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Orioles place Chris Davis on 60-day injured list to re-sign Wade LeBlanc; Keegan Akin optioned to minors

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis will be out at least two months with a lower back strain suffered in the first spring training game as the team placed him on the 60-day injured list Friday. The move was part of a series of roster maneuvers that included left-hander Wade LeBlanc coming back to the team on a major league deal.

Davis’ temporary removal from the 40-man roster allowed the Orioles to bring back LeBlanc, who opted out of his minor league contract on Wednesday and was released Thursday.

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Because LeBlanc has no minor league options available, his addition back to the team on a $700,000 contract essentially puts him on the Opening Day roster. Left-hander Keegan Akin was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, making it easier to find room for him on the roster for April 1.

Akin, who made his major league debut in August and was a fixture in the Orioles’ rotation in the second half of the season, entered spring as a shoo-in to be one of their starters. But he struggled in the Grapefruit League, getting hit hard and having some bad luck in his last start Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He couldn’t present a case for himself to be on the team when asked after that start.

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“I don’t know, that’s a tough question,” Akin said when asked if he felt he’d earned a spot on the team.

“Obviously, I can only do so much to put myself in a good position there, and you know, I feel like the last couple of outings, my back-field outing the other day, went pretty well. Obviously, I gave up some hits but I was ahead in the count, I was throwing strikes. I’m comfortable on the mound now, which the first couple of outings me and [pitching coach Chris Holt] and [assistant pitching coach Darren] Holmes talked about it, I just felt uncomfortable. I felt out of sync. That’s been the main focus right now, to get that back and get it going.”

With Akin optioned Friday, he will be required to spend 15 days off the roster and could return in early April if the Orioles need him. The only certainties among the Orioles starters are that John Means is starting Opening Day and Matt Harvey and Dean Kremer could also be part of the rotation. LeBlanc, Bruce Zimmermann and Jorge López are other options, while Thomas Eshelman is still in camp and being stretched out as a starter as well.

Otherwise, Friday’s moves create some clarity on their pressing roster questions in the last week of camp. LeBlanc taking Davis’ spot on the 40-man roster means the Orioles don’t immediately need the roster spots of Rule 5 picks Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, removing that impediment for them to possibly make the team.

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The team also optioned infielders Jahmai Jones and Richie Martin to Triple-A Norfolk and re-assigned left-hander Fernando Abad and infielder/outfielder Chris Shaw to Twin Lakes camp to bring their camp roster to 36.

Davis last appeared in a spring training game on Feb. 28 and suffered a lower back strain in his second at-bat. He has not played since. Manager Brandon Hyde has only said that he’s been with the team and getting treatment, though no further updates on his progress have been provided.

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