Heston Kjerstad, who hasn’t been in uniform because of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), won’t attend spring training and will report to the Orioles’ alternate site in Bowie next month. Kjerstad, 22, was the second overall selection in last June’s draft
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, who revealed Kjerstad’s condition before the start of spring training last month, said the left-handed-hitting outfielder is improving.
“Everything is continuing to trend very well with him,” Elias said in a Wednesday video conference call from Sarasota, Florida. “He’s looked very good. With everything that’s going on and with the alternate site decision, we’re much more likely to direct him to our alternate site once he’s ready to begin sort of rehabbing back into game shape.
“I don’t think we’re going to bring him down for major league spring training at this point. Much more fixated on having him join activities in Maryland at the time that those open.
“It’s going to be something where he’s going to need a little more time after all this layoff to go through a rehab protocol to return to game shape, but we’re very hopeful that he’ll be able to do that this season. I know that we’re all eager to see him in action. I know he’s eager to join the activities finally after what he’s been through.”
Before Elias spoke, the Orioles issued a statement after Governor Hogan’s mandate that as of Friday at 5 p.m., large sports stadiums could open at 50 percent capacity.
“As always, the health and safety of our entire Birdland community remains our top priority,” the statement said. “In accordance with Governor Hogan’s announcement yesterday, we are continuing to work with the City of Baltimore, state officials, and Major League Baseball to safely welcome fans back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards with proper social distancing guidelines. As soon as we are able, we will share our plans to reopen along with our Gameday Health & Safety protocols.”
Elias said that the team has “been preparing as an organization for all types of eventualities, so entirely our planning will be in place for whatever comes down the pike … We’re going to be ready for it.”
He’s looking forward to seeing fans as soon as possible.
“Optimistic is a very good word … for where we’re at right now,” Elias said. “We’re doing this in Florida [where it’s 25 percent capacity]. So far, it’s gone pretty well. We’ve seen other jurisdictions and venues announce plans. I think people are wanting to try this. We’ve learned a lot about how to carry forward these types of public events in a safer fashion. We’re planning for hosting people as soon as we possibly can, and we’re very optimistic.”
With regard to the team, Elias said the Orioles are “always looking” at the free-agent market. “I don’t feel there are any imminent additions coming at this time from the free-agent market. That could change. I don’t see anything barreling down the pipe right this second.”
He did say the Orioles monitor “players in other camps. What may happen in the short term or as players have ‘outs’ or don’t make the cut, or a team looks to move them. We’re certainly staying in contact with a couple of different aspects of the free-agent market.”
Elias addressed the lower-back injury of Chris Davis.
“In my experience, it’s a very unpredictable thing in terms of timelines, but I do think as we get deeper into spring training, the level of pessimism that he can break camp and have the necessary preparation and run-up to Opening Day that you’d want, the clock’s ticking on that. We’ll have to see in terms of an ultimate timeline. Right now, there is none.”
Elias said he’s confident that veteran pitcher Félix Hernández, who is scheduled to start Thursday at Pittsburgh in Bradenton, will increase his velocity, which topped out in the mid-to-high 80s in his first start.
“He hasn’t pitched in a year,” Elias said. “If it does or if it doesn’t a ton, I still think, as I said when we signed him, this is a pitcher with an incredible amount of skill and savvy, and he’s transitioned into a different phase of his career.
“I thought he pitched well the other night. I thought he looked good. He was in command of the game. The mound presence just set a tone. He threw strikes. We’re looking forward to seeing him use his pitchability and his experience and, obviously, as he builds arm strength that can only help, too.
“It’s been terrific having him so far, and I’m looking forward to his next few outings and seeing where we’re at with him down the stretch because I think having an effective Félix Hernández on the team would be great from a number of angles. We’ve got competition, and we’ve got time left where things can happen, and we’ll see where this goes.”