DETROIT — The Orioles waited until the 11th hour, but they added Travis Ishikawa to the 25-man roster Tuesday just before they were about to lose the hot-hitting first baseman because of an opt-out clause in his minor league contract.
Ishikawa exercised the opt-out clause Sunday, giving the Orioles two days to add him to their 25-man roster, trade him or release him. The Orioles had until midnight to make that decision and officially added him to the 25-man roster less than two hours before Tuesday night’s first pitch.
“This team is playing such great ball. I wasn’t sure I was going to find a way to get up here,” Ishikawa said before the game. “It’s like they found a way, and I’m more than excited to be here.”
Ishikawa was in the Orioles’ starting lineup, making his first big league start as a designated hitter and batting eighth.
The Orioles placed right-hander Miguel Gonzalez on the paternity leave list after he left the team Monday for the birth of his first child, allowing them to add Ishikawa to the 25-man roster. To make room for Ishikawa on the 40-man roster, they designated infielder Yamaico Navarro for assignment. Navarro hit .286/.333/.357 in eight games but made two errors at second base. The Orioles have 10 days to release, trade or ask waivers on Navarro.
By adding Ishikawa to the roster, the Orioles avoided possibly losing him to a division rival. The New York Yankees placed first baseman Mark Teixeira (Mount St. Joseph) on the disabled list on Tuesday. The Orioles have also received trade interest for Ishikawa, who is known as a strong defender at first, but the Orioles decided no offer was worth making a deal.
Ishikawa, a 29-year-old who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this offseason, was having an outstanding season at Triple-A Norfolk, batting .316/.413/.525 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. He had reached base safely in 32 straight games and was named the organization’s minor league player of the month for May after hitting .413 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in the month. He hadn’t played since June 10 and has been nursing a nagging right thumb sprain.
A former member of the San Francisco Giants and Milwaukee Brewers, Ishikawa was hitting .331/.434/.568 against right-handed pitching at Norfolk, so with the Orioles facing Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello in the final two games of the series, Ishikawa added an additional left-handed bat.
Playing the same position as Chris Davis — who leads the majors with 24 homers — there wasn’t much room for Ishikawa until the opt-out clause forced the club to add him.
“You look at what Chris has done this year, I can’t be upset,” Ishikawa said. “We play the same position. He’s the MVP of the league right now. When you’re behind a guy like that, you can’t expect to be getting a call sooner rather than later. In the end, I’m just glad that they were able to find a way to get up here. I really enjoyed being with these guys in spring training. It seems like a really good group of guys. Buck seems like a great manager. The coaches are just fantastic to be with. I’m just excited to work with all of them.”
The Orioles made another roster move Tuesday, officially recalling lefty Zach Britton from Norfolk to start the game. A spot on the 25-man roster had been cleared when right-hander Jake Arrieta was optioned back to Triple-A after Monday’s start.
Rotation in limbo
Gonzalez became a father for the first time Monday night, when his daughter, Leah, was born at 9:20 p.m. in California. (The baby was 6 pounds, 11 ounces and 19 inches long.) Gonzalez is scheduled to fly to Toronto to rejoin the team on either Thursday or Friday.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Gonzalez threw on his own Tuesday and could make his next start either Friday or Saturday against the Blue Jays. That will also partially depend on whether right-hander Jason Hammel, still getting back to 100 percent after having a stomach virus over the weekend, can start Friday.
While Hammel said he hasn’t been told when his next start is, he said he’s preparing to pitch on Friday. He scheduled to throw a side session Wednesday, which would put him in line to start Friday.
He was pushed back twice from his initial turn in the rotation, which would have been Monday.
“I think it was the right move to push me back, because going out 50 percent you really don’t know what you’re going to get,” Hammel said. “It could hurt the bullpen even more. It is what it is right now. Obviously it [stinks] getting sick, but it’s better than going out 50 percent.”
Showalter said Freddy Garcia, who was available out of the bullpen Tuesday, could also start Friday or Saturday as a safeguard, but he will likely start in Sunday’s series finale against the Blue Jays.
Wada taking step forward
Showalter said he was pleased by the report on left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada’s start for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday. In his first start since he approved being optioned to Norfolk after his 30-day minor league rehab assignment window closed, Wada turned in his best performance of the season.
He held Indianapolis to one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings while tallying a career-high eight strikeouts and walking no batters for the first time this season. Six days before, the same Indianapolis team roughed up Wada for eight runs — seven earned — over 1 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year.
Monday’s start was Wada’s third since the organization decided to give him an extra day of rest between starts. Showalter said Wada’s velocity was up, reaching 90 mph consistently.
Around the horn
Nolan Reimold (right hamstring strain) began his minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie on Tuesday as the starting designated hitter. … In his past six games against the Tigers entering Tuesday, first baseman Chris Davis was hitting .417 (10-for-24) with a double, four homers, six runs, seven RBIs and a 1.375 OPS. … Catcher Matt Wieters entered Tuesday with a 13-game hitting streak at Comerica Park, tying Michael Young for the longest active streak according to STATS. … Left-handed Wei-Yin Chen’s simulated game Thursday in Sarasota, Fla., is scheduled to last three innings. Chen is on the disabled list with a left oblique strain and could return by the first week of July. … Top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop is expected to be back playing for Triple-A Norfolk by the third week in July. ... Right-hander Kevin
Gausman was scheduled to make his first start for Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, but the Tides’ game was rained out. Gausman is now scheduled to pitch the first game of their doubleheader today against Indianapolis.