PHILADELPHIA—Injuries are mounting for the Orioles. John Means, who was supposed to start Sunday’s exhibition game against the Phillies, was scratched Saturday because of arm fatigue. A decision on whether he’ll be available to start Friday night’s opener in Boston is coming soon.
That followed surgery for a broken wrist for utility infielder Richie Martin, and an injured elbow for left-hander Ty Blach that required Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.
On Sunday, a few hours after manager Brandon Hyde talked about the versatility of four utility candidates, one of them, Stevie Wilkerson, injured his swollen left ring finger making a sliding catch in right field in the second inning and left the game.
Hyde said that Wilkerson will see a hand specialist to examine the finger.
In the fifth inning, with the Orioles getting an extra out because Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi wanted to give rookie reliever Connor Brogdan some extra work, centerfielder Austin Hays was hit in the left knee by a pitch. He was removed for pinch-runner Cedric Mullins.
Hays was coming out of the game after his third at-bat, but the knee is fine, Hyde said.
“He’s a little sore,” Hyde said. “I might keep him out [Monday]. I’m not sure, yet. It kind of got him on a bad spot, on the side of his knee area.”
The Orioles will place Dwight Smith Jr. on the injured list because he wasn’t able to report after his positive test for Covid-19. Hyde said that Smith could be taken off the injured list at any time.
Hyde said he hopes that Means will still start Friday’s opener against the Red Sox in Boston. Alex Cobb, who is scheduled to start the Orioles’ second exhibition game on Monday against the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park, is apparently not a candidate if Means can’t go because Hyde says he doesn’t want a starter working on short rest.
Wade LeBlanc, who was scheduled to start Tuesday’s exhibition game at Nationals Park, is working a simulated game instead and perhaps he’d be a candidate.
Wilkerson was replaced in right by Dilson Herrera, another utility candidate. The others vying for two or three spots are Pat Valaika, who started at shortstop, and Andrew Velázquez, who can play second base, shortstop and center field.
Velázquez is the only one of the four who is on the 40-man roster. There’s just one opening on the 40-man roster at the moment.
“I’d love to bring them all,” Hyde said. “There’s something in every one of these guys’ games that fits in nicely with our ballclub and that’s going to be a really tough decision at the end, and one I’m not looking forward to because they all bring something a little different.”
The Orioles haven’t decided how many pitchers they’ll carry on the 30-man roster or if they’ll carry two or three catchers.
They can perhaps get by with two catchers because of a rule this season that allows teams to have a three-man taxi squad for road games. One of those three players must be a catcher.
The Orioles begin the season with five road games, three in Boston and two in Miami. Major League Baseball wants to avoid using commercial air travel to transport players whenever possible.
“The three taxi decisions, roster decisions are going to be important when we finally get our roster figured out,” Hyde said. “We’re going to put a lot of thought into who those taxi squad guys are going to be because we’re well aware that things can change quickly this year. Whether that’s going to be someone to cover a starter, cover a catcher, a utility guy, there are a lot of things to consider with those three that you’re going to carry on the road.”
Eshelman effective: Stepping in for Means, Thomas Eshelman worked a scoreless 4 2/3 innings as the Orioles defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-1, on Sunday night.
“It was awesome,” Eshelman said. “I finally got to pitch in Citizens Bank Park after being with the Phillies for four years and not getting called up. So, that was a cool experience for me.”
Hyde was impressed.
“That’s a major league lineup,” Hyde said. “He’s facing seven All-Stars in the first seven hitters.”
Catcher Pedro Severino hit a home run to begin the second, and Hanser Alberto’s RBI single in the fourth scored Chris Davis, who walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Cedric Mullins hit a home run to lead off the eighth, and Valaika homered with one out in the ninth. Valaika had homered three times in spring training.
The teams played a top of the 10th inning because Phillies pitcher Trevor Kelley needed work, and Ryan Mountcastle homered.
Carroll’s dominance: After a lost 2019 season because of back surgery, reliever Cody Carroll has a chance to make the Orioles. Carroll allowed two hits in 1 1/3 innings with a strikeout on Sunday.
In his six innings in spring training, Carroll allowed a run on six hits, striking out eight without walking a batter. He was hoping the long layoff wouldn’t affect him.
“I think it’s pretty close, honestly,” Carroll said. “It’s hard to pick up where you left off three months later. I feel like mechanically and everything … I feel I’m exactly where I left off.”
Carroll says he’s trying not to impress every time out. “Trying to stay within myself is a big thing for me,” he said.
Looking ahead: Monday’s and Tuesday’s games against the Nationals begin at 6:05 p.m. and will be televised by MASN.
After Cobb, Richard Bleier, Travis Lakins, Paul Fry, César Valdez and Rob Zastryzny are scheduled to pitch.
Stephen Strasburg, who has never pitched in Baltimore, is the Nationals’ likely starter.
On Wednesday, Kohl Stewart is scheduled to start and be followed by Shawn Armstrong, Mychal Givens, Evan Phillips and David Hess. Stewart’s likely opponent will be Patrick Corbin.
Call for questions: In the coming days, I’ll be answering your Orioles questions. Please leave them in the comments section or send them to: [email protected].