Orioles top draft pick Heston Kjerstad had a setback in his comeback from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, executive vice president Mike Elias said Wednesday, further pushing back Kjerstad’s expected return to baseball action.
After the Orioles selected Kjerstad second overall in the 2020 MLB draft, he hasn’t participated in any team activities after he missed the fall instructional camp with the myocarditis diagnosis. Kjerstad reported to the team’s complex in Sarasota, Florida, to begin working his way back to baseball form this spring, but Elias said this “recurring inflammation” is “slowing down our plan for his return to play.”
Asked about the concern level that Kjerstad’s health may keep him from returning to baseball at all, Elias said “the whole thing has been a concern.”
“It’s a heart condition,” Elias said. “Again, I’m going to be really careful. I don’t want to be the one talking in-depth about the medicine of this. I’m very respectful of the player’s space there. It’s a serious thing. …
“We’re pushing every button that we can push. I think that his odds to return are very good in that respect, but to have anyone, let alone a high draft pick like this, miss this amount of time, it’s obviously been a bummer. But he, first and foremost, is what we’re thinking about, and rushing this along for baseball or pushing through medical recommendations for baseball, that’s just not going to happen.”
Kjerstad was the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect this offseason according to Baseball America for his potential to grow into a middle-of-the-order left-handed bat, but hasn’t been able to show that on the field due to the condition. Elias said there wasn’t any kind of oversight in the draft process, and that Kjerstad is working as hard as he can to get himself healthy again.
That said, a setback calls into question whether he’ll get onto a field in game action at all this year.
“He’s very determined, but this is a bump in the road,” Elias said. “It’s, as I’ve said, a tricky condition and a very serious one that requires us to be careful and deliberate. I do expect this will back up our timeline for getting him back on the field, and it’s something that we probably can’t put an artificial timeline on. We’re going to have to provide some further rest before entering the return-to-play protocol once again.”
Elias also had bad news for the Orioles’ rebuilding project with left-hander DL Hall, the team’s 2017 first-round draft pick, dealing with elbow tendinitis after his most recent start at Double-A Bowie and shut down for “several weeks.”
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Hall reported “a little more soreness than normal” and had an MRI that was clean from a structural standpoint, Elias said, but the tendinitis and inflammation will keep him out for a while before he can start building up his arm strength again.