NEW YORK - Outfielder DJ Stewart is joining Triple-A Norfolk today in Pawtucket for the first of two rehab games before the Orioles are expected to remove him from the seven-day concussion injured list for Friday’s series opener in Boston.
“I think we’re going to make a decision after Thursday,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
There’s always the possibility that the Orioles activate Stewart and option him again. Otherwise, they’d have to go with a four-man bench - and it’s unlikely that they’d remove a reliever - or perhaps option third baseman Rio Ruiz.
Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., on the injured list with a strained left calf muscle, worked out on the field again today and will begin a rehab assignment near the end of the road trip. He’s been hitting.
The Orioles are approaching their final game against the Yankees, which should come as a relief, considering their 2-16 record.
“Obviously, it’s a really tough team for us to play,” Hyde said. “They’re a really good ballclub, a team that’s put together to win a World Series. We just haven’t pitched against them very well this season and it’s obviously been a real challenge for us. But it’s where we are right now in that we’re starting from scratch a little bit, and these guys are primed to win a World Series.
“It’s the Astros, these guys, it’s tough. There’s going to be games like we’ve seen the last week and you’ve just got to try to stay patient with it and stay positive and know there’s better days ahead.”
Hyde knew what was coming. It’s just the extent that reveals itself.
“There’s all sorts of challenges,” he said. “We’re inexperienced on the mound, we’re inexperienced in the field, we’re inexperienced behind the plate. And when you’re facing veteran clubs that make a ton of money for a reason and are primed to go deep in the postseason, you’re going to potentially have some rough nights. We’re doing the best we can.
“The way you get better is by playing teams like this and to take some punches along the way and have that drive you to improve and want to be where they’re at.”
What are the Orioles learning, especially since that .500 July?
“We’re finding out about guys,” Hyde said. “We’re finding out about Tony Santander, hitting a ball 400-plus feet off (Domingo) Germán last night and taking really good at-bats.
“You’re going through a rough patch right now playing against really good clubs, and I still think our guys fight, I still think our guys play hard, I still like the energy in our clubhouse and in our dugout. We’re just in a little bit of a different spot team-wise than these guys are and the Houston Astros are. And we’ll get there. We’ve just got to stay patient through it.”
Hyde keeps finding comfort in how his players battle through at-bats and score late in games despite being behind by large margins.
“I don’t see anybody dogging it, I don’t think you see anybody not playing to win or not competing,” he said. “Those doubleheader games where we come out swinging the bat pretty well early, they score a ton of runs and we continue to kind of scratch back and eventually get their setup guy and closer in the game in Game 1 and (Adam) Ottavino has to go in, I think that says a lot about our guys and our club and our coaching staff. They stay upbeat, they stay positive, we stay together.
“I think the vibe has been good all year. I like the character of our guys and I think they do push and give good effort. Doing the best we can.”
The deficiencies are most evident in the rotation and bullpen.
“From a pitching standpoint, we have a long way to go to get talented guys in here who are able to get through these types of lineups. We just have a long way to go,” Hyde said.
“I think, from an offensive standpoint, you’re seeing guys starting to put together some pretty good years. Trey Mancini, obviously, Tony Santander, Noonie (Renato Núñez) at 25 years old, hopefully, is going to hit 30-plus homers. Jonny Villar is putting together a really solid year. So I think you’re seeing some good things offensively. Some guys are coming along and gaining some valuable experience. The pitching, we’re a ways away.”
Update: Villar was 0-for-19 against Happ before his RBI single in the first inning. Happ threw 33 pitches and still carried a 4-1 lead into the second after Didi Gregorius had an RBI single and Gary Sánchez hit a three-run homer off Dylan Bundy.
Update II: Pedro Severino’s run-scoring single in the third reduced the lead to 4-2.