A little more than a week into summer training, the Orioles suffered their first significant injury of the season with Richie Martin going down with a fractured bone in his right wrist.
The versatile infielder was injured after sliding back into first base during an intrasquad game July 10. Manager Brandon Hyde confirmed the injury during a Zoom call two days later, but he did not offer a timeline for Martin’s potential return to the lineup.
The Orioles originally thought Martin only had a broken fingernail on his left hand.
“It’s a big blow,” Hyde said. “I feel terrible for Richie. It wasn’t something we were expecting. We were going out to play catch for a broken fingernail and a cut and this happened. My heart goes out to him.”
While Martin is exceptional defensively, he struggled with his bat. Last season, he slashed .208/.260/.322 with six homers, 23 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 120 games (309 plate appearances).
The Orioles signed veteran infielder José Iglesias to a one-year, $2.5 million deal with a $3.5 million option in 2021 in January. Iglesias is expected to take over the job as the everyday shortstop but he has been hampered recently by a sore back.
Martin was looking to make the team as a utility player and spent time at second base and shortstop during the past week. Pat Valaika, Andrew Velazquez, Stevie Wilkerson and Dilson Herrera are also competing for spots in the infield.
“It opens an opportunity for everybody,” Hyde said. “We’re obviously going to look for versatility on our roster. Richie was somebody who could play multiple positions. We have other guys who can do that as well. It’s part of the game.”
Update: Hyde announced July 13 that Martin is out for two to three months and will have surgery on his wrist July 15.
Cobb Healthy, Looking To Finally Make An Impact
The Orioles had huge expectations for starting pitcher Alex Cobb when he signed a four-year, $57 million deal in 2018.
They were hopeful Cobb could provide experience and help anchor an otherwise young rotation, but he has dealt with a myriad of injuries. Now fully healthy, Cobb is optimistic that his toughest days are behind him.
“I think the season is going to be a really fun one to follow,” Cobb said. “I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how the game is going to shift and the way managers manage, players play. You’re going to see a lot left out on the field.
“I think that’s going to create some exciting baseball. So I’m looking forward to watching it and being part of it. I really hope we’re able to get through it.”
Last season, Cobb underwent hip and knee surgeries, which limited him to 12.1 innings. He went 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA and 1.411 WHIP across 28 starts in 2018.
Cobb and his wife recently celebrated the birth of his second daughter earlier this month. The couple decided that it would be OK for Cobb to play this season rather than opt out.
“We made the decision together that we felt comfortable doing it,” Cobb said. “There’s just no guarantee that if we opted out and stayed home that we wouldn’t get it, so we feel that this is a great opportunity for me personally, especially because I missed all of last year basically to get out there and get a season in, as much as we can.”
Harvey Ready To Attack Shortened Season
Reliever Hunter Harvey is excited to start playing some live baseball … even with the shortened season.
Harvey was a pleasant surprise after being called up late last season, and he’s looking to carry that momentum into this summer’s abbreviated schedule.
“Even if it wouldn’t have been cut short, I was ready to go a full season,” Harvey said. “I was taking this year and going right at it, just getting after it. A 60-game season just makes it a little bit easier on them not having to draw something up for me, especially with my past and all the injuries.”
Harvey has battled a variety of injuries since being drafted in 2013, and the Orioles have been waiting patiently for him to make an impact with the major-league club. Last year, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in seven big-league games (6.1 innings) and allowed just one run and three hits with 11 strikeouts and four walks. Harvey had a 1.42 ERA and 1.105 WHIP. He could open the 2020 season as the closer.
Harvey’s fastball has reached the high 90s in Sarasota, Fla., before spring training was cut short because of the coronavirus.
He’s now looking to make up for the lost time.
“I couldn’t wait to get back to a ballfield,” Harvey said. “I was actually kind of going a little crazy sitting at home, just playing catch and throwing bullpens. So to be back at the field and get going again, it’s really exciting and it’s fun to be back with everybody.”
Stewart Battling For Starting Job
One of the players that benefitted from the layoff with the COVID-19 pandemic is DJ Stewart, who underwent ankle surgery last October.
The Orioles outfielder is fully healthy at this summer’s camp.
Stewart, who was selected by the Orioles in the first round (No. 25 overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft, will be given plenty of opportunities to shine because he and Austin Hays are the only two healthy outfielders currently in camp. Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Santander have not appeared for undisclosed reasons, and Trey Mancini is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.
“I thought I was in a really good place, ready to come back toward the end when everything was shut down,” Stewart said. “But being home and having this second offseason to do what I normally do during the offseason put me in a really good place as far as my body and being ready to compete and being 100 percent. I thought the ankle was good then, but I am even more confident now.”
Last season, Stewart was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk May 28 and had a career-high three hits that evening. But on June 5, he suffered an ankle sprain that kept him on the injured list until mid-July. He then suffered a concussion Aug. 7 that kept him out of the lineup for more than a week.
Overall, Stewart slashed .238/.317/.381 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 126 at-bats.
Now, he’s looking to take the next step with his career.
“The best version of me is the guy who earned his way to the big leagues last year,” he said. “Last year, I showed I no longer need to be in Triple-A. My numbers proved that. I got off to a pretty hot start when I got called up, but the injuries back to back, I was never able to become myself and get my timing and routine down.”
So far, Hyde has been pleased with Stewart’s performance.
“He’s come in in great shape, and he’s swinging the bat really well right now,” Hyde said. “Making defense a priority also, he’s getting a lot of extra work in defensively and doing a great job. He has put himself in a position to play a lot to really get evaluated the right way.”
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