McCann provides update on oblique soreness, Mateo starting in center field

SARASOTA, Fla. – A younger version of James McCann would have tried to push through the soreness in his oblique. Proceed without caution. But he’s a veteran in 2023 and he knows better.

McCann hasn’t played since Monday in Clearwater due to the discomfort in his left side, which he noticed while swinging at a pitch. He went on the injured list last season with the Mets after being diagnosed with a strained left oblique – a little more than two weeks after returning from a fractured hamate bone.

The Orioles are withholding McCann from the lineup again this afternoon. They don’t know whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day in Boston.

“It’s not bad,” he said this morning. “It’s something minor, but obliques are a funny thing, and after going through an oblique injury last year, it’s something we’ve treated with a lot of caution just to be sure it doesn’t turn into a two-month absence.”

McCann said he’s “hopeful” that he can make the Opening Day roster. Otherwise, Anthony Bemboom would break camp with the Orioles for the second consecutive season.

Maverick Handley is behind the plate today.

McCann has done some throwing the last few days and will attempt to hit in the cage this morning.

“We’ve got some big steps to overcome these next couple days, to be sure,” he said.

“It’s one of those things for me that, better to be safe than sorry. It’s an oblique thing, it’s not something to mess with. I learned that last year with my rehab process, a freak injury on a tag play at the plate. Just going through the process of the rehab, it’s a waiting game. Obliques, there’s nothing you can do other than wait and let them heal.

“I started to feel it the game in Clearwater, and 24-year-old me would have just played and not said anything, but 33-year-old me knows how bad obliques can get. I’m thankful I said something. We’ve done a good job of staying ahead of it.”

The Orioles acquired McCann from the Mets on Dec. 21 for minor leaguer Luis De La Cruz, who was designated as a player to be named later. McCann is under team control for two more seasons and costing the club only $5 million of the $24 million left on his contract.

His role was defined: backing up Adley Rutschman and getting some starts at first base and maybe designated hitter against left-handed pitching. But injuries can scramble the picture.

“Try to give it time and not push it,” said McCann, who’s 6-for-32 this spring. “Where I felt it was swinging, and I’d rather play it safe than be sorry and miss a really extended period of time.”

The pain is on the same side as last year but in different area, and it also could keep him out of Monday’s exhibition finale against the Cardinals in Sarasota.

“I’m day-to-day,” he said. “I’m not gonna say anything about tomorrow.”

Cedric Mullins is the designated hitter today against the Phillies and Jorge Mateo is starting in center field after playing two innings Friday night, his first time at the position since 2021 with San Diego. The Orioles seem to be mulling backup options as they finalize their Opening Day roster.

The intrigue is building.

For the Orioles
Cedric Mullins DH
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Anthony Santander LF
Gunnar Henderson SS
Austin Hays RF
Adam Frazier 2B
Jorge Mateo CF
Josh Lester 3B
Maverick Handley C

Kyle Bradish RHP

For the Phillies
Garrett Stubbs DH
Edmundo Sosa 3B
Kody Clemens 1B
Scott Kingery SS
Jake Cave CF
Josh Harrison 2B
Weston Wilson LF
Jim Haley RF
Aramis Garcia C

Matt Strahm LHP

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