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The walk through the wilderness has ended. The wait is over.
Third baseman Manny Machado has returned.
Or he will return Friday when the Orioles begin a three-day, four-game series against the battered Tampa Bay Rays.
This is a series the Orioles have to win. The Rays have dropped seven straight and are reeling from key injuries, including one to former Oriole Steve Pearce, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.
There’s another reason they need to do well against the last-place Rays. Things don’t get easier. After Sunday’s game, the Orioles will embark on a three-city, nine-game trip to the West Coast.
But at least they’ll do it with Machado, who served his suspension this week for charging Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura on June 7. The Orioles split those four games, which included a one-run loss at Texas in which the Orioles had 15 hits and only three runs.
You can make the argument that they might have won that one-game road trip if they had Machado. You could also make the argument they could have done worse without their best hitter. So 2-2 and the stretch being over provides some relief for the Orioles. (Strangely, they were actually 4-1 when he was suspended in 2014, but he is now the best player on the team.)
“We got through this four-game stretch without Manny,” Showalter made a point of saying during his post-game conference Wednesday night.
You almost expected him to sigh and light a cigarette.
The roster not only will be back to 25 players – actually 26 for Saturday’s doubleheader — but it should have some veteran reinforcements coming back in the near future.
The Orioles have four players on the disabled list currently, but three are nearing a return. Reliever Darren O’Day is throwing from a half-mound Thursday. If that goes well, he’ll step it up to a full mound and could progress fairly quickly from there.
Reliever Vance Worley (groin) will throw a side session Thursday and then likely will pitch for Double-A Bowie on Saturday. He could be activated Tuesday.
Catcher Caleb Joseph (testicular surgery) will catch at High-A Frederick on Monday. He needs to do that a couple times before being reinstated.
If all three return soon, the Orioles will be left with only one player on the DL: lefty Brian Duensing, who was put on the list Wednesday with elbow inflammation and is expected to miss roughly six weeks following surgery Friday to remove chips from his left elbow.
Ubaldo Jimenez likely bought himself another turn in the rotation with his performance Wednesday in a 7-2 win against the San Diego Padres.
That one likely will come Tuesday in San Diego against those same Padres, whom he is now 8-4 with 10 quality starts against in 14 career games.
You’d think he gets the call because the Orioles don’t have an obvious alternative. But given how Jimenez’s season has gone – his ERA is at 6.97 – Showalter wasn’t saying yes yet. He simply stated Wednesday night that that spot in the rotation will come up twice before the All Star Break.
“We’re going to take it each day and put our best foot forward,” Showalter said. “Tonight, he was it. So, we’ll see.”
Not making a call is the right call here. Jimenez didn’t earn Wednesday’s start, but he did well with the opportunity. That should be the deal going forward; if he struggles, he’s got to go back to the bullpen and earn his way back.
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