On the same day first baseman Chris Davis returned from the disabled list, the club lost starting catcher Matt Wieters for at least 15 days.
It has been that kind of a start this season for the Orioles, who have not had their best players in the lineup together once this year.
“Who isn’t to say this isn’t that team? That isn’t the lineup?” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, downplaying his club’s persistent injuries.
Third baseman Manny Machado sat out the first month while recovering from knee surgery and, as he was about to return, Davis was placed on the disabled list April 27 with a left oblique injury.
Davis returned Sunday after the required 15-day stint, and to make room for him on the 25-man roster, Wieters was placed on the DL with a right elbow strain that has hampered his throwing and limited him to designated hitter in the past week.
“Ultimately, it was what’s going to get me back catching as quick as possible,” said Wieters, who is hitting .308 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 26 games this year. “We just kind of felt letting it completely rest as opposed to try and get through swings and kind of get half-ready every day.”
Showalter agreed, saying it wasn’t worth having Wieters’ bat in the lineup if it were delaying his return to catching.
“Matt is going to take the period to try and give this thing the best chance to heal,” Showalter said. “It’s one of those things where he is probably DH-able, but I think to give the best opportunity for this to heal properly, we need to let it quiet down completely.”
Wieters may not throw a baseball for two weeks, which means it’s unlikely he’ll come off the DL when he is eligible May 26 in Milwaukee — though Showalter wouldn’t rule that out.
“I’m hoping it’s 15 [days] exactly. That’s the best-case scenario,” Showalter said. “I’m not closing the door on that.”
Wieters, who isn’t putting a timetable on his return, has been on the DL one other time in his professional career, in July 2010 with a right hamstring strain.
“The DL’s tough. It’s something to where you’ve got to be able to keep yourself mentally into the game, and you’ve got to be able to keep yourself physically ready to go when you are ready to come back,” said Wieters, who will rehab on the road with the team. “And hopefully I can find a way to help these guys while not being in the lineup every day.”
The Orioles never revealed exactly what an MRI taken last Monday on Wieters’ elbow revealed, but doctors believed any damage shown may have been old — perhaps occurring when he was a college pitcher. Renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews recommended rest and not surgery. If the situation doesn’t improve, however, surgery likely would be an option, Showalter said.
Therefore, the club hopes to know more on Wieters’ situation by July 1, which would give Wieters nine months to recover from the surgery before Opening Day next season, if he has to go that route. Showalter said the next six weeks will be crucial in determining what happens with Wieters.
“I think we’ll take a two- or three-week period to see if we can get it managed, and then he can catch the rest of the year,” Showalter said. “Or, if he’s still having problems with it at the six-week mark, we will have to think of something else.”
At this point, the Orioles will go with a platoon of Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph at catcher. Both are considered more advanced offensively than defensively. Neither has been a full-time starter in the major leagues.
“I think there’s some unknown there. That’s the way we’re going to go. I’m curious, like you, to find out what it is,” Showalter said. “I know a lot of players are ‘come-to-the-rescue guys,’ then all of a sudden, you make the mistake of thinking they’re more than they are. I don’t feel that way about these two guys.”
Showalter admitted that executive vice president Dan Duquette is searching for catching options, but the club may not find a match.
“I’m not going to insult your intelligence. I know there’s some talk about that around. But the other clubs know that, too, so you have got to be careful about robbing from Peter to pay Paul with it,” Showalter said. “It’s not like something you can snap your fingers and people are going to bend over and give you what you need.”
Davis goes 2-for-4 in return to lineup
Davis, who believes he first injured his oblique while diving for a ball against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in mid-April, was back in the Orioles lineup Sunday on the first day he was eligible to return. He had a single, a double and two strikeouts in four at-bats.
“Felt good. Timing is a little off,” Davis said. “But it was definitely good to be in there, moving around again. Going to take a little bit of time.”
Davis played in just one minor league rehab game — he was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts on Saturday at Double-A Bowie — and he said he felt no pain or discomfort in his side.
In his first 22 games before going on the DL, Davis hit .250 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 76 at-bats.
The Orioles could use Davis’ power in the lineup, especially given Wieters’ injury, but Showalter said the club activated Davis on Sunday because it felt he was ready to contribute.
“Chris was OK,” Showalter said. “He had a couple of hits for us. Felt good physically. I checked with him one time during the game. It was good to get his presence back in the lineup.”
Showalter said he talked with his slugger and head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, and it was agreed that Davis’ pain had subsided and he should be fine going forward.
“[Bancells] goes, ‘No. This is a baseball decision now and not a medical decision.’ A lot like Manny [Machado],” Showalter said. “If it was a full-fledged intercostal-oblique [strain] then this would be a little short. But I’m hoping we caught it a little earlier than most.”
Before the game, Davis said he felt fine after the game Saturday in Bowie. He played nine innings, scored a run and struck out twice.
“I don't have any pain or discomfort. I don't have any stiffness, which I was kind of wondering whether I was going to be tight or stiff or anything like that,” Davis said.
Around the horn
Sunday was the Orioles’ second sellout of the year at Camden Yards. The first was Opening Day. … The Orioles are now 1-5 on Sundays this season, losing their last five after winning their first Sunday game in Detroit. … Orioles players and staff wore pink armbands, arm sleeves and cleats and swung pink bats in honor of Mother’s Day and breast cancer awareness. … Left-hander Johan Santana threw 2 1/3 innings in an extended spring training game against Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguers Saturday. Santana allowed two earned runs, three hits and three walks while striking out three. He threw 51 pitches, but his outing was cut short because of mound issues at the Rays’ complex.
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