Let’s get the unfortunate and uncomfortable part out of the way first. Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a testicular injury that included a surgical procedure Monday night.
Joseph was hit in the groin with a foul tip off the bat of Travis Shaw in the eighth inning Monday afternoon. He was down for a little while, but MASN TV cameras eventually showed the affable Joseph smiling while talking to athletic trainer Richie Bancells.
Joseph stayed in the game, but afterward Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Bancells and team physician William Goldiner did not like the symptoms that Joseph was experiencing and he was taken to the hospital for further observation.
After being examined by a urologist, it was decided that a surgical procedure – which was not detailed by Showalter – was needed. The manager said he expected Joseph would be out for at least 15 days.
“It’s definitely the DL … I’d be guessing about length of time,” Showalter said. “I know what they saw, but there’s not a whole of history that says if you have this done and you’re a catcher, when will you be able to catch again. So, obviously not in those 15 days.”
Showalter said the injury is indicative of the things that can happen on a baseball field no matter what precautions are taken.
“You have protection and everything. We see it, it seems like every other game, whether it’d be an umpire or a catcher. It’s why players’ health, in a game you play every day is so fragile. You never know what’s going to creep up,” Showalter said.
In retrospect, Showalter said the severity of the injury makes it even more amazing that Joseph was able to stay in and catch.
“I think it’s probably something, as you kind of get away and get out of the moment, (the pain intensifies). I don’t know. I don’t have anything to base it on, you just kind of go by what the guy tells you and what he’s doing on the field is telling you,” Showalter said. “We were watching it closely. Everybody tends to initially – let’s face it – kind of snicker some when that happens. But anybody that’s had it happen, it’s very serious, and we always treat it that way.”
To fill Joseph’s roster spot, the club promoted 26-year-old catcher Francisco Pena, the son of longtime big leaguer Tony Pena, to the majors. He was hitting .200 in 24 games with Triple-A Norfolk.
“I would describe myself as a defensive catcher. I take a lot of pride in my defense. I take a lot of pride in throwing guys out. I take control of the game,” said Pena, who has one hit in seven at-bats in nine big league games, all with the Kansas City Royals, in 2014 and 2015. “As a hitter, I think I’m a gap-to-gap guy. I just try and bring guys in when I have guys on base. I try to help the team whenever I can.”
The Orioles chose between Pena and Norfolk’s other catcher, Audry Perez, who may not be as good defensively but was hitting .327 in 30 games; Pena was on the 40-man roster and Perez wasn’t, though. That basically was the separator.
Now, the question is whether Pena will fill in the way Joseph did – to basically make sure Matt Wieters isn’t playing every day.
Heading into Tuesday, Wieters had started 30 games (19-11) and Joseph 19 (9-10); that’s a breakdown of three-fifths to two-fifths playing time.
Wieters, who seems fully recovered from elbow surgery, hasn’t started more than three consecutive games this season.
Showalter said that mix of playing time won’t be altered with Joseph not available.
“It doesn’t change anything about Matt. We’re not going to start pushing up his load and jeopardize something down the road,” Showalter said. “He might feel differently, but we’ll take it day to day. It shouldn’t change anything about that. But we’ll see.”
Wieters said he feels he could catch whenever needed, but doesn’t believe that need will change.
“I feel good, but I also feel like Frankie’s a guy who can go back there and catch, too. I think that’s one thing we’ve always appreciated. You’ve got to be able to have guys in Double-A and Triple-A who can step in and play in a big league game. We’re not going to call anybody up who we don’t feel can go out there and catch in a game. So whatever needs to happen for the team to win games, I’m all for, but I have complete confidence in Frankie getting back there and catching big league games and getting wins.”