Orioles reporters Eduardo Encina and Peter Schmuck talk about the Orioles pitching and Orioles players hitting several home runs including with people on base during their most recent Grapefruit League game. (Eduardo Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
SARASOTA, FLA. — An MRI performed on Orioles pitcher Chris Lee on Wednesday confirmed what the club feared when he walked off the mound in the third inning of Tuesday’s Grapefruit League game — the left-hander was diagnosed with a strained right oblique that will likely keep him sidelined for at least four weeks.
“It’s one injury that’s pretty standard,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s going to be some significant time for him.”
Lee, 25, was forced from the game after just two pitches. He left after retiring Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Denard Span on a groundout in his second Grapefruit League appearance of the season. Lee allowed one run on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts over two innings in his first spring appearance Friday.
The injury takes Lee out of the competition for one of three open bullpen spots on the Opening Day roster. Even though Lee was initially competing for a relief job, he was more likely pegged to begin that year with Triple-A Norfolk.
Lee struggled last season as a starter, posting a 6.07 ERA and a .315 opponents’ batting average, but then had success out of the bullpen, allowing just four earned runs in 24 1/3 innings for a 1.48 ERA as a multi-inning reliever who piggybacked starts for Norfolk.
In 2016, Lee’ s promising season at Double-A Bowie was sidetracked by a lat injury.
“He’s still going to get an opportunity, but it certainly takes him out of the mix here,” Showalter said. “We were looking forward to getting him some good looks and maybe he can start taking strides toward [becoming] the pitcher his arm tells you he could be. There’s a lot of other things he’s got to improve on, but it pushes that timetable back.”
Hays’ bum shoulder lingers
Austin Hays, who has been held out of playing the outfield because of what the club called lat soreness on his throwing side, also had an MRI on Wednesday and he was diagnosed with inflammation in the back of his shoulder.
Showalter said Hays, 22, won’t play the outfield for the next three days — his last action in the field was in Thursday’s intrasquad game — but he could still get into games as a designated hitter.
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“He was really progressing well and was ready to play right field yesterday, and over there in the BP yesterday, he had a little step back,” Showalter said. “So we wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything structural. So that came out good. But he’s got some inflammation in the back of the shoulder. We’re probably going to give him three days to get that out of there.”
Showalter was optimistic that Hays would be back soon, but there was some consideration to giving Hays a cortisone injection.
“Hopefully, he will be back in the time period they’re talking about,” Showalter said.
Around the horn
Miguel Castro (sore knees and back) will pitch two innings in Friday’s “B” game for his first spring game action. … Outfielder Craig Gentry (hamstring) won’t likely return until after Monday’s day off. … Catcher Andrew Susac (staph infection) was cleared to play in games Wednesday morning. … Pedro Álvarez, Éngelb Vielma and Jaycob Brugman were all listed as available players for Wednesday’s game, but Showalter said he’s more likely to give them their spring debuts Thursday or in Friday’s “B” game at the latest. … Orioles players and field staff wore orange LUNGevity T-shirts for batting practice Wednesday to remember former public relations director Monica Barlow, who died four years ago Wednesday of lung cancer. Barlow worked closely with LUNGevity to raise lung cancer awareness and help raise funds for lung cancer research.