SARASOTA, Fla. - Nate Karns and Mychal Givens are staying back at the Ed Smith Stadium complex this morning to pitch in a simulated game. They’re no longer listed on the travel roster for today’s Grapefruit League game against the Twins in Fort Myers.
Karns didn’t know exactly how many pitches he’d throw. He intended to incorporate his “slider/cutter” in order to judge whether it’s game ready.
“I’ve been leaving that one in the ‘pen,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s a slider,” he said, smiling, “and sometimes it’s a cutter.”
Karns has been restricted to three one-inning appearances, with no runs or hits allowed, since making his debut on Feb. 25 against the Twins and reporting later than his arm was slow to bounce back.
Due to an inability to be stretched out, Karns is expected to break camp in the bullpen if sound physically rather than holding down the fourth spot in the rotation.
“I don’t how it’s going to play out,” said Karns, who missed the 2018 season with an elbow injury. “I’m pretty excited that everything’s going well so far in camp. They’re penciling me in the ‘pen, and to pitch meaningful innings and to help this ballclub win in any way was the ultimate goal coming into the season after missing so much time.
“Do I want to hang up being a starter? No. But does that mean this year if it doesn’t happen, it won’t happen next year? No. Or this year? So to me it’s like, step one is being healthy, step two is competing at the highest level, having success, and then see where that takes us from there.”
The Orioles signed Karns last month with the idea of letting him compete as a starter but knowing that he could transition to a bullpen role. His contract guarantees him $800,000 and includes a possible $200,000 in incentives.
“To me, I’m not really trying to put, if I don’t start it’s the end of the world type of mentality by any means,” he said. “My biggest goal as I said is to get back out there in a regular season game, on the mound, pitching at the highest level and competing and having success. That was my ultimate goal.
“If that translates to being a starter at the end of the year, I’m ecstatic, and if it doesn’t mean it and I stay in the ‘pen for the rest of the year, I’m still ecstatic. We’re just going to take it day by day and see where it leads us.”
* Catcher Austin Wynns continues to receive treatment on his strained left oblique and projected that he should be ready to play sometime next week.
Wynns has hit in the cage for the last four days and said he’ll take batting practice on the field Saturday morning.
“I’m very encouraged,” he said. “Right now I’m doing a lot. Probably like four or five days away because we’re shooting for a certain day. We’re going day by day with how I feel, like when I wake up, how’s it feeling? For the most part it’s on the upscale.
“The goal is to be 100 percent. Don’t go in there like 80-85. It’s like, try to come back 100 percent.”
There’s no other way to treat an oblique injury.
“They’re preaching that, so when I feel no pain,” he said. “You know me. I’m already itching to be like, ‘I want to get back on that field so bad, so bad,’ but right now I have to take care of this.”
Wynns totaled only eight at-bats before the Orioles shut him down with an injury that occurred while he was taking batting practice. He remains confident that he can be ready for opening day on March 28 beyond improved health.
“In my mindset I’ll be ready,” he said. “Opening day, I’ll be ready. But I just do whatever my body will tell me to do. I’m just waking up and seeing if it feels great. I’m not in control of that. I’m just day-to-day.”
In the meantime, Jesús Sucre gets another start today following his late arrival in camp, impressing with his work behind the plate. Chance Sisco is hitting .333 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. Andrew Susac and Carlos Pérez also remain in the catching competition while Wynns’ bid has been put on hold.
There’s a deadline in the back of Wynns’ mind that he can’t control.
“That’s why it’s sucky,” Wynns said. “It’s not the greatest feeling. But you know what? Just staying positive with it.
“Right now it’s just building up the strength in that spot.”
* Third baseman Renato Núñez had his left shin wrapped this morning after fouling a ball off it yesterday and coming out of the game for a pinch-runner. He wouldn’t have played today, no matter his physical status, and the Orioles regard him as day-to-day.
“It’s a bruise. I’m good today,” he said.
“If they ask me, I’ll be ready tomorrow.”
Núñez feared a more serious injury as he collapsed in the dirt. He stayed in the game and singled to left field, but exited after reaching third base.
“When I hit the ball, I was almost crying,” he said. “I fouled that ball really hard, but nothing. But thankfully it wasn’t that much and I’m ready to go.
“That’s the worst. It’s bad. It hurts. I’m telling you, it hurt. It’s worse than being hit by a pitch. I was scared it hit my knee.”
Núñez is 6-for-29 with two home runs, six RBIs and 10 strikeouts, and he’s committed four errors. Ruiz is 10-for-31 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs and he hasn’t been charged with an error, but he has two minor league options remaining. Núñez has none.