone injection.
“From talking to him, it’s something that he has about every February,” Showalter said. “Right now we feel like it should solve itself. We’ll see. ... Listening to him talk, it’s something he’s dealt with in the past and it goes away.”
Wada, 31, told team trainers about the issue Sunday morning before he was scheduled to throw his fourth bullpen session of the spring, but said he typically feels this type of discomfort about this time every year.
“It’s not pain, it’s discomfort,” Wada said Sunday through interpreter Danny MacLeith. “In Japan, I would usually just wait and the swelling, or whatever it was, would go away and I then would keep throwing. This time it was a bit different and I was a bit worried about it, so I decided it was a good idea to go ahead and get it taken care of.”
Team trainers have told Wada, he said, to take three days off before he will be re-evaluated.
“As for me and how I feel, I feel like I could throw [Monday],” Wada said. “But we’ll see what happens.”
Wada does have a history of elbow problems from his days pitching for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. He had surgery to remove cartilage from his left elbow in 2007, and in 2009 he missed nearly three months of the season with more elbow issues. He recovered from those injuries to have his best season last year, going 16-5 with a 1.51 ERA and a career-high 184 2/3 innings pitched. He also struck out 168 batters and walked just 40.
“The first step was making sure there was nothing structurally wrong and then once we made that determination, we can go in there and help him speed up the process,” Showalter said. “In the past, I think he’s tried to throw through it. This is a 31-year-old guy. He knows his elbow and he knows his arm. We’re going to trust him. It’s not some uncharted territory for him with some of the same things he’s feeling. So we’ll trust with the way he manages that and help him along the way with it.”
Wada said he believed the discomfort could have come from getting adjusted to a different practice routine in the United States.
“In Japan, when we do our drills, we always play catch before we start doing anything and then we will do some [fielding practice],” Wada said. “We’ll take a 10-minute break and then go to the next drill. I think, in part, this came from getting used to the flow of practice here that we jump right into it and go from drill to drill.”
The Orioles like Wada’s track record of durability — he’s thrown at least 162 innings in four of his five years in Japan — and his high strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.20 last season and 3.63 for his career). He is one of a dozen candidates fighting for five starting-rotation spots, but the Orioles could also opt to place Wada in a relief role.