The Orioles received reports on a few of their injured players Wednesday – relatively good news on one and expected bad news on another.
Top outfield prospect Austin Hays, who was supposed to play in right field Tuesday but was switched to designated hitter prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays, had a MRI this morning on the area behind his right shoulder.
Inflammation was discovered but not structural damage, according to manager Buck Showalter.
“Hays, it was good news. I didn’t like the fact that he was really progressing well and was ready to play right field yesterday and then over there during BP (in Port Charlotte) he had a little step back,” Showalter said. “So, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t something structural, so that came out good. But he’s got some inflammation in the back of his shoulder. We’re probably gonna give him three days to try and get that out of there.”
Showalter said Hays may get an injection to help with controlling the inflammation, but he expects the timetable to be about right. It’s possible Hays could DH, but not play the field while waiting for the inflammation subsides.
So, it shouldn’t effectively damage the 22-year-old’s chances of making the team out of spring training.
I’m still rather skeptical Hays makes the Opening Day roster, simply because the Orioles need to give switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander 44 more days in the big leagues to fulfill last year’s Rule 5 requirement. And if Hays is in the minors during that period, he wouldn’t be accruing service time toward qualifying for an extra year of arbitration.
It’s a two-pronged solution to keep a player and save some money for the future.
Chris Lee likely out four weeks
The news wasn’t as good for left-handed prospect Chris Lee, who injured his right oblique while pitching in Tuesday’s game. A MRI on Wednesday confirmed the diagnosis, and Showalter said Lee will miss about four weeks, or roughly the duration of spring training.
“That’s one injury that’s pretty standard, length of time, anywhere from 23 to 30 days,” Showalter said. “They all fall in that area there. So that’s gonna be some significant time for him.”
Realistically, Lee wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster, but he was hoping to re-establish his prospect status after a rough 2017 in Triple-A Norfolk and an injury-riddled 2016 at Double-A Bowie.
“He’s still gonna get an opportunity, but it certainly takes him out of the mix here. We were looking forward to getting him some good looks and see if he can start taking strides to the pitcher his arm — pure arm — tells you he could be,” Showalter said. “There are a lot of other things he’s gotta improve on, but that pushes that timetable back.”
It’s possible Lee has to stay in Sarasota for extended spring training before ultimately ending up at Triple-A. Because he is left-handed and still only 25, the Orioles will continue to give Lee chances. But this is not what the kid needed this early in camp.
Clark talks to Orioles, media
Union chief Tony Clark was in Sarasota as part of the player’s association’s annual spring tour to speak with its members, and the former big leaguer also talked to the media that cover the Orioles.
He wouldn’t specifically address the union’s decision Tuesday to file a grievance against four big league teams that receive revenue sharing but haven’t spent it in attempt to be competitive this upcoming season: the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Asked about whether the Orioles’ actions this winter gave the union pause – they didn’t sign a free agent until after spring training began – Clark said various factors were considered, and it was not just based on this offseason. The Orioles had a club record payroll in 2017, but have significantly reduced that heading into 2018. The team under executive vice president Dan Duquette is also known for signing players late into the spring – and into the season.
“I’ll respond this way. We evaluate every offseason and every team and how they respond in that particular market as well as what their trends may have been (in) Year 2, 3 that type of thing,” Clark said. “Those evaluations are always ongoing, but that’s something we do with all 30 clubs. We look at everything.”
Tuesday’s grievance, however, is the latest sign of the growing discord between the union and baseball ownership this offseason as a record number of free agents have remained unsigned heading into March.
“What’s been challenging for all of us as players to appreciate why it is we’re seeing what we have not seen before happening,’’ Clark said. “So, as much as anything, trying to appreciate the rhetoric, trying to appreciate the experiences, trying to appreciate we’re seeing things that arguably haven’t happened since the late 80’s is what makes this challenging.”
Clark was diplomatic in his answers, but also firm in his responses. He was also careful not to use the word, “collusion.” He also said he’s not sure how this is going to play out, but the current collective bargaining agreement – only 15 months old – does not expire until after the 2021 season.
Reading between the lines, I think it’s fair to say that this could be the beginning of intense acrimony between the two sides that could continue to culminate until the sides meet again at the bargaining table – if not before then.
Clark was asked whether it’s possible that one or more of the remaining free agents could make a stand, not sign anywhere and bring further light/scrutiny to what’s happened to free agency this winter — and whether the union would encourage that.
“We remain engaged with the agents, connected to the players and to the extent that there are decisions that are made, we will 100 percent unequivocally support those decisions,” Clark said.