BALTIMORE — On the same day Matt Wieters caught nine innings for the first time in extended spring training, Buck Showalter gave his clearest projection yet of when the Orioles catcher might be ready to return.
The three-time All-Star selection was moved to the 60-day disabled list Sunday while continuing to work his way back to full strength from Tommy John surgery. The move made Wieters eligible to be activated on June 4, which is the date his manager is expecting to finally have him back in the Orioles lineup.
“He should join us then if everything goes well and we don’t have any other setbacks,” Showalter said prior to the second contest of a three-game series with Toronto. “It may be an every-other-day scenario here. I was only going to catch him four out of seven [games] anyway, but we may do an every-other-day thing with him. We’ll see how it goes. Today was a good step for him.”
Wieters is scheduled to catch nine innings on Thursday and Saturday as he inches closer to beginning a minor-league rehab assignment. It was expected that Wieters — who turns 29 later this month — would need to catch on consecutive days before reporting to a minor-league affiliate, but Showalter’s revelation on Tuesday possibly paints a different picture for the catcher’s immediate future.
With current starter Caleb Joseph currently hitting .295 with three home runs, 10 RBIs, and an .866 on-base plus slugging percentage in 92 plate appearances, the Orioles have been able to practice more patience since Wieters suffered a setback in mid-March. The possibility of Wieters and Joseph sharing starting duties wouldn’t appear to be a bad scenario for the club, especially with the former scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.
“Let me get to [June 4] first,” Showalter said. “Having Matt every other day is better than not having him at all. I think that will progress from there.”
Gausman’s MRI returns clean
The results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam showed no concerns beyond the mild right shoulder tendinitis that landed right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman on the 15-day DL last week.
Showalter once again confirmed that the plan is for Gausman to enter the starting rotation at Triple-A Norfolk, but the Orioles will take it slow to make sure what remains of the inflammation in his right shoulder fully dissipates. Gausman hopes to possibly be throwing again by the weekend before eventually reporting to the Tides.
“We were contemplating [sending him to Norfolk] anyway because I don’t want Kevin to end up at [only] 50, 60 innings on the year,” Showalter said. “He figures into the potential of being in the rotation down the road [and] next year. When he went out and did that last year, he came back actually better in our bullpen. I want to keep the ball in his hand, so I think it’s going to be good.”
With Bud Norris struggling early in the season, Gausman could factor into the Baltimore rotation sooner rather than later once he is stretched out again as a starter. He has posted a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings pitching in relief this season.
While accepting a bullpen role with no complaints despite pitching to a 3.57 ERA in 20 regular-season starts last season, Gausman makes no secret about the role he’d like to fill in the long run.
“Obviously, I’ve been a starter for most of my career,” Gausman said. “That’s what I’m comfortable doing, so just to kind of get into a routine, that’s what I’m excited about.”
Flaherty back on DL, Navarro recalled
After leaving Monday’s game with a re-aggravated right groin, infielder Ryan Flaherty was placed back on the 15-day DL less than a week after being reinstated.
The Orioles recalled infielder Rey Navarro after he was optioned for the returning Flaherty on Friday. He and Steve Pearce will likely share duties at second base, but the latter was in the starting lineup on Tuesday.
Showalter is hopeful that Flaherty will not be sidelined for long, but the Orioles could not afford to carry him on the 25-man roster with a shortage of infield options behind him.