What’s happening: The Orioles are getting healthier. At least that appears to be the case.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a host of medical updates Saturday afternoon that should make the upcoming week filled with returns to the field.
Perhaps the injured Oriole that is most crucial to the team’s success in 2017, however, won’t play in a Grapefruit League game. Chris Tillman won’t pitch at all for the Orioles in April, Showalter said, but the righty is expected to begin his pitching progression again in Sarasota this week.
Tillman, who had a cortisone shot in his right shoulder last week, is scheduled to throw long toss from 60 to 90 feet on Sunday,, Showalter said. A bullpen session could follow after that. Initially, the Orioles scheduled Tillman for a long toss Wednesday, but the team’s medical staff want him to wait a few more days to let the cortisone shot run its course.
“He’s gonna have two long-toss sessions. If that goes well, we’ve got it mapped out all the way through April,” Showalter said. “But you could have one day (that goes poorly) that could change all that.”
Tillman has not pitched all spring due to the shoulder discomfort. He had a bullpen session on March 11 scratched before it began. At that point, Showalter said he pretty much is resigned Tillman won’t pitch for the Orioles until at least May.
“I wasn’t counting on him anyway, so all of my plans have been with without him there for April since the last time (he had a setback),” said Showalter, who added that Tillman is not expected to pitch in a Grapefruit League game, but instead could get on the mound for several extended spring training outings when the Orioles leave for the regular season.
“It’s frustrating for him. Especially, you’re talking about a guy that’s been an Opening Day starter and he knows what he means to the club,” Showalter said of Tillman, who is a free agent at year’s end. “Never had I had the feeling that anything has crept in there as far as his status at the end of the season. That’s really never been in his mindset. Once he gets back, which he will — we feel confident with that — it’s just if we take the right steps that he is able to take the ball in May through the end of the season, whenever that may be.”
Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander said he has “light inflammation” in his right elbow, according to the results of a MRA. He should be “back in the flow” by Monday, Showalter said. When he returns, Santander will play in the outfield so the Orioles can evaluate his defense before having to make a decision whether to add him to the 25-man roster.
Outfielder Seth Smith (hamstring) hasn’t played since March 8, but should be “on the field early next week,” Showalter said.
Infielder Ryan Flaherty (shoulder) could play Monday. He last played in a game March 13, and had a cortisone injection Tuesday.
What’s happened: Right-hander Dylan Bundy had his longest Grapefruit League outing Saturday, giving up three runs on four hits and three walks in four innings. He threw 62 pitches, 41 for strikes. In that mix, Bundy said he threw about eight or nine cutter/sliders – a pitch he is returning to his arsenal.
The last time he pitched, Bundy allowed five runs against Minnesota.
“(This) was better than last one, the last one I only went two innings,” Bundy said. “It’s nice to get the pitch count up there. Overall, I think it was better than the last outing, as far as command, especially the first couple innings.”
Bundy didn’t allow a hit until a three-run third that was set up by a bloop into the left field corner that fell between three Orioles. Gary Sanchez had the big blow, a two-run double. A couple of Bundy’s walks were on borderline pitches.
“First inning was good. Then the next couple of innings the strike zone moved around all over the place,” Showalter said. “But, good stuff. Fine, right where he is supposed to be.”
Pedro Alvarez played his first Grapefruit League as a right fielder on Saturday, and like Friday’s B game, he didn’t get much action. One ball was hit his way, a fly toward right-center that he caught without incident.
“I don’t think anything is routine yet,” Showalter said. “He has to trust his instincts. He’s been catching fly balls since he was four or five years old. Was a good day for him.”
At the plate, Alvarez had two hits in three at-bats. He homered and also had a RBI single.
He will continue to get reps in right – though he’ll likely have to continue the defensive experiment in the minor leagues unless a roster spot opens up for him.
What’s up with: Jayson Aquino. The 24-year-old lefty threw two more scoreless innings Saturday and was so efficient – allowing just one hit and facing seven batters total – that he had to throw another simulated inning in the bullpen. Aquino has allowed just one run in 11 spring innings and Showalter said he’s “in the mix” for a roster spot.
What they’re saying: “I’m not going to put any limitations on anything at this point. … I think he knows realistically it’s a longshot on paper, but things could change.” – Showalter on whether Alvarez has a chance to make the Opening Day roster as a DH/reserve outfielder.
What’s the number? 19 – When Craig Gentry stole third base in the fourth inning Saturday, it was the club’s 19th stolen base in 22 Grapefruit League games. They had 19 all of last year in the regular season.
What’s the record? 12-8-2 – Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez hit a solo homer in the ninth inning to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Yankees in Tampa on Saturday afternoon. The Orioles play the Detroit Tigers in Sarasota today.