Ryan Mountcastle’s health is trending in the right direction, and he could be nearing a return to the Orioles lineup.
Mountcastle exited Wednesday’s game with left shoulder discomfort but didn’t go on the injured list. He’s out of the lineup again tonight.
“Feeling even better today,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s going to take some swings here coming up, so hopefully he’s available, but it’s a lot better.”
Ryan O’Hearn is playing first base again tonight and Heston Kjerstad is making his first major league start as the designated hitter.
Closer Félix Bautista also has avoided the injured list after suffering a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow exactly three weeks ago.
Bautista did some long-tossing again today before batting practice.
“Making great progress. He feels good,” Hyde said.
“He’s going to continue going through his throwing progression. I haven’t heard how he’s felt after today’s throwing, but all signs have been that he’s been feeling good during and after, so that’s great news. We’ll see what happens.”
Bautista isn’t ready to step onto a mound but he’s increasing the distance on his throws. He’s also played catch in Anaheim and Boston.
Gunnar Henderson has returned to the leadoff spot tonight, with Adley Rutschman lowered to second. Rutschman is 9-for-45 (.200) this month, but he’s posted a .362 on-base percentage in 12 games.
Hyde didn’t indicate that the move is related to performance as much as the inconvenience of a catcher batting first. The pitch clock isn’t his friend.
“A couple things,” Hyde said. “First is that for a couple months now when I’m watching Adley, he’s had to rush to the batter’s box without ever taking a practice swing because of these new rules and the time. For me, it’s really unfair as a catcher. That’s why he has to call timeout a lot in that first at-bat of the game. He never sees a pitcher warm up or anything.
“People ask me all the time what rules I’d change. There’s one. When a catcher’s leading off the inning, to let the guy get a drink of water and get ready to hit, because he just does not have time. So, we haven’t been swinging the bat our best the last few days and I just kind of want to mix things up a little bit and allow him to have a little bit of time before his first at-bat.”
Jack Flaherty is making his seventh start since the Orioles acquired him from the Cardinals for three prospects. He’s posted a 7.16 ERA and 1.663 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings.
“I think you’ve seen signs in certain innings where the stuff is kind of back to where it was in that first Toronto start,” Hyde said. “Let’s hope he can maintain that, because he was so good that first start. Let’s hope he can kind of get back to that and hold his fastball velocity, be aggressive in the strike zone, like he was that first start in Toronto.
“We don’t have guys with a ton of postseason experience, so, to have somebody out there who’s pitched in big games, that would be great. He’s had a few rough ones in a row and let’s hope he can bounce back tonight and give us a good start.”
Adam Jones signed his one-day contract with the Orioles this afternoon and put on his jersey and cap. The club has planned an on-field ceremony beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“I think it’s a huge deal to recognize players that have been impactful to this organization in the past,” Hyde said. “I think it’s awesome for Adam, awesome for the Orioles, that we’re recognizing him today. I didn’t know Adam before this year and just seeing him across the dugout a couple interleague series, but I watched him on TV, watched the (World Baseball Classic) stuff. And then when I got here, heard so many great things about him from some of the players – Trey (Mancini), CD (Chris Davis), Ced (Cedric Mullins) that were here and played with him.
“First class guy, class act, was a big part of a really good club here for four or five years when they had that good playoff run. I think it’s fantastic that he’s getting recognized today.”
The press conference for Jones lasted about 28 minutes. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias called him the face of “the last great era of Orioles baseball.”
“And now I’m very confident in saying we’re into another one,” said Elias, who also referred to Jones as a permanent member of Orioles history.
Elias told Jones that the jersey was one of the originals and should fit.
“No, it isn’t,” Jones quipped.
“I’m just forever grateful for what Baltimore has taught me,” he said. “I’m just glad that I’ll always be welcomed in the city. The people here really appreciated the way I carried myself, played the game and gave back.”
Steve Melewski has lots more from Jones in his current post.
For the Rays
Yandy Díaz 1B
Brandon Lowe 2B
Randy Arozarena LF
Isaac Paredes 3B
Josh Lowe RF
Manuel Margot CF
Taylor Walls SS
Luke Raley DH
Rene Pinto C
Zach Eflin RHP