WASHINGTON DC — Outfielder Colby Rasmus is back with the Orioles and is facing Max Scherzer Thursday night at Nationals Park.
And you may not be thrilled about that.
Frankly, I’m not even sure what to write/think. This could end up as a good thing for the Orioles. Or it could be a waste of roster space.
Because Rasmus had two hits and 13 strikeouts in 23 plate appearances his first time around with the Orioles in April before a flexor strain in his surgically repaired left hip sent him to the disabled list for two-plus months.
And because Rasmus will be 32 in August and doesn’t exactly fit the “play the kids” mantra that should be trumpeted by a team an acre away from first place in June.
And because Rasmus’ numbers weren’t eye-popping during his 20 days rehabbing at High-A and Double-A, but they were at least respectable — .275 average, .333 on-base percentage, .490 slugging, two homers, 10 RBIs. He had nine hits, including two homers, in his past 20 at-bats.
“Last three or four games he really seemed to find his step and feel comfortable,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not an easy task to come back and face Scherzer, but it’s the big leagues.”
And these are big league decisions – decisions that are often based on finances and saving face on previous decisions.
In February, the Orioles felt like Rasmus would be an improvement for them in right field and from the left side of the batter’s box. And he only was healthy for eight games before hitting the DL.
Rasmus feels he’s healthy again – or healthy enough to make a contribution.
“I don’t think anyone in this room is totally healthy. We’re all playing with things. I had hip surgery and I’m not 21 anymore,” Rasmus said. “So, I have to think accordingly, act accordingly and do the things I have to do to prepare myself to get ready to play. That’s my goal every day. Try to get ready to play so I can help this team win and do the best I can on the field.”
He was signed to play against right-handers at the least – so roughly two-thirds of the time. And more if he hit lefties, too. That could still be the plan, Showalter said.
“It depends on him. If he presents himself well, that’s certainly a way we’d like to go,” Showalter said. “But there’s a lot of potential for things to go in a lot of directions. He controls it. If he does what we think he is capable of, that role is still there for him.”
That statement should stir up some dust. If Rasmus hits and plays good defense, he’ll play.
Remember, the Orioles signed him for $3 million in February, and I’m sure those who signed off on the move would like to see what he can do when healthy. Instead of just throwing $3 million away.
The other part of this is going to produce a laugh or two from the informed public, but it has to play into the Orioles thinking: Maybe if Rasmus plays well you can get something for him at the trade deadline.
Yes, I wrote that.
And you have to understand it’s relative.
But the Royals already have traded Jon Jay – a guy the Orioles passed on while pursuing and signing Rasmus – for two minor league right-handers. They are lottery tickets, but it’s better than nothing.
Rasmus might get you only one low-level minor leaguer – assuming Rasmus is heathy and playing well. Heck, he might get you nothing, and he might end up being cut or riding the bench.
The crime for some here is that Rasmus will be playing and younger outfield prospects are still in the minors. Flip side, though, is Cedric Mullins has struggled at Triple-A since his promotion, DJ Stewart has been OK, Austin Hays is injured at Bowie.
Frankly, the best Norfolk outfielder is Joey Rickard, who was sent back to Triple-A on Thursday when Rasmus was activated. And Rickard hasn’t been able to consistently hit in the majors.
So, on the surface, having Rasmus back doesn’t seem prudent for a club that doesn’t need to worry about wins anymore.
But maybe a good Rasmus helps get you another usable piece in the future. I guess that’s the best-case scenario here. And the worst-case, really, is just more status quo.
Update: You gotta love baseball. On Rasmus’ first big league at-bat since early April, he homers against Scherzer to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the second inning Thursday. It was his first MLB homer since June 11, 2017 while with the Tampa Bay Rays.