Orioles manager Buck Showalter downplayed center fielder Adam Jones being out of the lineup today – Game 3 of the season. Showalter said Jones had, “discomfort there in the rib cage area that we hope (we) can manage in a day. I hope he’s back in the lineup tomorrow.”
Showalter purposely didn’t mention the dreaded “oblique strain,” as a possibility; it can sideline a player for weeks.
“People talk about we’re not going to the mention the “O-B-L” word, but that injury wasn’t around years ago,” Showalter said. “But you think about all the swings these guys take nowadays, so you wonder sometimes.”
Jones apparently felt a twinge in ribs after swinging in his final at-bat Wednesday night. Showalter said it wasn’t related to anything that happened in the opening game, when cameras caught Jones grimacing.
Jones wasn’t in the clubhouse while the media was allowed in this afternoon, another sure sign that he wasn’t going to play today. He’s one of the more media-accessible players around, but he absolutely hates talking about his own injuries.
Showalter was asked whether Jones lobbied to play or whether the manager took the decision out of Jones’ hands. Showalter grinned and said, “Yes.”
The manager also said he wanted to get Nolan Reimold a start in the outfield and this allows that to happen.
But make no mistake about this: If Jones is out, especially this early in the season, he is hurting. And if he misses just one day with this, that would be somewhat surprising. Jones takes major pride in playing every day – he appeared in 159 or more games in three straight seasons from 2012 to 2014.
Last year he was limited to 137 games – his lowest total since 2009 – due to various injuries including back, shoulder, wrist and ankle.
After turning 30 last August, Jones said he was going to pay more attention to his aches and pains and try to manage them better. And that could mean he accepts a day off early this season to rest the rib soreness so that he doesn’t further injure himself and cost him and the team several weeks.
That’s the smart thing to do and the optimistic way to look at this development.
But I learned a long time ago that, in this business, never underplay an injury, especially to a star. And especially, these days, with ribs/oblique soreness, because those are painful for people who swing bats for a living.
So, yeah, given who this is, how important he is to the team and how hard it is to get Jones out of the lineup, there should be some concern here.
Jones’ absence opens up leadoff for Rickard
There’s no question Rule 5 pick and current Baltimore darling Joey Rickard is best suited, skills-wise, to bat leadoff for this team.
Showalter, however, chose to hit Rickard ninth in the team’s first two games while Manny Machado led off. Rickard has continued his great spring by getting four hits in his first seven at-bats as a rookie.
But with Jones out, Showalter made the call to move Rickard to leadoff and Machado to the third spot in the lineup. He admitted that he likely would have kept Rickard ninth if Jones was healthy.
“He’s got the skill set. You’d like to think it’s when and not if, but it’s not really that case,” Showalter said. “I think the nine hole is one of the most important parts of an American League lineup. The ability to turn that over and be able to do some things down there. When we’ve been good, we’ve had production out of that spot. But sometimes necessity lets you take a look at something that you might not have done that night. So we’ll try to take advantage of that.”
It was understandable that Showalter wanted to shield Rickard from the spotlight early, but now it makes sense for him to leadoff with Jones out and Machado needed more in a typical, run-producing slot.
Kim to play this weekend?
Showalter has always tried to get all of his players into a game within the first few days of the season. With Reimold and Caleb Joseph in Thursday’s starting lineup, utility infielder Ryan Flaherty and outfielder Hyun Soo Kim are the only two position players that haven’t played yet.
Showalter will try to rectify that this weekend, even with Kim, who played in just one game in the final week of spring training.
“I’m going to look for a way to get him in a game before this homestand is over,” Showalter said.
My initial guess is Sunday, when Showalter tends to play more of his reserves than usual.