It took 77 games — four games shy of the season’s midway point — but the return Monday night of third baseman Tim Beckham to the Orioles’ starting lineup gave the team the batting order it had projected entering this season.
Beckham missed nearly two months with core muscle surgery, and before his last game April 23, the Orioles had opened the season with designated hitter Mark Trumbo on the disabled list. They lost outfielder Colby Rasmus after just eight games with a hip injury.
They were all in the same batting order for the first time Monday against the Seattle Mariners as the Orioles opened a seven-game homestand. Despite entering the night 30 games below .500 with a 23-53 record, the club returned to Baltimore feeling it was finally starting to play better baseball, having won two of three games against the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves and four of their past seven overall.
“For me, it’s an exciting feeling,” said Beckham, who was hitting just .179 when he went on the DL. “Our record doesn’t look good right now, but we have a really good ballclub. We have guys who can bang it around the park, and for everyone to be healthy in the lineup tonight, that’s a good feeling. The team’s been playing really well. The record might not show it, but from what I’ve seen on TV and watching the Atlanta series, it looks like everyone is starting to have fun again and bringing some good energy to the clubhouse.”
Most of the nine have faced their share of adversity. Besides Beckham, Trumbo and Rasmus, second baseman Jonathan Schoop also spent time on the DL with an oblique injury. Outfielder Trey Mancini has been banged up, playing through a knee injury while attempting to break his way out of a monthlong slump.
Catcher Caleb Joseph lost his starting job and was jettisoned to Triple-A Norfolk before returning last week. Rasmus’ return was somewhat of a surprise last week, given his struggles before his injury (2-for-21 with 13 strikeouts) and through most of his rehabilitation assignment. And struggling first baseman Chris Davis returned this past weekend from an eight-game hiatus aimed at helping him find his swing back after his batting average hit .150.
“It’s been a long  games, but I’m glad to see everybody back,” Davis said. “I was really proud to see the way we played in Atlanta. That’s a really good team that we played, and a really complete team, so I was happy that we were able to take the series from them.
“Obviously, we know how the season started and we know where we’re at, as of now,” he added. “You can’t hang your head. You’ve got to go out and battle and try to start building some momentum, because that momentum may carry over into the next year. You never know what can happen. I’m glad that we’re at full strength tonight.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t use injuries as a crutch, saying they have tested the Orioles’ depth before in recent seasons, and that the team persevered through them then.
“I'm a big believer, and I've said it before: You seek your level and you are what you are in our sport,” Showalter said. “Even with injuries, everybody's got them. That's why I don't harp on them and I don't want to talk about them. It's part of the gig. Everybody's got them. There will be a team that wins a world championship this year that will have them. I look back at some of the lineups the other day in the playoffs — there was a Flaherty at third. We had different people that we had taking their places — Steve Pearce. That's part of it. Your what-ifs are very important. You minor league system providing those what-ifs are very important.”
Still, despite finally being whole, the Orioles fielded a batting order Monday with six players hitting .225 or worse this season. The only exceptions were Manny Machado (.301), Adam Jones (.294) and Trumbo (.268).
Any success their reunion yields won’t change their fate. The club will likely be overhauled in the coming weeks in advance of the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. And that means moving pending free agents Machado and possibly Jones in order to rebuild for beyond 2018.
“So you win four or five in a row with this roster, are you going say, ‘There, I told you?’ ” Showalter said. “Of course not. I don't think so. This is a really good team we're playing.”