Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart wanted to surprise his wife Brooke on the drive to the ballpark today, allowing her to think they were going to the secondary training site in Bowie instead of Camden Yards.
A fun way to break the news that the Orioles reinstated him from the injured list. Risky, too, unless you know your audience.
“She’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going in a completely different direction. Where are we going?’ And I was like, ‘We’re going to Baltimore,’” Stewart recounted today in his Zoom call.
“She was like, ‘No way. We’re going to see fans and stuff?’ It was really, really cool just to see the excitement on her face because she’s been a part of this thing with me, too.”
Stewart hasn’t played since straining his left hamstring on March 5 in Dunedin. He knew instantly that his status wouldn’t be day-to-day.
“I was actually concerned that it was going to be longer,” he said. “I’ve had hamstring problems before in the minor leagues, and this one actually felt worse than those had been, but everything on the MRIs and stuff that we did didn’t show anything terrible like a tear or anything. It’s just, sometimes different grades take a little bit longer. It definitely took longer than I was expecting it to, but initially I thought it was going to be a little bit more than a week or two.
“I’m just glad to get that over with and be healthy again.”
Stewart hit two home runs in his eight at-bats before the injury. He leaned on family again, including Brooke, who’s a nurse, to get him through the latest troublesome period in his professional life.
“Obviously, when I got hurt, I was feeling really good in the box,” he said. “Came into spring training ready to go and, unfortunately, injuries are a part of it and they’ve been plaguing me in recent years, but I’m just glad to have that support system with me.”
The Orioles put Stewart on the 10-day IL and sent him to the alternate training site in Bowie on the same day that they broke camp. They activated him this afternoon to replace utility player Pat Valaika on the roster.
“That was to get me adjusted to the weather with my hamstring,” he said. “Went to the alternate site and was able to do my rehab and stuff there and get in some kind of game-like live at-bats against our own guys. We were supposed to play those games against the Nationals, but unfortunately they got canceled this week. Just trying to simulate any game action that I could there. Obviously, it wasn’t a game, but it was the best we could get done, and I’m just looking forward to going out there tonight and getting that first game under my belt.”
The Nationals needed to summon players from their site while losing a chunk of their roster to COVID-19 quarantine. The weather in Bowie the past few days also ruined plans for Stewart to work out and get reps in practice games.
“One of the biggest things for me was running the bases, being comfortable going from first to third or second to home, trying to score for my guys who are hitting for me,” he said. “I was able to do that, getting that in for my hamstring to feel better, just be comfortable with it.
“As far as at-bats, we were able to get at-bats in, but it’s not really a game. It’s one thing being at the alternate site. We’re facing arms. But it’s a different feeling when you’re stepping into the big leagues and the big league box. So, looking forward to the opportunity, go out there and play.”
The hamstring didn’t prevent Stewart from hitting down in Sarasota, and he’s done the same in Bowie.
Stewart has played left and right field and served as designated hitter, and Hyde doesn’t have any daring plans to introduce him to a different role. It’s going to be corner outfield and DH, depending on the rest of the lineup.
“I’d like to see him get as many at-bats as possible,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It’s nice to add a left-handed hitter in our order. I feel like we were pretty right-handed dominant. Historically with DJ, too, he’s always been a high on-base guy and it’s going to be nice to flex somebody in there that... We were having a tough time getting on base and working walks and getting in hitters’ counts, and hopefully DJ can bring that in the middle part of our order.
“I talked to him a little while ago and he feels great. Should be 100 percent ready to go.”
“I know he’s jogging today and doing BP. He’s improving,” Hyde said. “He’s got to go through a whole hamstring progression that hopefully there are no setback and he’ll be with us soon enough.”
J.D. Martinez is feeling sick and going through COVID-19 protocol. He could return to the lineup on Sunday.
For the Red Sox
Kiké Hernández CF
Alex Verdugo RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Christian Vázquez DH
Rafael Devers 3B
Marwin Gonzalez LF
Christian Arroyo 2B
Bobby Dalbec 1B
Kevin Plawecki C
Garrett Richards RHP