After surgery and rehab, Caleb Joseph is close to rejoining the Orioles

Catcher Caleb Joseph’s return to the Orioles is now likely just days away. Joseph will catch for the first time since his injury on Monday night for Single-A Frederick. If that goes well, he could return to the Orioles as soon as next Wednesday in San Diego.

Joseph took a foul ball to the groin area on May 30, sustaining a testicular injury. He underwent a surgical procedure at the University of Maryland Medical Center that left him in extreme discomfort initially. But now, nearly four weeks later, his return to the Orioles is imminent.

Joseph has spent over a week working out at and playing with Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

joseph-catching-white-sidebar.jpg“I’ve been catching quite a few bullpens,” he said. “Been doing a lot of work with (minor league) catching instructor Don Werner. That helped me get game ready. Monday, I’ll probably try to go seven or eight innings and see what happens after that. See how the body responds and take it a day at a time after that.”

Joseph will have to get past any apprehension that a similar injury could happen again. But he said he has already crossed quite a few mental hurdles.

“Just catching those bullpens, you have an occasional ball in the dirt and I’ve made the move to go down and block the ball,” he said. “Just as you would in the game and with no real second thought about the incident.

“I think a lot of it had to do with this protective cup that I have that is virtually indestructible. There is something to be said about peace of mind there.

“But then you know, I had a foul tip that, you cannot defend those, they are freak accidents. If there was one thing I did or didn’t do that caused the incident, we might be looking at a different situation in terms of getting over it mentally. But it’s part of the game and you know that going into it. When you go back there, there is always a chance (of injury). So you need to go back there and be as protected as you can be to do your job.”

Joseph’s swing looks ready. In seven games between the Keys and Baysox - three with Frederick, four with Bowie - he is 9-for-24 (.375) with a homer and four RBIs. He has a .542 slugging percentage and a .949 OPS on the O’s farm.

“Yeah. Been able to DH quite a bit,” Joseph said. “Got some great instruction from B.J. Surhoff and Terry Crowley. They were there (in Bowie). The hitting coaches Howie Clark over at Bowie and Erik Pappas at Frederick were tremendous in helping me.

“I’ve seen some really nice arms down there. Probably five or six arms that we’ll probably end up seeing in the big leagues at some point. But it was good to get those ABs.”

In typical classy Joseph fashion, he said it was great to see so many old friends in Bowie, a place where he played for 431 games, a franchise record.

“Yeah, great to see a lot of the staff there and the Baysox fans. I spent a lot of my career there,” Joseph said “That place was home for a really long time. It’s sentimental. Saw ex-teammates like Garabez Rosa, saw (pitching coach Alan Mills) Millsy and the skipper Gary Kendall. Glad to have spent three years here for sure, but always glad to see familiar faces there. Also to thank them for all the support that gave me there. They played a major role for me.”

About last night: The Orioles spotted Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead in the first inning last night and then scored the game’s next six runs to beat the Rays 6-3. With Boston’s comeback win over Texas, the Orioles remain atop the American League East by 1 1/2 games over the Red Sox and 3 1/2 over the Blue Jays. The Yankees are six back and the Rays are 10 1/2 games out.

Tampa Bay is 31-40 and has scored just 18 runs total during an eight-game losing streak. Tampa Bay is batting .195 with a bullpen ERA of 8.41 during their losing streak. The Rays are 2-4 versus the Orioles, scoring just 13 runs in the six games and scoring three or less each game.

The Orioles have won two in a row and four of six. They have won 14 of 22 games and are 19-13 versus AL East teams, including a mark of 13-6 at home in division games. In June, the Orioles are 14-8.

The O’s have hit a major league-best 44 homers in June. The big league record for the month is 55 by Oakland in 1996. The major league record for any single month is 58 by the 1987 Orioles and the 1999 Mariners. The O’s right now are on a pace to hit 56 homers this month.

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