The Orioles were facing a difficult roster decision when they activated lefty Wade Miley to start Sunday against the New York Yankees.
The decision became easier Saturday night, but that’s not really a good thing.
After Saturday’s 5-4 win, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and some staff members sat down to discuss the pending move involving Miley when head athletic trainer Richie Bancells walked in with news that outfielder Joey Rickard sprained the middle finger of his left hand while attempting to steal a base Saturday night.
An X-Ray showed a “fleck of displacement,” Showalter said, “but nothing that you would call a break. Nothing like what he had last year. We were all getting ready to sit down and have a long, final discussion about how we were gonna (make room for Miley). That kind of changed it, shortened that meeting.”
Rickard, 25, was sidelined for the second half last year when he tore a ligament in his right thumb. This injury is much less serious, and Showalter said if the disabled list required a 15-day stint – like it did before this season – they may have waited to see if Rickard could get back within a week. That didn’t make sense with the new, 10-day DL.
“It’s unfortunate, but I think we’re fortunate it may not be much more than 10 days,” Showalter said. “It’s actually one of those injuries if it was 15, if you had a 15-day DL, you might think about waiting half the time. But it also could linger and be the full 15.”
It’s a bit of a blow to the Orioles, who have used the speedy Rickard as the leadoff hitter against left-handed pitchers. Showalter stressed that Rickard was not being considered for a demotion to make room for Miley; conventional wisdom was that it would be a reliever.
“I have a pretty good idea of what we would have done, but it didn’t involve Joey, that’s for sure,” Showalter said.
Now, 33-year-old veteran Craig Gentry is expected to get more starts versus left-handed pitching. He was in Sunday’s lineup against New York’s CC Sabathia – although he likely would have been anyway since Showalter said he was hoping to get Gentry his first start as an Oriole this weekend.
What the injury means short-term is that Gentry and Trey Mancini will remain with the Orioles and continue to get playing time against lefties. Mancini was the club’s starting designated hitter for Sunday while Mark Trumbo started in right field. On Tuesday, the Orioles face another lefty, Boston’s Drew Pomeranz, and Gentry likely will leadoff then, too.
In essence, the Rickard injury robs Showalter of an important piece in his nightly chess game.
“It weakens our bench. I’m trying not to have Joey and Craig (play together) even though I would play them in the same game. I was probably going to do it on the road to give some guys a day (off),” Showalter said. “You look at our bench compared to what it was against left-handed pitchers, the different look. We’ve been spoiled with that extra player.”
Long-term, the Orioles are hoping Rickard’s injury won’t be a factor, and he’ll be able to return quickly to the team. He’ll go with the club on its 10-day road trip and may not need a rehab assignment when his 10 days are up – Wednesday, April 19 in Cincinnati.
“It depends on how quickly we can get a bat back in his hands,” Showalter said of Rickard’s return. “We’d be fortunate, but that’s still a possibility. I’m hoping he won’t need that rehab assignment.”
In other Orioles news, Triple-A Norfolk infielder Chris Johnson suffered a fractured ulnar bone (forearm) when hit by a pitch Saturday night. He’ll be out six to eight weeks, best-case scenario, Showalter said. The organization is hoping he won’t need surgery to repair it.