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Orioles place Alex Cobb on injured list hours before scheduled start: ‘We’re just following protocol’

Hours before he was scheduled to take the mound for the opening game of a doubleheader with the New York Yankees, Orioles right-hander starter Alex Cobb was placed on the injured list. The club did not disclose a specific reason for the move.

“We’re just following protocol,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s just unavailable today, and that’s really all I can say on it at this point.

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“We hope he’s back soon.”

The Orioles’ team policy is to not publicly disclose if a player tests positive for the coronavirus. There was no 10-day or 60-day designation included with the Orioles’ roster move to place Cobb on the IL, which has been standard with COVID-19-related IL stints across the league.

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During intake testing in July, outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. tested positive for the virus and subsequently missed a couple of weeks during the team’s summer training camp.

To this point, the only in-season impact the virus has had on the Orioles’ roster was when first baseman Chris Davis missed a handful of games in the season’s first week as a precaution after he experienced some symptoms because of what he called “a little sinus infection.” The same day Davis returned, right-handed pitcher Kohl Stewart, who as a Type 1 diabetic is considered high-risk for the virus’ effects, opted out of the season.

Cobb, 32, is the Orioles’ leader in innings this season and the most veteran member of their pitching staff. He has a 4.33 ERA through seven starts. Right-hander Thomas Eshelman will start the first game in his place, with right-hander Jorge López starting the second. Hyde said the Orioles informed Eshelman on Friday morning that he would start that evening.

In a corresponding move, the Orioles selected the contract of right-hander Branden Kline. Kline, the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2012, posted a 5.93 ERA in 41 relief outings in 2019.

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The Orioles also announced that outfielder Mason Williams cleared waivers after he was designated for assignment and rejoined the team’s alternate training site in Bowie. Left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther, the Orioles’ No. 14 prospect per Baseball America, was added to the Orioles’ player pool, which now features 58 players.

Baltimore also added infielder Ramón Urías as the 29th man for Friday’s doubleheader. Urías went 1-for-5 during a brief call-up earlier this year, his first stint in the majors.

Urías provided potential middle infield coverage in case the knee issue lingers that kept Hanser Alberto out of the lineup for both games of the Orioles’ series with the New York Mets. But Alberto returned for Friday’s first game, batting sixth and playing second base. Renato Núñez, who exited Wednesday’s game with the Mets with some hamstring tightness, was also back in the lineup at what has become his usual spot of batting cleanup and playing first base.

Hyde was initially unsure whether either would return for Friday’s 5:05 p.m. start, saying in his pregame media session that the Orioles were “a little unstable right now in our lineup.” Both Alberto and Núñez tested their respective leg injuries pregame and felt comfortable enough to play.

Alberto said when he initially suffered the injury during the Orioles’ series against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, he felt nothing, but he started experiencing pain once he returned to the dugout.

“I started feeling really bad, like I can’t walk, and I was scared,” Alberto said. “To be honest, I cried when I got to the training room because I’ve never felt that pain before, and that scared me a lot. But when we do the MRI and X-ray and everything shows negative, just a little inflammation, that was good. That was a new breath for me.”

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