St. Petersburg, Fla. — Orioles manager Buck Showalter hopes the return of former All-Star reliever Darren O'Day means good things are ahead for both the pitcher and staff as a whole.
"Darren is active and available — haven't been able to say that in a while," Showalter said. "I just hope it's the start of some good, consistent health for him. It would mean a lot for our club."
O'Day, who went on the disabled list retroactive to June 7 because of shoulder soreness, has been missing as the entire Orioles pitching staff has endured a nightmarish stretch. Showalter noted that everything can improve with longer starts for a rotation that's averaging just under five innings per start this month, but said having O'Day back can also make things easier late in close games.
It might allow him to deploy someone like O'Day or Mychal Givens in the middle innings to get out of jams instead of saving them and closer Brad Brach for late-inning situations with leads.
"There's many times like [bench coach John Russell] and I were talking before I left, you have to manage today's game, tomorrow's game and the next day," Showalter said. "We had two fairly consistent pieces down there in Mike and Brad. Try to stay away from them. I can't remember the last time we had to use one of those guys to get some work in.
"But having one more guy down there that's used to pitching there in the heat of the fire in a close game, late, [is important], but also get some of them earlier in the game."
O'Day was pitching well before the injury, bringing his ERA down to 3.86 with 29 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
Flaherty stops in: Infielder Ryan Flaherty, who is at the club's complex in Sarasota, Fla., rehabilitating a lat strain in his right shoulder area, joined the team at Tropicana Field for a visit that Showalter said was good for his mindset as a deliberate comeback process continues.
"It's for his benefit as much as anybody," Showalter said. "He's frustrated, but we kind of knew it was going to take a while. I keep cautioning that if you get too fast and push too much, you're talking about some real issues. We can get this right if he'll just stay with us."
Earlier this week, Flaherty tried to extend his throwing program past 60 feet and felt his shoulder bothering him again. He stopped short of calling it a setback, though he hasn't started throwing again.
"I probably wasn't ready to throw quite yet," Flaherty said. "I need to get some strength in there before, so rather than push it through that, I think they want to get some strength in it. That's where I am right now, day to day, kind of build some strength and kind of get through this quicker."
He hopes to return shortly after the All-Star break.
"I would hope," he said. "I would hope to be back by now. It's a weird injury where the lat is, way up there at the top. I'm just trying to get it to heal, and hopefully one of these days soon, I'll be able to throw."
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Happy homecomings: First baseman Trey Mancini and pitcher Alec Asher are both from nearby Polk County, Fla., meaning they'll be supported by plenty of hometown friends and families as the Orioles play in Florida for the first time this year.
"It's definitely neat," Mancini said. "I grew up going to games here, and I saw a lot of games at Tropicana Field growing up. It's pretty cool to be back."
There's plenty to enjoy about it, but Mancini and Asher have spent more of their return trip home talking about the obligations that come with it.
"We more so were talking about how many people each of us thought were coming to watch the game, because that does come with a little bit of stress, I'd say," Mancini said. "A ton of people thinking that you have free time to do things. That's just not how it works unfortunately, but it's really cool. We both have a lot of people coming this weekend to come out and support. It's going to be fun."
Around the horn: Closer Zach Britton (forearm) felt good after his rehab outing at Short-A Delmarva on Thursday, Showalter said. He'll pitch in relief there Saturday again before another outing, Monday for Double-A Bowie. After that comes back-to-back outings, with his final rehab appearance likely at Triple-A Norfolk. … Showalter said there "wasn't a real separator" when deciding to option right-hander Gabriel Ynoa to Norfolk on Thursday to clear a spot for O'Day. Ynoa pitched 2 1/3 innings Thursday and wouldn't have been available Friday and possibly Saturday, while all of Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro and Asher were available to pitch.