BOSTON - Wilson Betemit was all smiles today as he passed by reporters and headed to the trainers room inside the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park.
The horrific knee injury in late March that forced Betemit onto the 60-day disabled list is deep in the past. Now, he’s ready to contribute at the plate.
His first opportunity should come Wednesday night against Red Sox right-hander John Lackey.
“It’s exciting to get Wilson back. It’s been a long road for him,” said manager Buck Showalter.
“It’s a long way from making that trek out between first and second in Sarasota. A lot of hard work by him and our staff to get him back. If you had told me when I was walking out there that Wilson would be joining us in August, I would have been real surprised, so good for him.”
Is Betemit ready and able to contribute?
“From all indications,” Showalter said. “He’s certainly had a long rehab and posted up every day. I talked to Ronnie (Johnson) about it today, and he said he’s ready to go.
“He’s running pretty good now. It’s not so much that it hurts him. You can tell that each day he’s played, he’s gotten a lot more confident about the leg. It’s not like we’re going to ask him to steal a base. There’s some unknown there. There’s not another place to send him and from all indications, he’s ready.”
Betemit was projected to be the left-handed designated hitter this season, but a torn PCL ruined those plans.
“He could be a big help if he’s close to where he was last year,” Showalter said. “I like the fact that he’s had a lot of at-bats. It’s not like it was a two- or three-day rehab. It was quite a while. He’s gotten consistent at-bats.”
The Orioles optioned Ryan Flaherty to make room for Betemit, knowing he wouldn’t get many at-bats against right-handers.
“If not him, then who?” Showalter said. “You kind of looked at a lot of them. We’re facing, it looks like, four out of six games against left-hand starters. If we have a problem physically, we can get him right back tomorrow.”
The Orioles didn’t announce the move until Showalter had met with Flaherty.
“I explained it to him,” Showalter said. “I think they deserved to know from top to bottom about everything. I don’t hold much back where these things are concerned. I think they deserve to know.”
Danny Valencia could have been optioned, but his right-handed bat will come in handy on this road trip.
“If we were in a little different situation with the starting pitching we’re facing, we would have tried to look at it in a different direction,” Showalter said. “We’ve been seeing this coming for two or three days and ran about seven scenarios around, but for where we are, this probably fits us best to keep all the pieces in place.”
The Orioles are expected to make at least one more roster move before Sept. 1. Pitcher Kevin Gausman seems like a strong candidate to be recalled, perhaps as early as Wednesday.
“We’re going to go 24 hours to 24 hours,” Showalter said.
Showalter also talked about the eight players who will represent the Orioles in the Arizona Fall League: Pitchers Tim Berry, Jason Gurka, Branden Kline and Eduardo Rodriguez, infielder Jonathan Schoop, outfielders Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez, and catcher Michael Ohlman.
“All the guys we sent there, I’m looking forward to going out there and watching them play,” Showalter said. “That’s all guys that have a chance to impact us. I really like the group we’re sending out there. I think it has a lot to do, too, with Gary Kendall managing the club.
“It’s a good group, a really good group. If you compare it to years in the past, what we’ve sent out there, you can see why I feel that way.”