The Red Sox activated outfielder Mookie Betts from the disabled list today instead of sending him on an injury rehab assignment. The Orioles lineup is missing shortstop Manny Machado, who’s battling an illness.
Such is life for the teams residing in opposite ends of the division.
Machado is the latest Orioles player to be felled by whatever is going around the clubhouse. Danny Valencia returned to the lineup tonight after missing yesterday’s game in Toronto.
“Manny’s sick, as are a lot of guys. Just different degrees of it,” said manager Buck Showalter.
“This is a tough one. You always seem to say that every year with something, but this one lingers, hangs around a long time. I could tell he was starting to get it yesterday.
“Danny’s well enough to start the game tonight, so hopefully Manny’s won’t be too long. Those young people heal a lot better than other people. But we’ve got a number of guys with different degrees of it and different stages of it. So does everybody else. I’m sure Boston’s got some people down sick or playing through it. There are no sick days.”
Machado has started all 64 games before tonight.
“Manny, he would play if I asked him to,” Showalter said. “It’s something that he needs to back off. He’s been there playing every day.”
A lineup without Machado in it immediately sparked internet rumors of a trade. The Cubs, Cardinals and Phillies are in the mix as potential partners, according to sources. But Machado remains in the organization.
Showalter was asked whether today gave him a chance to ponder what it would be like to fill out a card without the three-time All-Star.
“No, I don’t need today to think about that,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of guys who have moved on. Those days happen.
“I’d be less than frank if I said that I haven’t already thought about that. We should have already thought about it. And you should think about all guys if somebody’s hurt, what’s your what-if? There isn’t anybody on the horizon or maybe in baseball that’s a what-if that’s available like Manny, so I don’t need a reminder watching it tonight.”
Reliever Darren O’Day came off the disabled list Saturday and tossed a scoreless inning yesterday. He could be available again tonight.
Meanwhile, closer Zach Britton was activated from the 60-day disabled list today and could make his debut tonight. He underwent right Achilles surgery six months ago.
“There was no stone left unturned on this,” Showalter said. “In fact, this will be a blueprint that people, especially pitchers, will use in the future. I hope. And we also know there’s a different level of intensity. I don’t care how much you do in Triple-A, whatever, sim games, there’s nothing like what’s going to happen the first time he pitches out here. It’s just a different degree of intensity.
“I’ll feel better about it when we get that one under our belt.”
Britton was confident that he’d return before the All-Star break and would have come off the DL sooner if allowed. The Orioles were targeting a Friday return before bumping him up to today.
“He was ready to push the envelope two or three weeks ago,” Showalter said.
The Orioles eased Britton back into the closer’s role last year after he returned from a strained left forearm. He was used in the eighth inning, but as I noted last week, the Orioles were in Boston and losing 5-2. He pitched the ninth two days later with the Orioles ahead 8-3 and returned to the disabled list.
Britton’s next appearance on July 5 in Milwaukee came in the seventh inning in a 4-0 loss to the Brewers. His next save didn’t come until July 23 in a 9-7 win over the Astros.
“In a perfect world, I’d not have to do it right out of the chute. I’d rather now,” Showalter said. “I would rather kind of work his way into it with an outing or two, but sometimes the competition and the game don’t cooperate.
“I think there’s 23 of the 30 teams now are at eight or more pitchers in the bullpen. I think we’re one of seven. Some are at nine or 10 depending on where their days off are. So, it’s kind of a challenge right now. I think at some point we’ll probably go to eight.”
Britton most likely will be subtracted as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches and he convinces scouts that he’s fully recovered from his surgery and back to his previous form.
Showalter said he won’t use Britton just to showcase him to other teams. Trade status won’t dictate when he enters games. But there’s no denying that Britton is pitching for opposing scouts as well as the Orioles.
“I think they will be one in the same,” Showalter said. “Zach’s got a heck of a track record. If there aren’t game to close, he’s going to pitch, like we do with all the guys. We won’t let him go very long. I’d like to think he’s going to pitch tonight or tomorrow. I’d like to get that going quick. I’m not going to let him sit around very long.
“If the game situation doesn’t dictate it, then he’ll just go out there. But I know what teams that have interest in a guy like Zach, what they’re looking for. I think he’s got enough ... In fact, I know there were scouts at every game he threw in rehab the last three or four outings. Multiple scouts, OK? There are no secrets.
“Believe me, there were enough there. I think they know what they could potentially get if we get to that point. He’s arguably as good if not the best guy out there when he’s right, and I think he’s got a chance to be right. He may go through a couple hiccups early on, just from an adrenaline standpoint alone, trying to control that juice flow.”
Outfielder Colby Rasmus was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Britton on the 40-man roster. Rasmus already has exceeded the time period with his DL stint beginning on April 7.
Rasmus is expected to come off the bench tonight for Single-A Frederick. For whatever reason.