The transaction seemed minor compared to the start of a critical series in Toronto. Alexander Wells hadn’t pitched for the Orioles since April 26 after straining the UCL in his left elbow. But his removal from the 60-day injured list was pending and he didn’t seem likely to get back on the 40-man roster.
The Orioles quietly put him on outright waivers – these things aren’t trumpeted – and he was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk on Friday after clearing.
Wells had returned to Norfolk on Aug. 19 after making rehab starts in the Florida Complex League and with Double-A Bowie. He didn’t pitch for three weeks before his Sept. 9 start with the Tides, and he worked 2 2/3 innings in relief on Tuesday.
Pitchers John Means and Chris Ellis remain on the 60-day injured list after undergoing their respective surgeries - Means on his left elbow, Ellis on his right shoulder. No one on the club is assigned to the 10-day or 15-day lists.
It seems so strange to say that the Orioles avoided injuries in 2022, considering how Means made two starts and underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery. The staff ace didn’t make it to May. He didn’t make it into the third week of April.
Tyler Wells, last year’s Rule 5 closer, missed over a month with discomfort in his lower back and left side. Dean Kremer injured his left oblique while warming in the bullpen during the third game of the season. Kyle Bradish made a June 18 start and didn’t pitch again for the Orioles until July 29 due to right shoulder inflammation.
The rotation has been disrupted to a heavy degree.
However, no team has used the injured list less than the Orioles with only 12 players, according to Spotrac.com. The 728 days lost were the second-fewest yesterday behind the Guardians’ 674.
The Reds were first in the majors with 36 players and 2,362 days.
Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, would have been in the Orioles’ rotation months ago if not for a Grade 2 lat strain. He tossed five scoreless innings with Norfolk Friday night, increasing his pitch count to 72. A big gain after his injury rehab starts.
Rodriguez never counted among the injured Orioles, since he was in the minors, but he’s always worth mentioning. The strain was significant for a team that really could have used him for the playoff push.
Only three position players have landed on the IL this season - first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and infielders Ramón Urías and Jonathan Araúz.
Mountcastle was lost to a left wrist/forearm strain, the move retroactive to May 11, but he returned on the 21st. Urías strained his left oblique in June, his last game played on the 9th, and he didn’t return until July 4 – a much bigger deal for the pre-Gunnar Henderson Orioles. Araúz, who fractured his finger on July 25 while trying to stretch a single into a double, came off the 40-man roster this month after passing through waivers.
The others who went on the injured list are pitchers Travis Lakins Sr., Spenser Watkins and Joey Krehbiel.
The Orioles outrighted Lakins on Aug. 31 after transferring him on the 60-day IL earlier in the summer due to right elbow inflammation. Watkins was really good after returning to the rotation following the comebacker from Ji-Man Choi that slammed off his elbow, had a couple iffy starts and was optioned. Krehbiel was a June casualty with right shoulder inflammation, last pitching on June 2 and making his next appearance on the 18th.
There are the usual aches and pains that shift players to day-to-day status, like Urías’ abdominal discomfort in May, Austin Hays' left hand lacerations after being spiked – around the same time that Mountcastle went on the IL - and his right wrist after making a diving catch at Guaranteed Rate Field, and Jorge Mateo’s bruised rib cage and left shoulder after colliding with Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson.
Mountcastle could be day-to-day after leaving yesterday’s game with a bruised left triceps. X-rays were negative, according to the team, but manager Brandon Hyde told the media that Mountcastle was “really sore.”
The season is down to 18 games and putting Mountcastle on the injured list requires an absence of at least 15 days, so that’s unlikely to happen. But he might not be ready for today, when the Orioles are trying to avoid a sweep.
The ability of Hays and Anthony Santander to stay away from the IL were huge developments in 2022. Santander labored last season after straining his hamstring in April, and he was shut down in September for the third year in a row.
Not sure that the Orioles can count on the same overall health in 2023, but it certainly did factor into their success this season.
They'd just like to avoid losing so many starters, both on their roster and among their top prospects.