(Updated: 11:05 p.m.)
BALTIMORE — The Orioles are facing uncertainty in their starting rotation at the wrong time with a stretch of 21 games in 20 days beginning Tuesday.
With Bud Norris still recovering from bronchitis and Chris Tillman experiencing some lower back stiffness, manager Buck Showalter was not ready to name a starter for the series finale against the Los Angeles Angels until after Saturday’s loss when he revealed rookie Mike Wright would take the ball on Sunday. Norris has lost some weight as a result of the illness, but the Orioles hope he will be able to start Tuesday’s series opener against Seattle and might be available out of the bullpen Sunday if necessary.
Norris’ fever has subsided, which allowed him to return to the ballpark on Saturday since he’s no longer contagious.
It’s no secret that Tillman has managed lower back issues from time to time over the last few years, so Showalter didn’t want to make too much of the stiffness, expressing cautious optimism that the tall right-hander would be ready to pitch in the Mariners series. The Baltimore skipper said Tillman was feeling better on Saturday after his back issue flared up during his workday on Friday.
“We’ve managed through it two or three seasons now when it’s there,” Showalter said. “Just like all pitchers, the things that aren’t always public that guys deal with every outing, workdays are adjusted constantly based on what somebody’s feeling or not feeling. The thing that we’re challenged with is after Monday, we’ve got to have everybody on board for a long period of time.
“I’m going to take every precaution that our guys can present themselves healthy for that stretch.”
The Orioles were considering several other options for Sunday’s start, including T.J. McFarland or even another pitcher from Triple-A Norfolk. Wright was recalled earlier this week and will be making his major league debut after posting a 3-0 record with a 2.64 ERA in six starts for the Tides.
In other health-related news, Jonathan Schoop (right knee) began baseball-related activities on Saturday, a good sign after the second baseman was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 18. The 23-year-old hit off a tee, played catch from 90 feet, and completed some agility drills in Sarasota.
“That went well,” Showalter said. “I was trying to get Manny [Machado] to talk to him to see if he could get something out of him that he wouldn’t give the trainers. That was encouraging to see.”
Schoop will begin taking grounders on Monday.
Right-handed pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will visit renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Monday for a second opinion on his right elbow. The Orioles doctors have recommended rest for the 20-year-old, but this is the second time in 10 months that he’s been shut down with a flexor mass strain.
Catcher Matt Wieters (right elbow) caught seven innings in an extended spring training game. The club decided to pull Wieters from the game due to the Florida heat and a number of struggling pitchers prolonging the game.