SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles third baseman Tim Beckham said the groin injury that forced him from Thursday’s Grapefruit League game is minor and he sounded confident he’d be in the team’s Opening Day starting lineup at Camden Yards in six days. The club also believes Beckham can avoid a disabled list stint, but is being cautious with the injury.
“I’m not thinking about not playing again in a spring game right now,” Beckham said. “But I’m taking it day by day. I feel like I’m ready for the season. A couple more reps would be great. I’m definitely confident going into the year that we’re going to have a good season and we’re going to play good baseball.”
Beckham exited Thursday’s game against the Boston Red Sox after just two innings and wasn’t in the starting lineup for Friday afternoon’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium. He will receive treatment on Friday and Saturday and could resume light activities on Sunday but likely wouldn’t return to a game situation until Monday at the earliest.
“At this point, we don’t anticipate a DL but we’ll see what the next few days bring,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter said that Beckham will have to test his groin in games before he can be considered a possibility for the Orioles’ season opener on Thursday at Camden Yards against the Minnesota Twins.
“That’s what we’re going to do,” Showalter said. “We’re not just going to go from the training table to Opening Day.”
The Orioles were considering whether to allow Beckham to play Monday in the team’s exhibition game at Triple-A Norfolk — where they would be playing in mid-40s temperatures that could aggravate an injury — or allow Beckham to stay in Sarasota and test himself in minor league camp games across town at Twins Lakes Park.
Beckham said he initially felt discomfort before Thursday’s game while stretching in the weight room, but after going into the whirlpool and cold tub he felt good enough to play. But he tweaked his groin while making a backhanded play at third base on Blake Swihart’s ball down the line in the top of the second inning.
“I guess early in the game, I just had to make that quick movement and I kind of aggravated it a little bit,” Beckham said.
He remained in the game, hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning, but did not return for the top of the third inning.
“I was hoping it went out so I didn’t have to kick it into third gear to get a triple, so yeah I was happy when it got out,” Beckham said with a smile. “It wasn’t a crazy grab. I’ve pulled stuff before so I know what it feels like and it’s definitely not [serious]. .... I want to be on the field and help the team win ballgames, so I’m ready for March 29.”
Beckham has made a steady transition to third base from shortstop this spring, and Showalter said he has sufficient at bats to be ready for the regular season at the plate, so he won’t be hurt by missing the final three Grapefruit League games of the season
“He’s ready physically. He’s been a real – I don’t want to say surprise – but it’s gratifying seeing how he’s taken to third base and the plays he’s made over there,” he said. “That’s how he tweaked it, the one play coming in.”
Orioles rotation order announced
Showalter said that Andrew Cashner, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman will follow Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy for the first four games of the regular season.
Bundy, who will be making his first career Opening Day start, could return on regular four days’ rest in the fifth game of the season. The Orioles don’t need a fifth starter until the following day.
Because Bundy was making such a significant innings jump last season in his first year as a full-time major league starter, Showalter gave him extra days off when he could. But this year, Showalter said Bundy will get regular treatment.
“Like all the pitchers, it’s a long season, we want them to make every start they can make,” Showalter said. “So that’s why I say I’d almost like to see how the first start goes, how he feels. … Dylan is going to be honest with us. He’s going to be honest with us. He wants whatever blinders are still on him taken off. I don’t think there’s been one point this year where we’ve thought about, ‘OK, we’ve got to give him [rest].’ There’s nothing that’s been shown here [that] we still need to be real cautious with him, but like all pitchers, we’ll pick our spots with what they’re saying and what we’re seeing on the work days.”
While the Orioles have yet to announce a fifth starter — Mike Wright Jr., Miguel Castro and Nestor Cortes Jr. all struggled in their last outings — it is possible that the team scours players who become available in late-spring training roster crunches as possible back-end rotation candidates.
“I know we’ve got an idea of where we’re going to go, but let’s see what the next couple of days bring with what’s going on in baseball,” Showalter said. “A lot of things are moving right now.”
Shared workload for closer duties
Asked whether he planned to name an interim closer as Zach Britton works his way back from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Showalter said that right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day would share most closer duties with Mychal Givens also possibly receiving opportunities.
“We’re lucky to have two guys who have done it and are capable of doing it,” Showalter said. “They’ve shown that in the past, and we’re going to use that experience and I think Mychal could fit into that role too if we had to do that. I’m hoping that our starters are going deep enough where we don’t have to do that.”
Brach handled most of the closer duties when Britton was injured last season — he converted 18 of 22 save opportunities while in the closer role — and O’Day mostly handles setup duties, posting just two saves last season, but owns 19 career saves, including six in the 2015 season.
“Brad and I and Darren talked about it yesterday, what I’m thinking, what they’re thinking, about some things I want to hear from them,” Showalter said. “We’ll have a plan each night as we go into the game. And I want them to know in advance. They’re not going to be pitching before the fifth inning or the sixth inning. … But we’ll take the situations as they come.”
Givens, who is seen by many as the team’s closer of the future, does not have a major league save to his record, pitching in mostly the seventh and eighth innings.