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BALTIMORE — It just wouldn’t be the Orioles if they went too many days without making a roster move as second baseman Ryan Flaherty was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Wednesday’s game against Washington.
The decision raised more than a few eyebrows as the club optioned infielder Yamaico Navarro and his .286 average to Triple-A Norfolk in favor of Flaherty, who was hitting .133 when he was sent to the minors on May 18. Manager Buck Showalter hopes the brief stint with the Tides provided the necessary confidence boost to the 26-year-old infielder after he clubbed two home runs and hit .265 in 34 at-bats over the last eight games. Flaherty posted multi-hit games in four of the eight contests he played at Triple A.
Reports from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and his staff said Flaherty was handling the breaking ball much better than he was upon being demoted, but Showalter acknowledged you never know whether that will continue to apply at the next level. Critics will certainly question whether eight minor-league contests were truly enough to fix Flaherty’s ailments, but the second baseman told reporters he thought the opportunity to make adjustments in a pressure-free environment helped significantly.
Showalter said at the time of his demotion that the hope was for Flaherty to “get his legs back under him” with the Tides.
“We know the stuff is a little better here,” Showalter said. “He’s handled the breaking ball a little better. We’ll see how it plays. The good thing about him is he’s defending. We just wanted to see him get some good at-bats. It’s what was needed at the time. I hope he benefited from it.”
In his eight games with the Orioles, Navarro has shown potential at the plate but has been erratic in the field, making a few nice plays mixed in with two errors at second base. Showalter and the Orioles clearly value defense to complement a struggling pitching staff that includes several ground-ball pitchers.
The club would be more inclined to give veteran Alexi Casilla more opportunities at second base due to his strong defense, but his .183 average hasn’t exactly screamed for more playing time and the organization sees more upside with Flaherty at the plate. Showalter said the switch-hitting Casilla will continue to be in the mix, likely receiving starts against left-handed pitchers as he was doing before Flaherty’s demotion.
“[Flaherty] understands this is not an open-ended ticket,” Showalter said. “Play better. The one thing I want to see is him be a consistent force for us defensively.”
In other news, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy has a followup appointment with Dr. James Andrews regarding his right forearm and elbow. Bundy received a platelet-rich plasma injection a month ago and has a full range of motion with the elbow after rest. Showalter told reporters the 20-year-old pitcher hasn’t experienced any pain in the last week, signs indicating he could begin throwing very soon.
“I think that’s the final thing for [Dr. Andrews] to sign off on,” Showalter said.
Infield prospect Jonathan Schoop received a second opinion on the stress fracture in his lower back on Wednesday that provided a slightly more optimistic prognosis of four weeks of rest. The hope is that the 21-year-old could be back playing in five to six weeks, which would have him back in action at around the All-Star break.
Reliever Pedro Strop completed a unique workout at his old position of shortstop Wednesday afternoon in an effort for the pitcher to refine as well as repeat his throwing motion. The struggling reliever was placed on the 15-day disabled list over the weekend with what was listed as a lower back strain, an ailment many have viewed as a veiled excuse to allow the club to work on Strop’s 6.11 earned run average and failures on the mound.
The move does not signal a position change for Strop, who broke into professional baseball as a shortstop but hit .207 in 633 plate appearances in the minors.
Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen continues to improve from a strained right oblique, but the lefty isn’t pain-free just yet, according to Showalter.
Injured infielders Brian Roberts and Wilson Betemit are each hitting off a tee and throwing as they continue their respective rehabs in Sarasota.
Catcher Taylor Teagarden caught seven innings in an extended spring game on Wednesday and could be sent out on a minor-league rehab assignment as early as Thursday.
Outfielder Nolan Reimold continues to rehab his right hamstring and told reporters that he’s spent some of his time rehabbing at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 29-year-old says he is now running but not at full speed just yet. The timetable for his return remains unknown, but Reimold said it “won’t be forever.”
Not exactly much clarity in that statement.
Showalter also echoed what he said following Tuesday’s loss in Washington that rookie Kevin Gausman will once again start for the Orioles on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.
“He’s a mature guy,” Showalter said. “He’s going to seek his level. There’s a process. Talent plays. If you’re good enough, you can’t hide it.”