BALTIMORE—DJ Stewart suffered a freak injury when he was was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on May 28. In his seventh game, a nasty collision in foul territory with Hanser Alberto sent him to the 10-day injured list on June 6 with a sprained right ankle.
On Tuesday night, in his first game back with the Orioles, he suffered another freak injury. Stewart was pursuing a short fly ball in left field when he appeared to slip on the wet grass and went down. He lost sight of the ball and was hit in the head.
There was a welt near the temple area when he took off his hat, but he was allowed to finish the inning in the outfield, although he appeared to be in a lot of discomfort. Jace Peterson pinch-hit for Stewart in the bottom of the inning.
After Stewart hurt the ankle, it took time for the injury to heal, and he was optioned to Norfolk on July 14. With Dwight Smith Jr. on the injury list with a strained left calf, Stewart returned to the Orioles on Tuesday and was in the starting lineup.
The Orioles said after the game that Stewart has a concussion. Before the game, Stewart talked about recovering from the ankle injury and being back with the Orioles.
“The ankle is good,” Stewart said before a rainstorm delayed the start of the game by more than an hour. “I think it’s recovered 100 percent. There’s some aches and pains, but that’s anything with a chronic injury. I’ve done it before so it’s just something I have to deal with.”
In seven games with the Orioles, Stewart was batting .167 (4-for 24). At Norfolk, Stewart hit .286 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs.
The ankle injury was frustrating. “It was difficult. The ankle has limited me a little bit,” he said. “It’s something I just have to work through and know that it’s a process.”
He probably would have been back earlier had the team not been in need of additional bullpen arms.
“We were playing short, position player-wise,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Adding DJ gives us another player. We’re pretty beat up. We’ve got a lot of nagging things. A lot of guys are playing through stuff.”
In May, Stewart batted .432 in 23 games with five homers and 28 RBIs for the Tides.
“May was something unbelievable,” Stewart said. “A special month for me. That’s hard to do. I’m not expecting myself to be there, but obviously I would like to.
“One day you can feel terrible, and the next day there’s one thing that can click for you, and that’s how it was in May for me.”
When Stewart was initially called up, Hyde said he would get an extended trial, but the injury forced a change in plans.
“DJ’s here, and he’s going to get a lot of playing time,” Hyde said. “He was playing well before he got hurt, look forward to adding him to the roster
“I’m going to rotate those guys. They’re all going to play. It’s that time of year where guys need breaks and rest. I haven’t rested people, so DJ’s going to get a lot of playing time.”
While Stewart was hurt, Anthony Santander got regular playing time, and he’s produced. Stewart is hoping that happens for him, too.
“Everyone wants an opportunity to play every day and perform to our best ability,” Stewart said. “I’m happy for him. He deserves it. He’s worked his tail off in Triple-A.”
Stewart got the call ahead of Austin Hays, who’s hitting. .225 at Norfolk. It helps that he’s left-handed like Smith, but he doesn’t have much experience playing center field.
Hyde doesn’t’ expect Stewart to play center. He’s in the lineup, batting seventh and playing left in Tuesday’s game.
“I’m always confident,” Stewart said. “I believe in myself. I know the work that I put in every single day. I’m confident whether I get no hits or whether I get four hits.”
Stewart is one of a number of players likely to get significant time during the season’s final weeks.
“Everyone is aware of the situation that we’re in,” Stewart said. “Whether you’re a younger guy or an older guy. Everyone’s going to get their opportunities and trying to make the most of them.
“We’re a little bit different, in a unique situation with us rebuilding,” Stewart said. “There are opportunities for young guys. No one’s oblivious to it. We know what we’re facing.”
Hyde said that Smith could go on a rehab assignment next week when the Orioles are on the road.