Orioles reliever Dillon Tate tossed a scoreless inning in Sunday’s game at Camden Yards and showed no signs of an injury. Nothing happened at the ballpark that led to his placement on the injured list with a sprained finger on his pitching hand. A fall in his apartment the following day was responsible, the final blow in a 2020 season that brought pains and gains.
Tate didn’t have the best luck.
He was struck on the right arm by a Pat Valaika comebacker during a July 10 intrasquad game at summer training camp and the inflammation in his elbow forced the Orioles to put him on the injured list. He made it back to the majors, appeared in his first game Aug. 17 and began to surface in high-leverage situations.
The season had six games remaining heading into last night’s series opener in Boston, but Tate is going to miss them. The former first-round draft pick posted a 3.24 ERA and 0.840 WHIP in 12 outings - going multiple innings in half.
“It’s disappointing because he’s been throwing the ball so well,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
“I thought he showed his best stuff, maybe of the year, two days ago out of the bullpen when he was throwing 97 with really good life and sink to his fastball. It’s just an unfortunate kind of freak injury, and he obviously won’t be with us these next six games, but I think he threw the ball really well this summer. Looking forward to watching him pitch next year.”
Shawn Armstrong came off the injured list to replace Tate. He hadn’t pitched since Aug. 22 due to left SI joint inflammation, which initially was believed to be a 10-day ailment.
“I just think you never know with a back injury,” Hyde said. “People react differently to it and you just never know, and that’s why I was a little hesitant in saying how long he would be, because I’ve seen back injuries last such different lengths.”
* A backup infielder isn’t supposed to rank among the team leaders in games played.
Valaika is breaking the rules in 2020.
Valaika and infielders Hanser Alberto and Renato Núñez began last night tied at 49 games, one more than third baseman Rio Ruiz. Alberto and Núñez moved ahead of him based on their inclusion in the lineup.
José Iglesias has been sent to the injured list or the bench due to a sore quadriceps muscle, shin and left hand, leaving shortstop to Valaika or Andrew Velazquez until the Orioles recalled Ramón Urías yesterday.
Every team needs at least one super-utility player, and Valaika has filled the role nicely, though there have been some defensive hiccups, including two errors at shortstop in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Rays. He’s made 23 appearances at shortstop, 12 at first base, 12 at second, four at third, three in left field and one in right.
* The importance of a pitcher’s win total is shrinking by the analytical year, but it’s still surprising that Thomas Eshelman is the team leader with three. No one saw it coming, even in a shortened season.
Armstrong came off the injured list yesterday after pitching in an intrasquad game over the weekend at the alternate camp site in Bowie. He came to the rescue again last night after Evan Phillips left with a sore elbow and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
The coverage spared the bullpen, which shouldn’t go overlooked.
* Catcher Pedro Severino is fading down the stretch for the second consecutive season.
Severino batted .197/.246/.295 in August 2019 and .195/.283/.366 in September. He was much better last month, slashing .313/.382/.463 in 90 plate appearances, but he entered last night’s game hitting .184/.273/.245 with no RBIs in 55 September plate appearances.
He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and left six runners on base.
“I see Sevie pressing to try to finish the year strong,” Hyde said. “Just trying to do too much at the plate. Just hoping he gets back to a middle-of-the-field approach and taking the quality at-bats that he did the first month of the season, where he was really driving the ball to the big part of the field, staying in the strike zone, really being a threat at the plate. Just lately he’s expanding and just trying to do way too much.
“When Sevie’s up there I think there’s going to be a ball hit hard somewhere. I do like his approach. It’s just of late he’s expanded his strike zone a little bit and gotten away from that.”
The arm can be a weapon behind the plate - Severino picked off Jonathan Araúz at third base last night - but his five passed balls were tied with Gary Sánchez and Mike Zunino for most in the majors before last night. Official scorers ruled 15 wild pitches with Severino catching.
Severino is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter after the Orioles set his salary at $576,000 this year. Adley Rutschman isn’t ready to break camp with the team next spring. Severino and Chance Sisco could remain the primary tandem.
Bryan Holaday has served as a third catcher and part-time first baseman this season because he’s out of minor league options. Austin Wynns hasn’t played for the Orioles this season - he’s been included on taxi squads - after appearing in a combined 70 games the past two summers.
The Orioles have held onto Wynns because they don’t want to sacrifice catching depth, but he could come off the 40-man roster after the season. They’re going to need more room to protect players leading up to the Rule 5 draft.
They tried to sneak pitcher Carson Fulmer through waivers, believing that he would benefit from development innings, but were only able to accomplish the goal of eliminating another player from the 40-man.
* The secondary camp is shutting down this week. Instruction and the development of prospects carried on despite the cancellation of the minor league season.
The Orioles were able to keep players ready for service at the major league level and rehab injuries. The intrasquad games provided valuable innings and at-bats otherwise lost over the summer.
A few players returned in much better form, including Phillips and outfielders DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins. Mountcastle has become a complete hitter, selective and still aggressive, and is more prepared to play left field. Keegan Akin is more trusting of his secondary stuff, a process that began last summer at Triple-A Norfolk.
Davis’ only home run was hit at Prince George’s Stadium.
The Arizona Fall League also has been canceled, but the Orioles are making arrangements to hold their fall instructional league.
The Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota has been closed since March. The Orioles didn’t reopen it over the summer, placing safety first since first learning of the pandemic.
The instructional league plans should be finalized by Monday.