Injury updates and getting ready for the Draft

Second baseman Brian Roberts will continue his rehab assignment with the Delmarva Shorebirds, playing for the Class-A affiliate on Tuesday (tonight) and Wednesday. Roberts has played five games for Double-A Bowie and is hitting .222, and manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Toronto he has tentative plans for Roberts to play for Triple-A Norfolk before being activated, so the veteran infielder will see some higher-quality pitching before rejoining the Orioles. Keep in mind Roberts hasn’t played in a Major League game since last May and the biggest adjustment early on has been him getting back into game speed.

Roberts’ 20-day rehab assignment ends on June 11, meaning he has to be activated the 12th unless there’s another setback/injury, in which case he’d had to start over (and typically it would have to be a different injury or the O’s would have to get approval to stop and restart the assignment). What happens when Roberts comes back is hard to predict because the Orioles have so many moving pieces right now although –and a lot of you have asked — I still expect Robert Andino to be a regular fixture in the lineup, given that he can play multiple positions. People forget that Andino is playing out of his comfort zone at second base; he came up a shortstop in the Marlins organization, has filled in at third base and can be used in left field if necessary. Roberts’ return won’t delegate him to a bench role, particularly given Andino’s defensive skills and the Orioles’ struggles with errors this season.

Third baseman Mark Reynolds was activated last night, and Endy Chavez is expected to be available tonight for the second game in Toronto. Steve Tolleson could be sent down for Chavez, and rookie Xavier Avery is another option as the O’s roster continues its rapid turnover. It will be interesting to see if both those guys, Reynolds and Chavez, can get back on track now that they are healthy. Both were struggling offensively, and in Reynolds’ case on the field, at the time they were injured. I’m not sure how on board I’d be with Avery going back to the Minors. He has hit a bit of a rough patch since his initial success, but I’d be curious to see if he can make the adjustments up here. But, that’s just me.

On the pitching side, reliever Matt Lindstrom reported to Sarasota over the weekend and has started his rehab program by throwing up to 90 feet. You figure he will return to the team at some point on this road trip as will starter Zach Britton, who will make his second rehab start for Double-A Bowie at Akron on Thursday.

Britton threw 88 pitches in his first rehab start and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said last week it’s possible the 24-year-old lefty is activated and rejoins the Orioles on their current three-city roadtrip which would mean Thursday would be Britton’s final start. The O’s do have an offday on Thursday and again on Monday so there’s some wiggle room there since they could feasibly go with a four-man rotation for a little while and carry an extra reliever or bench player.

Still, I have a hard time believing the Orioles won’t activate Britton if he’s ready, especially considering the struggles of the starting pitching. Right-hander Tommy Hunter went three innings in last night’s loss to the Blue Jays and looks like the odd man out right now. Assuming Britton makes just one more rehab start, he would be eligible to start again in Boston. As for how he’s looked, I can only go off of what I’ve been told which is that Britton’s velocity is slowing creeping back up and physically he’s not in any pain or discomfort in regards to that left shoulder. There has been an added emphasis on improving his mechanics and building up arm strength during his rehab, and Britton spent a lot of his first rehab outing working on getting the feel back for his breaking ball.

***

Typically, I’m all about the MLB Draft weeks before as Orioles fans  seem desperate for some good news and hope by early June. This year, however, with the team in first place, the last few days I finally redirected some attention toward the upcoming First-Year Player Draft. Clearly, I’m no expert, but MLB.com Jonathan Mayo is –he keeps track of this stuff all year — and you can read his latest Mock Draft up here.

Mayo has the Orioles, who will pick fourth, selecting college arm Kevin Gausman which seems to be the majority opinion right now. Gausman is a sophomore at Louisiana State University and you can check out his player page here. Drafted in the sixth-round of 2010’s Draft, he elected to go to college and he’s posted a 2.86 ERA with 118 strikeouts and just 23 walks over 100.2 innings this year to raise his stock even further.

From the MLB.com Draft site, here’s a blurb on the right-handed Gausman, who has been predicted to be the Orioles’ target in several mock drafts.

“Coming out of Colorado as a high schooler, scouts liked Gausman’s arm strength but an inconsistent spring and signability issues caused a slide until the sixth round, where Gausman reportedly turned down an above-slot offer from the Dodgers. Now he’s back just two years later as a Draft-eligible sophomore.

Gausman still has the electric stuff, this time with a little more polish. He’ll run his fastball up to 94 mph and he’s still projectable given there’s plenty of room on his frame to add strength. The heater has plenty of life to it and gets on hitters quickly thanks to a loose and easy delivery. His breaking ball has the chance to be an average offering and he now throws a changeup that fades and sinks and could be an above-average pitch.

The right-hander still struggles a bit with command, particularly with his breaking pitch and the delivery on his changeup doesn’t always work. But with his size, mound presence and arm, he has all the makings of a frontline starter, one who shouldn’t stay on Draft boards for very long if he has a productive sophomore season.”

It’s important to note that there’s no clear-cut No. 1 pick in this year’s Draft and the mock drafts are really just an educated guess. The top five or six picks are hard to predict so things could change in a hurry. Here’s the latest Baseball America blurb on what the O’s could do.

“Baltimore seems to be leaning more towards arms than bats, especially if [outfielder Byron] Buxton is gone, so that would leave it looking at Gausman and [Kyle] Zimmer. Gausman had a strong start at the Southeastern Conference tournament this week, while Zimmer will try to put hamstring woes and fluctuating velocity behind him in his final outing of the season tonight. Don’t rule out [Carlos] Correa or [Albert] Almora here.”

I’ll have a full Draft preview up later this week, but here’s the goods on MLB.com’s coverage…

The annual First-Year Player Draft takes place this year from June 4-6, beginning with the first round and Comp Round A on Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m. ET. The first night of the event will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on June 5-6.

MLB.com’s coverage includes the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player, and Draft Caster. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter and join along in the conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

This year’s Draft representative for the Orioles is special assistant Brady Anderson.

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Finally, I’ve gotten asked this a lot the last few days on Twitter and wanted to reiterate that O’s broadcaster Jim Palmer is fine. I don’t know how MASN does the scheduling, but was told last week that Palmer will be in the booth for the Tampa Bay series this weekend and his absence was scheduled. It’s nothing out of the ordinary although it does feel like a long time since he’s been around.  It’s my understand Palmer and Mike Bordick split the team’s games.

2 Comments

I agree with keeping Avery. He has done well keeping his head above water since being called up and deserves the chance to make the necessary adjustments. Sadly, Tolleson is doing well also but unfortunately there’s no room for both unless another move is made. Tommy Hunter needs to go down and get his act straightened out so he’s my choice to go when Britton is ready. When another move is necessary down the line, Duquette should pull the trigger on Kevin Gregg and the Orioles should eat the balance of his contract. The money they spend eating the contract should be a continuing investment in trying to right the ship and keep the Orioles going in the right direction. The team and the fans have gotten a taste of winning baseball so making a drastic turn in the other direction would most likely send the wrong signals and further damage the fan base which looks to be coming around now from those “disaster years” of losing and having a lease on the AL East basement apartment. The new tenants, the Red Sox look good down there – let them keep it.

Britt, I think it is time to bring up the old man and shore up 3rd base. We could use a boost of positive right now and Tejada has a history of providing positive leadership. Certainly we have enough guys we could send down or cut(Gregg) if need be that won’t really affect the roster. We could use his bat as well. Fit right in batting 3rd while Nick is recovering. What’s your thought on Tejada.

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