Orioles reliever Darren O’Day landed on the 10-day disabled list before Friday’s series opener at Yankee Stadium with what the club called a right shoulder strain.
With O’Day placed on the DL in a move made retroactive to Wednesday, right-hander Stefan Crichton was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take his spot in the Orioles bullpen.
O'Day felt discomfort after his most recent outing Tuesday, a one-inning, 27-pitch appearance against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Camden Yards. The club waited to see whether O’Day’s status would improve enough to avoid a DL stint before shelving him Friday.
The 34-year-old O'Day said his latest injury feels similar to the shoulder fatigue that kept him out for about a week last month. He avoided a DL stint that time, but this time could not. O'Day is optimistic he just needs rest and will be ready to return when he is eligible on June 17 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Really there’s no explanation for why it happened," O'Day said. "But it started hurting me, so [manager] Buck [Showalter] was able to stay away from me the past couple nights. But we had to make a decision today and I felt like if I pitched tonight, it would probably make it worse and I’d be out for longer.
"So we made the decision [to go on the DL]. Hopefully it will only be the seven or eight days we have left. Earlier in the season, it took me I think five or seven days for it to start feeling a lot better. It felt great, pitched good for what has it been five weeks or so? Hopefully that’s the case again. ... I think it’s just rest. I’m optimistic that it’s just going to be the tenure of the DL because I went through it earlier in the season, so I have an idea of what’s going to happen."
The injury is concerning for the Orioles because it comes after O’Day had three days off. He has been well-rested, pitching just twice in June after a heavier workload earlier this season. After making 15 appearances over the season’s first five weeks, O’Day has pitched in just nine games over 30 days.
“It’s something that has been bothering him a little bit the last couple days,” Showalter said. “He had good outings, he’s been pitching well. It’s unfortunate.”
The development explains the latest cryptic unavailability of one of the team’s top late-inning relievers. Showalter has pressed to keep his top relievers – O’Day, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens – fresh, especially with the bullpen already stressed in the absence of closer Zach Britton, who might not be back until after the All-Star break.
O’Day went seven days without pitching last month as he nursed a tired shoulder, and managed to avoid the disabled list. But the team took its lumps without him being available, losing four of five games over that span, including a three-game road sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.
“It’s tough because we’ve done, I think, a really good job of protecting him like we do with all our pitchers and that’s a little concerning when you have that and still have some issues,” Showalter said. “We could wait day to day to day and keep waiting, but then he goes out and pitches and if it flares back up. … We’ll take these seven or eight days and see if we can put it behind him.”
It’s unclear who will slide into O’Day’s late-inning role – he has pitched mostly in the seventh and eighth inning this season, sharing that role with Mychal Givens. Newcomer Edwin Jackson pitched the seventh inning in Friday's 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees, allowing three unearned runs.
O’Day has been gradually lowering his ERA after a rough outing in his second appearance of the season on April 9 against the Yankees, when he allowed four runs on two hits and three walks in the ninth inning in a 7-3 loss.
He had been pitching well since returning from his previous shoulder problem, posting a 2.00 ERA and holding hitters to a .129 average over his past nine appearances spanning nine innings. He struck out 17 of the 35 batters he faced over that stretch.
Before allowing runs in two of his past three outings, O’Day had pitched six straight scoreless appearances.
O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million contract before the 2016 season to remain in Baltimore long term. The deal was the longest the club has given to a free-agent reliever, and the one reason the club wanted to retain O’Day was because he had a remarkable track record of staying healthy.
But he has dealt with several injuries since then. After four straight seasons of at least 68 appearances while averaging 66 innings per year, he was limited to just 31 innings last season, going on the disabled list twice.
O’Day missed almost all of last June and the first three weeks of July with a hamstring injury. He missed five weeks in August and September with a right rotator cuff sprain, a recovery that included receiving a cortisone injection in his shoulder.
After Friday's game, O'Day said while his latest injury seems to have come unexpectedly, he has had to deal with shoulder discomfort over the years after tearing his labrum in 2009.
"I’ve been feeling great, pitching good, and yeah, it’s kind of out of nowhere," O'Day said. "I wish I knew. We’ll try to figure it out. It’s just something I have to deal with. I’ve had a torn labrum since 2009, so it’s happened a few times in my career. It’s just part of it. It’s not natural to throw as much as we do. We’ll try to figure it out and try to stay on top of it."