SARASOTA—The Orioles have four left-handed hitting first basemen who aren’t on the major league roster competing for one roster spot: Franchy Cordero, Lewin Díaz, Josh Lester and Ryan O’Hearn. All are hitting well, Díaz and O’Hearn are out with injuries.
Díaz was scratched from Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh in Bradenton because of a sore left shoulder. O’Hearn suffered a bruised right knee in last Saturday’s game against Toronto in Dunedin.
“Nothing too serious. It’s just some inflammation in my shoulder,” Díaz said through a translator. “I was taking some swings when I started to feel it and after speaking with the trainers, they recommended I take a couple of days rest to get better.”
Díaz is hitting .250 (5-for-20) and he’s playing an excellent first base.
“I think tomorrow I’ll be able to take batting practice. Maybe after tomorrow or the next day, if everything goes well, I should be ready to go to play in some games again,” Díaz said.
“It was something that happened for the first time. I’m usually pretty healthy so when I felt something, I was a little hesitant and scared at first, which is why I spoke to the trainers at first just to make sure everything is good to go and so I think having another day of rest is really beneficial so that I can be ready to go tomorrow.”
Díaz, who’s a lifetime .181 hitter in 112 games in the previous three seasons with Miami, was claimed by the Orioles twice in a busy offseason in which he bceame property of four teams: the Marlins, Pirates, Braves and the Orioles.
“I’ve been able to show that I’m capable of being a big league player,” Díaz said. “I know that I have what it takes to be at the big league level. Maybe in the past my offense hasn’t been there, but it’s come along and I feel really good about how things have been going, so I think I came in with that mentality and I think I’ve been able to show what I’ve been able to do.”
O’Hearn is 9-for-19 (.474) with a home run and four RBIs. Cordero, who’s staring in left field on Thursday night, is 11-for-23 (.478) with two home runs and four RBIs. Lester is 12-for-31 (.387) with a homer and nine RBIs.
“I think having a full day off yesterday did me a lot of good,” O’Hearn said. “Were staying on it with the treatment, and it feels good. I feel like the swelling’s pretty much gone. I have all my range of motion back It really scared me when it first happened because I didn’t know what it could be. My knee was locked in a place from all the swelling.
“Clean MRI, and just doing treatment the last couple of days. The swelling’s pretty much gone down to nothing. I’ve been running pool sprints, and I feel pretty good. Now it’s up to the training staff, and hopefully they’ll let me on to the field as possible and continue to compete for a roster spot.”
O’Hearn is a .219 hitter in five seasons with Kansas City and knows that the injury occurred at an inopportune time. He made a misstep in the outfield at TD Ballpark.
“Panic set in when I was driving home and I realized I couldn’t move my knee and that’s when your .mind goes to bad places,” he said, knowing that the timing wasn’t good. ”
Definitely not great, and that was part of the reason I was upset the first day,” he said. “I was like, ‘this is the last thing I need right now. I have 11 days left, so I’m going to make the most of them. Whatever happens is just going to happen.
“I’m not going to press at all. I think I believe in myself much way too much to press in spring training. Obviously, I want to be on the team. I’m competing for a spot, but I’m just going to go out there and have quality at-bats, compete my [butt] off and play hard in the field and let the big decisions…They’re up to the skipper, the coaching staff and the front office.
“My job right now is to get healthy and hopefully be back on the field as soon as possible.”
Díaz and O’Hearn know there are others who could grab a spot at their expense.
“They’re both fighting for a roster spot,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Guys around them are playing well. You don’t want to see them hurt themselves worse. They are competing for a job, and you hope they’re ready to go when you put them back out there.”
Both realize time is precious with camp ending on March 27th.
“It’s been a really good competition, and I think whoever ends up with the spot, we’ll all be rooting for each other,” Díaz said. “We’ll all be really happy for each other, so it’s one of those things that’s beneficial to all of us because we’ve been working really hard.”
“It’s a good thing for the organization overall,” O’Hearn said. “I think I want every guy to be the best version of themselves and let the people who have to make those decisions make those decisions.
“All those guys are extremely talented. They’ve all had time in the major leagues and proved they can help the team in some capacity. I don’t want to be GM. I don’t want to play GM…When decision time comes, I’m at peace with whatever decision they make.”