ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Now it makes sense.
The decision to outright infielder David Adams and the unexplained opening on the 40-man roster. Hints that more moves could be coming. The extra rest provided for catcher Matt Wieters. The use of Wieters as the designated hitter last night.
Wieters has a sore right elbow, and the idea that the discomfort first surfaced in his forearm conjures up images of Dylan Bundy, who had the same sensations last spring and underwent Tommy John surgery.
Let’s not go there. Not yet.
Wieters has thrown out only one runner, Jacoby Ellsbury, in 12 stolen base attempts. However, he continues to swing a hot bat, raising the question of whether the Orioles could make him a regular designated hitter while using Caleb Joseph as the backup to Steve Clevenger behind the plate.
That is, if the Orioles actually purchase Joseph’s contract and don’t give him the Jemile Weeks treatment in New York. Summon him to the bigs and send him back without making a roster move.
The Orioles started Wieters as the designated hitter last night, so they’re not concerned about backdating a DL assignment. Of course, it won’t matter if the injury is serious enough for him to undergo ligament-reconstructive surgery.
Manager Buck Showalter said he hopes to have Wieters behind the plate tonight. The club just wants to wrap its arms around whatever Wieters is dealing with physically. The Orioles have a pretty good idea after Monday’s MRI, but they want Dr. James Andrews to take a look at him.
I’m braced for the worst, but would the Orioles have put Wieters in the lineup if the MRI showed a complete tear of a ligament or some other type of injury that suggested surgery? They’ve studied the results of the MRI and aren’t in a panic.
They truly anticipate having Wieters in tonight’s lineup. We’ll see.
It’s so strange that the Orioles get third baseman Manny Machado back and continue to receive good news on first baseman Chris Davis, who’s been working out and could return from a strained oblique sooner than anticipated, but now there’s a possibility that they could lose Wieters.
Is there a new rule against having everyone healthy at the same time?
You’d be hard-pressed to find good timing with an injury, but this one is especially difficult to swallow. Wieters has been the offensive threat so badly needed with Davis out, Machado missing the first month, Adam Jones having one home run and J.J. Hardy still homerless. He’s hitting from the left side, quieting talk that he should bat exclusively from the right.
Meanwhile, Joseph may finally crack the 40-man roster after years of being left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft.
Joseph is 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position for Triple-A Norfolk this season and is batting .467 (14-for-30) with a home run versus left-handers. Overall, he’s hitting .261/.284/.402 with seven doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs, three walks and 22 strikeouts in 22 games.
Last year, Joseph was chosen as the Eastern League’s Player of the Year after batting .299/.346/.494 with 31 doubles, two triples, 22 homers and 97 RBIs at Double-A Bowie. He had no shot at making the club out of spring training, but he beat out Johnny Monell as the first in-house option if the Orioles needed a catcher.
Will they need one tonight? Joseph will be here, just in case.
As for the current bullpen set-up, it’s unusual to find a team carrying four left-handed relievers on a 12-man pitching staff. I’d like a list, if you’ve got one. And please include the last time it happened to the Orioles.
Norfolk’s Buck Britton had five RBIs last night in a 9-4 win over Louisville. Starting at third base, Britton went 2-for-4 with his first double and home run.
Showalter really likes this guy. Keep an eye on him.