Notes on McKenna's sore back and Ortiz's arrival, González's managerial assignment, Watkins' progress and more

Orioles outfielder Ryan McKenna is dealing with some back soreness, which explains why infielder Joey Ortiz showed up today from Triple-A Norfolk with his bags in hand.

Ortiz is on the 24-hour taxi squad in case McKenna goes on the injured list. Ortiz will return to the Tides on Sunday if he isn’t recalled.

Teams normally are allowed to carry only a catcher on the taxi squad, but a potential IL situation is an exception.

The Orioles started Ortiz at second base against left-handers in three games at Comerica Park in late April before optioning him. The major league debut is out of the way.

McKenna wasn’t used as a defensive replacement last night due to his condition. He received more treatment on the back this afternoon but was walking around the clubhouse.

“It’s just a precaution,” said bench coach Fredi González, who’s filling in as manager tonight while Brandon Hyde attends oldest daughter Aria’s graduation at Syracuse University.

“We’re hoping that it doesn’t need any IL time, but being a day game tomorrow, we thought it was a good idea to bring Ortiz here and make sure if something doesn’t turn for the better, we have him here.”

The Orioles are attempting tonight to win their ninth series in 10 opportunities. They can move to within three games of first-place Tampa Bay, which lost 9-8 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

González said he isn’t surprised by the club’s 25-13 record and second-place standing.

“Sitting back and watching what we did last year, I think we just kind of carried it over, with a couple different people in the back end of the bullpen. But I think we’ve carried over the momentum, if you want to say that’s one of the reasons,” he said.

“We win games a lot of different ways, but there is a constant, and the constant is, when we have a chance to win, the bullpen has been able to close out games like they did last year, and that is nice to see. Offensively, we do come every night and don’t chase, right? We walk, we make the opposing pitcher work, offensively. That’s nice to see. You look at all the information out there on defensive runs saved and stuff like that, we’re just kind of in the middle of the pack, maybe below, but we don’t make the fundamental errors. Everybody’s going to make errors, but we don’t throw the ball to the wrong base, we don’t make those types of errors that create bigger innings for the opposition.

“I hope that we continue with that recipe and keep winning games. It’s really nice to be able to shake hands and talk strategy with Hyder during the course of the game, and winning the game.”

Tonight’s result counts on Hyde’s record. González has managed 1,402 games in parts of 10 seasons, but replacing Hyde after an ejection doesn’t count.

His last official game in charge was on May 16, 2016 with the Braves.

González is in his second season as Orioles bench coach. The first two seasons were spent as major league coach, also putting him near Hyde in the dugout.

“My job is to prepare like he does, and when he asks me a question, I’ll know the answer or give him the answer that I prepared for over the course of the day,” González said.

“Sometimes, he’ll put me on the spot: ‘Well, what would you do?’ And that’s when you come up with, ‘This is what I would do.’ I think our relationship is awesome, we work together, and I think I alleviate a lot of his problems.”

One task is explaining to players why they aren’t in the lineup.

“I take that away from his plate and am able to do that,” González said.

González didn’t have a calm morning with Hyde gone and his role changed. Tonight’s assignment isn’t the same as filling in for the last few innings of a game.

“I was nervous. I’m not going to lie to you,” he said.

“This is different. It’s a one-day thing. … I just want to make sure everything’s OK, nobody gets hurt. Hyder comes back tomorrow and say, the best-case scenario, “(Tyler) Wells threw nine innings and the bullpen is fully rested. Go get them.’”

González’s wife Tricia, noticed a difference in him this morning while they ate breakfast.

“She felt my energy a little bit,” he said. “She goes, ‘Are you nervous?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m nervous. I’m nervous, I’m anxious.’ But as soon as Wellsy throws that first pitch, it will be fine.”

An ejection tonight would create a complication in the dugout.

“I’m OK,” he said. “Don’t believe those YouTube videos of me. I have changed, believe me, and there’s no reason to get ejected other than balls and strikes, and I’ll make sure one of the young coaches can do that. I’ll keep the peace.”

Who manages if González is tossed? He didn’t have an immediate answer, saying that it could be third base coach Tony Mansolino, major league coach José Hernández or first base coach Anthony Sanders. Major league field coordinator Tim Cossins is in the bullpen during games.

“I guess we’ll talk about it now since we jinxed this,” he said.

“I bet if I get thrown out of the game, everybody will be scattering. … But I don’t want embarrassment to the organization. Here I am, managing one game for Hyder, who went to do something great, to see his daughter graduate from college, and I get ejected. I don’t want to explain that to him when he comes back.”

Spenser Watkins threw a simulated game today in Sarasota and is returning to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday. He's been on the injured list with a cut on the fourth finger of his right hand.

Reliever Dillon Tate was in the clubhouse today after retiring all three batters he faced last night in Jacksonville. González didn’t have an update on Tate or Mychal Givens. Both are nearing activation from the injured list.

“I’m not part of that circle,” González said. “This is one and done, you know?”

Bryce Weiler, the Orioles’ disability consultant, will call two innings on MASN2 and the Orioles Radio Network.

Weiler was born four months premature with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye condition that caused him to become legally blind.

“I usually do not watch games after they’re played,” González said, “but today I may watch and see how Bryce does.”

For the Pirates
Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B
Bryan Reynolds LF
Connor Joe RF
Carlos Santana 1B
Jack Suwinski CF
Miguel Andujar DH
Ji Hwan Bae 2B
Chris Owings SS
Jason Delay C

Roansy Contreras RHP

Here are the starters for the Angels series at Camden Yards:

Monday: Grayson Rodriguez vs. Shohei Ohtani
Tuesday: Dean Kremer vs. Chase Silseth
Wednesday: Kyle Bradish vs. Griffin Canning
Thursday: Tyler Wells vs. Tyler Anderson

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