Thoughts on Manny Machado's left hand injury, and revisiting the Miley-Miranda deal - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Thoughts on Manny Machado’s left hand injury, and revisiting the Miley-Miranda deal

En route to their dramatic, extra-inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, not everything went swimmingly for the Orioles.

Third baseman Manny Machado was forced to leave in the fourth inning with a hand injury, which may require an MRI on Thursday.

The injury occurred in the top of the second, when Andrew McCutchen accidentally spiked Machado’s hand while sliding into third base on a steal.

“On the top of his left hand,” manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “Obviously, a spike with a slide. He had an X-ray, which was negative. They’re talking about getting an MRI [Thursday] just to be on the safe side, make sure we know what we’re dealing with.”

Initially, after a visit from the Orioles’ training staff, Machado elected to stay in the game. But after the third inning — in which Machado made a poor throw to first on a double-play attempt — Machado exited. Newly acquired utility infielder Ruben Tejada replaced him at third base, making his Orioles debut.

“He got pretty sore,” Showalter said of Machado. “Went down in the cage and didn’t feel good swinging the bat, so decided to be cautious.”

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The Orioles initially announced Machado’s injury as left wrist soreness, but Showalter clarified afterward that it was the top of his hand, not the wrist.

“It’s a puncture [on the hand], pretty deep, it’s not stitchable, at least we didn’t think it was. It’s more on the top here, pretty deeply bruised, just kind of deep.”

The Orioles don’t know how long the injury might keep Machado out. It goes without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — that the Orioles are in trouble if Machado ends up missing significant time.

Yes, Machado has struggled offensively this season. He’s hitting .213 with a .718 OPS after grounding into a double play in his only at-bat Wednesday. But, given his track record, he’s not a player that opposing pitchers can take lightly. At any time, Machado is a threat to break out of his slump and re-emerge as a key cog in the lineup.

And while the bat hasn’t been hot, Machado has been putting up another stellar defensive season at third base. That’s where the Orioles will most miss his presence if he’s out of commission. Tejada, a veteran infielder, would be most likely to fill in at third base in the interim, but he isn’t close to the defender Machado is.

The Orioles’ upcoming schedule is unrelenting. They’ll play 18 games in 18 days, starting with a makeup game in D.C. against the Washington Nationals on Thursday and then a three-game series against the division-leading Yankees in New York. A Machado-less lineup, even for a few days, would make the Orioles’ attempt to climb back to the top of the AL East considerably harder.

Revisiting the Miley/Miranda trade

Wade Miley’s strong start to 2017 hit a speed bump in his ugly outing against the Pirates on Wednesday.

Miley, who had allowed just three earned runs in his five home starts this year, gave up four runs and eight hits Wednesday, and Showalter pulled him after just 2 2/3 innings, Miley’s shortest non-injury outing since last Aug. 19.

“Just kept waiting for him to find his step and just didn’t feel like he was ever going to be able to make the adjustment,” Showalter said. “It’s one of the things when a guy that works that quickly and rapidly, when you get out of sync a little bit, it’s tough to slow down. He’s a guy you don’t realize how many pitches he has until you look up there because he works so fast.”

Miley labored for 83 pitches, 46 strikes.

“I just never got in a good rhythm. Just wasn’t very good tonight,” Miley said. “Hopefully we can move past it and make adjustments in a few days.”

Meanwhile, it’s worth mentioning that lefty Ariel Miranda, whom the Orioles traded to the Mariners for Miley last July, is having a breakout season in Seattle. Miranda has been a steady presence amidst an injury-riddled Mariners rotation, going 6-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts.

In his most recent outing June 4, Miranda had the best performance of his career, pitching his first complete game and racking up nine strikeouts against the Rays. That strong start, juxtaposed with Miley’s blowup Wednesday, might have caused some grumbling among Orioles fans who worry that the club gave away a promising pitcher too soon.

It’s an interesting trade to analyze. Miley, after a dreadful 2016 with the Orioles, has been the club’s second most reliable starter this year behind Dylan Bundy. He entered Wednesday with a 2.82 ERA, fifth best in the AL and nearly a run better than Miranda’s. And Miley, 30, has put up those numbers while pitching half his games at Camden Yards, which historically hasn’t been the most pitcher-friendly environment.

Miranda, 28, has been helped by his spacious home park, Safeco Field. He has a 2.02 ERA in five starts in Seattle and a 5.68 ERA in seven starts on the road. So, there’s reason to believe that if he’d stayed with the Orioles, he wouldn’t be having the same kind of success he has had for the Mariners.

Still, the performances by Miley and Miranda might be more equal than you think. If you look at Fielding Independent Pitching (see my handy-dandy stats guide for a quick FIP primer), Miley had a 4.41 mark entering Wednesday, while Miranda’s was 4.29. Miranda also tops Miley in WHIP, hit rate, walk rate and strikeout rate.

To be clear, the Orioles certainly aren’t complaining about the effort they’ve gotten from Miley this season. He has pitched quite well, Wednesday notwithstanding. On the other hand, Miley is eligible for free agency after this season — unless the Orioles pick up his $12 million option for 2018 — while Miranda is under Seattle’s control through 2022. For an Orioles team that has struggled to develop quality starting pitchers, Miranda could have been a useful depth piece.

The final verdict isn’t in yet on the Miley-Miranda trade. But it’s surely something that the Orioles and their fans will be keeping an eye on.

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