SAN FRANCISCO — A night after hitting a game-winning home run on what manager Brandon Hyde said was his “best swing of the year,” Orioles rookie infielder Gunnar Henderson exited Saturday’s game against the San Francisco Giants in the third inning with low back discomfort.
Ramón Urías replaced Henderson at third base in the bottom half of the frame. Henderson struck out in the top of the second but took his position the next half inning, fielding a ground ball and throwing across to first for the out, seemingly without issue. But MASN cameras showed Henderson grimacing and reaching for his back after making the throw.
Hyde said after Baltimore’s 4-0 loss that the issue has been “lingering the last few days,” adding that he removed Henderson as a precaution and he is day to day.
“Tried to play through it, and being in the game just made it a little more sore,” Hyde said, later adding, “He’ll be fine.”
Entering this season as baseball’s top prospect and a favorite for American League Rookie of the Year, Henderson, 21, started the season slowly but has heated up of late. He came into Saturday hitting .258 with an .824 OPS over his past 18 games, compared with a .170 average and .651 OPS before the stretch. Friday’s home run, a seventh-inning solo shot off Giants ace Logan Webb that gave Baltimore a 3-2 victory, was launched at 110.7 mph, Henderson’s hardest-hit ball of the season.
Along with Urías — who won the AL Gold Glove at third base last season — the Orioles’ other third basemen are utility player Terrin Vavra, whose experience at that position is limited, and Josh Lester, who was called up before Saturday’s game after performing well at Triple-A Norfolk. Infielder Joey Ortiz has yet to appear for Norfolk after being optioned late last month while feeling under the weather, while Jordan Westburg has mashed at Triple-A since being promoted to the level almost a year ago but has yet to receive a major league opportunity.
The Orioles’ lineup is already without All-Star center fielder Cedric Mullins, who is expected to miss several weeks after suffering a right groin strain Tuesday.
“Both of those guys are such a huge part of our team,” first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn said. “Hopefully, Gunny’s all right. ... If that’s [not] the case, then next man up, keep going, keep grinding as a team. We hope both those guys get healthy as soon as possible because we need them. They’re big parts of our team.”