SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles have dealt with a series of injuries this year at major league camp. And, over at Twin Lakes Park, the O’s minor league staff is dealing with a few as well.
Right-handed pitcher Branden Kline, who had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 8, 2015, needed a follow-up arthroscopic procedure last week. The Orioles’ second-round pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia, Kline has not pitched since going 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA in eight starts early in the 2015 season for Double-A Bowie.
His Tommy John rehab and comeback was going very well, but then he felt some discomfort just prior to reporting to spring training during his throwing program at his home. He had soft tissue cleaned out of his right elbow. He could resume a throwing program in three to four weeks.
Orioles doctors saw Kline at spring training and sent him back to see Dr. James Andrews, who performed his elbow ligament reconstruction in 2015, and it led to this follow-up procedure.
“He is obviously going to be behind (the rest of the pitchers),” Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said this afternoon at Twin Lakes Park. “He is three to four weeks away from a throwing program. Then you go from that program to bullpens and live BPs. It’s a progression. But there is no structural damage, it was cleanup they needed to do. There is no timetable yet for when he gets in a game.”
Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski is not going to be ready for opening day and will begin the season in Florida at extended spring training. He had some pretty extensive core and hip labrum surgery repairs over the winter. The Orioles are being conservative with him right now and an extended spring will basically serve as his spring training. No date has been established for Yastrzemski to play in the regular season.
Last year between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, Yastrzemski hit .234/.325/.391 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 127 games.
“That surgery was more extensive that we knew going in,” Graham said. “But his rehab is going very well. He took live BP today and is doing his workouts with the strength and conditioning coaches.”
In yet another injury, fortunately a minor one, O’s left-handed pitching prospect Brian Gonzalez was scratched from a scheduled start today due to cut finger. The cut did not require stitches and Gonzalez should be back in a few days.
Gonzalez, who went 10-8 with a 2.50 ERA last season for Single-A Delmarva, had been scheduled to throw three to four innings today against Boston minor leaguers.
The Orioles’ Dariel Álvarez, who recently resumed pitching, is progressing well on the mound at minor league camp. Álvarez, who pitched briefly in Cuba before the Orioles signed him as an outfielder in July 2013, threw off a half-mound two days ago. He will have his first bullpen session off a full mound tomorrow.
The Orioles are bringing Álvarez along slowly and he will likely follow a similar path that Mychal Givens used when he converted from shortstop to pitcher in 2013. Álvarez may pitch in at least one minor league spring training or simulated game before opening day, but the organization is targeting April 10 as the likely date of his first mound appearance in a regular season minor league game once the season starts. To be determined is with which affiliate he will pitch.
“He’s doing great. He feels good and looks good on the mound. He’ll probably get between 40 and 50 innings this year. So far, so good. He looks great,” Graham said.
Graham declined to provide any radar gun readings yet for Álvarez, but when he did showcases as a pitcher before signing with Baltimore, he was throwing 93 to 95 mph according to scouts.
Álvarez will continue to swing a bat as a desginated hitter most days when he is not pitching in a game. For instance, if the Orioles plan for him one week to pitch in games on Monday and Thursday, he would DH on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It presents some interesting roster possibilities should Álvarez do well as a pitcher and, like Givens, reach the major leagues as a hurler.