Injuries weren’t biggest hurdle cleared by Orioles in spring training

The Orioles couldn’t dodge injuries in spring camp. How many teams make it through six weeks without a tweak, twinge or other trauma?

Chris Davis with his back. DJ Stewart with his hamstring. Félix Hernández with his elbow. Rio Ruiz with his illness. Hunter Harvey, Anthony Santander and Alexander Wells with their obliques.

Davis and Harvey are on the 60-day injured list, the latter a bigger loss, of course, because he was supposed to be a high-leverage reliever and possible closer. And as a first-round draft pick with a deep and well-documented history of injuries, another setback just seems so grossly unfair.

Stewart is going on the 10-day list and should return on or near the April 8 home opener. The Orioles are rather deep in outfielders and able to cover for his absence.

Ruiz and Santander are on the opening day roster. Wells is headed to the alternate camp site. Hernández is on the free agent market again and I don’t know the demand for a soon-to-be 35-year old pitcher with a sore elbow on the downside of his career.

Minor stuff compared to the worries that arrived with teams at spring training. The questions about the feasibility of players gathering in Florida and Arizona, staying safe and socially distanced, and assuring that the 2021 season would start on the appointed date.

“It was a little suspenseful for us coming into this camp, first of all not knowing exactly when it was going to start, wondering how the players took care of their business over the winter without our direct supervision on a day-to-day basis, and it was great to see everyone come in shape, come in healthy,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

“Credit to our medical staff for keeping everyone healthy and COVID-free this camp. It’s been a really good stretch of that. And we’ve had a couple injuries here and there, but overall, knock on wood, the pitching staff has remained relatively healthy and most guys came in with their velocity in good shape and their arms in good shape. And I’m excited about the fact that a guy like Bruce Zimmermann worked so hard and made the opening day rotation. I’m excited that Matt Harvey showed well and we hope he’s going to be a really good comeback story for us this year and cover a lot of innings.”

Thumbnail image for Zimmermann-Delivers-Debut-Orange-Sidebar.jpgKeeping a spot warm for a prospect who’s going to be throwing at the alternate camp site, joining Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation and counting down the days until his debut. Cast your votes for Wells, Zac Lowther and Michael Baumann.

The expectation is for all three of them to arrive this summer. The order to be determined.

If you’re on the 40-man, you’ve practically got a 100 percent chance of pitching in the majors.

“I think we’re going to continue to see young pitchers from our system and young players from our system graduate up to our major league roster all year, so that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Elias said. “It’s going to be a long season, we’re going to need kind of all hands on deck, I think, from the 40-man roster to get through the year, but we feel like we’re in a good position to do that.”

The 2021 season isn’t a must-follow because of the pennant race. Fans are allowed inside Camden Yards, with certain restrictions, and anybody can get an inside look at how the rebuild is working and what it’s about.

Arms drafted and developed began filtering into the majors last summer with Zimmermann, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer. Zimmermann and Kremer are in the rotation. Akin will be back. And the next wave mentioned above is on the proverbial deck.

More are coming, whether in 2021 or later. The same timeline for catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 2 prospect in baseball. In 2021 or later, which is early 2022.

Meanwhile, Davis probably won’t make it back to the Orioles before June, if at all.

His spring training in 2020 was newsworthy because he went 9-for-22 (.409) with two doubles, three home runs, nine RBIs and 10 walks. His spring training in 2021 was newsworthy because he played in the first game, went 0-for-2 and wasn’t heard from again.

Davis is going through medical examinations and re-evaluations because of his strained lower back. He’s undergoing physical therapy and trying to get rid of the inflammation.

Baseball activities ceased several weeks ago. He’s been in the trainers’ room, weight room and rehab pool.

The Orioles will consult with Davis and decide whether he stays down in Sarasota or moves his treatments to the alternate camp site in Bowie or Camden Yards. They’re waiting for the diagnostic results before finalizing those plans.

Would Davis have been in today’s lineup against Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, giving the Orioles an extra left-handed bat, whether at first base or as the designated hitter?

We’ll never know.

Eovaldi started the 2020 opener against the Orioles, though in July, and allowed one run in six innings in the Red Sox’s 13-2 win at Fenway Park. Of the five hits he surrendered, three came on doubles by Santander, José Iglesias and Renato Núñez.

Only Santander remains on the club.

Eovaldi made three starts against the Orioles and allowed two runs with 18 strikeouts in 19 innings. Pat Valaika hit the only home run.

“We just saw him last week,” Manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s a really good starting pitcher. He’s done it for a while now. He’s got a great arm. I think he was throwing 100 (mph) in the fifth inning in Fort Myers last week. He’s very, very tough. He’s got plus major league pitches where he’s got a 100-101 mph fastball, he’s got a good cutter, he can change speeds on you, as well.

“He’s done it at a high level, he’s done it in the World Series, so we’re going to have our hands full with him, for sure, and try to take some good at-bats and try to grind him down a little bit.”

Hyde said yesterday that, in talking with his hitters, he thinks the club has the potential to score a lot of runs this season. He just doesn’t know if it starts today.

“We have a lot of upside offensively,” he said. “We have a lot of young hitters that I think are going to come into their own, and you started to see that a little bit last year. I think we’re going to improve on that.

“I’m not having any goals, statistically, for them, but I think we have some really good, young upside hitters that have a chance to have some good years.”

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