Tuesday’s return to the majors meant another chance for former Orioles first-round pick DJ Stewart to stick in the big leagues after an ankle injury cut his first stint in Baltimore this year short.
Instead, he took just one at-bat and exited the game after slipping and falling in pursuit of a fly ball in left field and having it hit him on the side of the head.
Stewart appeared in discomfort for the remainder of the top of the fourth inning, and did not take his at-bat in the bottom half. Manager Brandon Hyde said after the game that Stewart had a concussion, and was in the concussion protocol.
While it’s unclear if Stewart will miss any time going forward, it’s an inauspicious start to his attempt to join the Orioles’ crowded cast of outfield regulars going forward. Hyde had big plans for him.
“He’s going to get a lot of playing time,” Hyde said before Tuesday’s game. “He was playing well before he got hurt, and I’m looking forward to adding him to the roster.”
Said Stewart: “That’s something everyone wants, the opportunity to play everyday and perform to the best of our ability."
Upon his return to the roster Tuesday, the opportunity was there for the former first-round draft pick.
Stewart was promoted to the majors in late-May after a torrid month in the International League, earning Orioles Minor League Player of the Month honors while batting .457/.518/.886 with 24 extra-base hits in 20 games at Triple-A Norfolk.
He had four hits in 24 at-bats over seven games before spraining his ankle in a collision in foul territory June 5. Stewart hasn’t found the same success he enjoyed before the injury — he hit .206 in 17 games back with Norfolk — but is confident he can return to that standout form.
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“May was something unbelievable,” Stewart said. “It was a special month for me, and honestly that’s hard to do. But no one is expecting and I’m not expecting myself to be there, but obviously I’d like to. I’ve just got to continue to work. It can be a day-to-day thing, honestly. One day you can feel terrible. The next day there’s one thing that can click for you. That’s kind of how it was in May for me. One day, something clicked for me. It’s a day-to-day process. Any day it can happen.”
Stewart is playing left field in his return, with Stevie Wilkerson in center field, Trey Mancini in right field, Renato Núñez at first base and Santander as the designated hitter. All that is only possible because Chris Davis isn’t in the lineup, and such machinations won’t be easy to get all those players time at once.
“I’m going to rotate those guys,” Hyde said. “They’ll all play. It’s that type of year where guys need breaks and rest. I haven’t rested many people, so DJ is going to get a lot of playing time. …
“We were playing short, position-player wise, and adding DJ gets us another player. We’re pretty beat-up offensively, also. We’ve got a lot of nagging things. A lot of our guys that are playing through stuff. Wilkerson and [Hanser] Alberto probably shouldn’t have played that next day [after fouling balls off their legs], but we’re running out of bodies a little bit.”
When Stewart was first recalled, Hyde mentioned the possibility of him getting some time in center field. Stewart said he has worked there in pregame drills on his rehabilitation assignments and in Norfolk, but Hyde said he’d play mostly the corner outfield positions.
Around the horn
Hyde said left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. (calf strain) won’t be ready when he’s eligible to be removed from the injured list this week, and that he’ll likely need a few rehab games while the team is on the road next week. … Right-hander Miguel Castro was available in relief Tuesday after missing several games because illness. Castro last pitched July 30.