ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — About a year removed from right knee surgery that ended his 2018 season, Mark Trumbo is finally ready to start 2019.
The Orioles officially added Trumbo, 33, to their expanded roster before Monday’s series opener with the Tampa Bay Rays. Baltimore designated right-hander Tom Eshelman for assignment to clear space on the 40-man roster for Trumbo to come off the 60-day injured list. Trumbo was in Monday’s lineup, batting sixth at designated hitter.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Trumbo said. “With this, I had pretty high hopes going into surgery, and then there’s been a few roadblocks along the way, some stop and starts. All the while, I kept thinking that once we got far enough out, it would kind of come around. I think at this point, it’s cooperating enough that I can get out there. It’s really nice for everyone that’s been involved in this, from the training staff, the offseason work that we did, so it’s a good day.”
Before going 1-for-4 with a two-run double and scoring a run in Monday’s 5-4 loss, Trumbo last played in a major league game Aug. 19, 2018, before undergoing surgery on his right knee. He tried to return out of spring training, but the knee didn’t recover enough for him to begin the season with the Orioles. Instead, he started the year at the club’s spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida. There, he mentored some of the Orioles’ young prospects at extended spring training and also worked with left-hander Richard Bleier, who at the time was rehabbing a shoulder injury.
“I think he’s helped out a lot of people, even before he was back,” Bleier said. “Me with pitching, just from a hitter’s perspective. A lot of people go to him and ask for advice just because he knows so much about the game and has been around it for so long and been in the big leagues for so long.
“I think a lot of people have already benefited from him being here this year even though he hasn’t played a game yet, and I think it’ll only be more so now that he’ll be here every day and in the lineup.”
Trumbo began a rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in late May, but ended that try after eight games. After another two-game stint with Norfolk in July, Trumbo and the Orioles determined the best course of action was to wait until rosters expanded in September. He joined the Tides again Aug. 27 and played five straight days, hitting .200/.238/.600 with two home runs.
“It’s a big deal for a lot of people,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “It was awesome, texted him this morning, and just to have him here, in uniform, in the lineup is a great feeling. Mark’s put a lot of time and effort and work in coming back from this tough knee injury. Everybody here has seen the work that he’s put in.”
With Trumbo saying “some days are better than others” in regards to his surgically repaired knee, he won’t play every day as the Orioles monitor his recovery, Hyde said. Trumbo said he likely won’t play first base because of “a lot of little movements that it just seemed like a little bit much,” while Hyde said the Orioles’ glut of outfielders means he will pick his spots for putting Trumbo in the outfield.
But Trumbo, who’s in the final season of a three-year, $37.5 million contract he signed after leading the majors in home runs in 2016, is just happy to be back.
“I’m getting paid to play; I think that always weighed on me pretty heavily,” Trumbo said. “It’s something that I feel like I owe it to the team to get out there and do what I can, but at the same time, I wanted to do it when it was realistic and I could actually play multiple days in a row and do some of the things that you need to do to be on the team. That’s why September made more sense than earlier just because there is some unpredictability in how I can bounce back day to day. We’re hoping for the best right now.”
Bowie clinches playoff berth
Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini remembers the environments he and other members of the 2015 Bowie Baysox experienced during their run to the Eastern League title that season.
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That postseason experience still pushes him, and he hopes the same proves true for this season’s edition of the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate, who Sunday night clinched the West Division’s second-half title and finished 46-26 with a loss in Monday’s regular-season finale. Bowie joins Low-A Delmarva as Orioles’ affiliates that have locked up a playoff berth, and both clubs will try to match the 2015 Baysox by winning a league championship.
“I will always look back on that extremely fondly,” Mancini said. “It was such a great group of guys there and such a fun team, and we wanted to win really bad, and it was such a great feeling, great accomplishment for us to do that.
“I think winning in the minors is important. You’re playing in some pressure-filled situations in the playoffs there. Obviously, it’s on a little bit of a smaller scale, but still, I remember in the championship series at Reading, they packed that house really well, and they’re loud there, so you get to play in an environment like that and get your feet wet a little bit.”
The next year, he was on the Orioles’ roster for the American League wild-card game.
“Once you have the taste of playoff baseball, you always want it,” Mancini said. “That’s something you always want to chase and get back to. That’s always the ultimate goal. It’s really good to start that in the minor leagues.”
Around the horn
>> Ty Blach will start the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the result of Hurricane Dorian’s approach toward Florida. The Orioles have yet to announce a starter for the second game. John Means was scheduled to start Wednesday but instead will be pushed back to Thursday’s series opener with the Texas Rangers because of the weather-related schedule change.
>> With Norfolk wrapping up its season Monday, more call-ups are coming Tuesday, with catcher Austin Wynns, outfielder Mason Williams and pitchers Blach, Chandler Shepherd, Evan Phillips and David Hess getting promoted. All but Williams are on the 40-man roster.