The Orioles get encouraging news on Gunnar Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO – Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson exited last night’s game in the third inning with lower back discomfort, but the club is confident he will not need to go on the injured list. He is not starting today, but manager Brandon Hyde did not rule out the chance he could play in the game.

“He is feeling better today,” Hyde said pregame. “So, getting treatment right now. Little bit unsure if he’s available off the bench or not. Off-day will do him good tomorrow and we should see him back in there against Milwaukee.

“We are confident (it’s not an IL situation). He is definitely trending better from last night. Waiting to see if he can even go today.”

With Henderson not starting, Josh Lester will make his O’s debut today against the Giants, batting seventh and playing at third base. He hit .282/.339/.549 with nine doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 52 games with Triple-A Norfolk. His second and last major league game was Sept. 6, 2022 with the Tigers in Anaheim. He is 0-for-5 as a big leaguer.

“Gunnar would have been in there today if he could go. But it does give Josh an opportunity to start here, and (Anthony) DeSclafani’s splits against righties and lefties are pretty significant. So Josh will start, and let’s see if he can deliver a couple of hits for us," Hyde said.

DeSclafani, who is 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA, allows an OPS of .789 to lefty batters and .549 versus right-handed hitters.

So the Orioles may have dodged a bullet with Henderson, who has produced an .803 OPS since May 9 and had a .740 OPS in May.

“He’s got so many raw tools. I don’t know where to start, honestly,” said Hyde. “He’s going to be a really, really good player in this league. The physical things he can do on a baseball field – there are very, very few with the power and speed combination. Left-handed. Can play a premium position at shortstop and third base. This is just a minor blip of a day or two off. He's trending better offensively and feeling much more comfortable. Hope he picks up where he left off in Milwaukee.”

About the starters: With a rotation headed by a 35-year-old veteran in Kyle Gibson, but one that also includes several younger pitchers still learning how to succeed at the major league level, Hyde said he sees definite progress among his starting pitching. And even though Kyle Bradish allowed three runs in the third inning last night, right-hander Dean Kremer gave up just two runs over six innings on Friday at Oracle Park, giving the team its latest quality start.

The Orioles have 18 quality starts this year and are 15-3 when they get one, but seven American League teams have more QS, led by Seattle with 31. Minnesota and Toronto have 29 each. Hyde sees his young pitchers growing and learning on the job with the team, and some good signs from the starters, who have delivered 11 quality starts over the past 24 games.

“You know I’m excited about Dean Kremer’s future,” the skipper said of the right-hander, who is 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA over his past six starts. “I just think the guy is going to continue to get better. Same thing you can say about Kyle Bradish and what these guys are doing. Dean had a really good second half last year and a tough few starts here to start the year. But the way he has rebounded, and be able to make pitches, just think he is going to be a good starter in this league as he continues to get more and more starts. And understands the big leagues a little bit more and understands what he is good at. Kyle is in that same boat. They are just continuing to improve. Tyler Wells is in the same boat. I think that we’re in a good spot, rotation-wise, with three guys that don’t have a ton of major league starter experience, to improve the way they are.”

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