Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Wade Miley left today's Grapefruit League game in the 2nd inning after being hit by a comebacker. (Baltimore Sun video)
BRADENTON, FLA. — Spring training is an exercise in contingency plans as much as it's a time for actual training, and the Orioles got scared into considering the former Friday afternoon during their Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A screaming line drive off the arm, then chest of starting pitcher Wade Miley forced the veteran left-hander from the game in the second inning. The team says it believes the comebacker caused nothing more than immediate discomfort, but it forced even the most optimistic observer to confront the prospect of disaster with still a full month to go before Opening Day.
"I'm not one of those guys that goes, ['Oh no],'" Showalter said. "Next guy in line. It's always a lot of time there, but you always realize that you're one thing like that from happening. That's why you've always got to attack the what-if. Chris Lee, all these guys, that's why we're looking at them. That's where we're going. But I think Wade should be all right. I don't get in that woe-is-me, walk out there and say, 'Oh my gosh, the sky is falling.' You might find something around the corner."
Miley's day was short but eventful, with the Pirates' first three batters reaching on a single, a bunt single and a walk before two runs scored on a swinging bunt that catcher Welington Castillo threw past first baseman Trey Mancini.
A third run scored two batters later when designated hitter Kevin Newman hit a low changeup, which Miley called the best pitch he threw all day, hard into left field for an RBI single. A double play was required to get Miley off the mound with 31 pitches thrown.
"The first inning was tough," Miley said. "There was one ball hit hard."
The second inning didn't get a chance to drag on. Catcher Elias Diaz stung a line drive right up the middle, and Miley described the impact as "pinball action" with a graze of his left arm, then harder contact on the outside of his chest on the left side.
Momentarily stunned, Miley staggered off the mound and was soon greeted on the field by Showalter, head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and pitching coach Roger McDowell.
Miley, who famously argued on the mound with Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell at Camden Yards in 2015 in an effort to stay in a game, left without incident Friday and was strapped with ice bags in unfamiliar places for a pitcher. Instead of the top of his shoulder, one was secured around his chest icing down a soon-to-appear welt. Instead of his elbow, it was the backside of his lower arm that required ice.
He spoke with the media 15 minutes after he left the game, and proclaimed that it was "all good."
"After a couple seconds, I think I could have stayed out there, but we're being safe," Miley said.
Were it the regular season, he said he would have stayed in the game.
"100 percent," Miley said. "I would have fought to stay in the game, 100 percent. I guess you do the right thing. I threw a bunch of pitches in the first inning. But it's just precautionary."
Both Showalter and Miley said no tests had been held or scheduled to assess possible damage. And Bancells told Showalter that he believed Miley would be able to start his next turn through the rotation.
In the short term, the Orioles avoided a ruinous long-term outcome in a spring training game that came four full weeks before they break camp. Losing Miley for any significant amount of time would have been a blow to a team already monitoring the shoulder health of Chris Tillman at the top of their rotation and sorting through a host of inconsistent options at the bottom of it.
Instead, it's only ruinous to Miley's spring training stats, meaningless as they are. Allowing three earned runs in an inning of work when spring training innings come few and far between means it will take a lot of clean outings to bring his ERA back to acceptable levels. And it will be hard not to look at results when the Orioles sort through the back end of their rotation come late March.
But it's a lot easier to fix a stat line than a broken bone or worse, especially in spring training.
"I felt like I was making some pretty good pitches, had a little bad luck," Miley said. "Got the ball out over to [leadoff hitter Starling] Marte. Had him where I wanted him, left the ball out over. He pushed it into right. Obviously, the bunt, a swinging bunt and things kind of escalated. I thought I made some pretty good pitches, felt pretty good about it. But it was just one of those days. … You've got to put it behind you."