BOSTON -- It took nearly a full season from the time he collapsed on the field in Sarasota, Fla. in late March until designated hitter Wilson Betemit officially rejoined the Orioles.
It finally happened Tuesday, when Betemit was activated from the 60-day disabled list and infielder Ryan Flaherty was optioned to the minors.
“I'm really excited to come back and help the team anytime they need me,” Betemit said. “That's why I'm here.”
Betemit, 31, tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while running the bases March 25 in a spring training game. He spent the next four months rehabilitating at the team’s spring training complex before beginning a minor league assignment this month.
“It was bad. I mean, it was bad because I was off for almost four months and then we were working in Sarasota with those guys,” said Betemit, who hit a combined .290 in 17 games at four levels during his rehab. “My first time running was a scare. First, I think, ‘Well, if you hit a double and have to turn at first base how am I going to feel?’ But I feel good.”
The expectation is that Betemit could start as the DH on Wednesday night against Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey. The switch-hitting Betemit batted .302 last year against right-handed pitching and has hit .281 against right-handers in his career.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he’s just pleased that Betemit is an option for him down the stretch.
“It’s exciting to get Wilson back. It’s been a long road for him,” Showalter said. “It’s a long way from making that trek out between first and second in Sarasota. A lot of hard work by him and our staff to get him back. If you had told me when I was walking out there [in Sarasota] that Wilson would be joining us in August, I would have been real surprised. So good for him.”
The Orioles had an open spot on their 40-man roster, but to make room for Betemit on the 25-man roster the club optioned Flaherty, who has hit .218 with eight homers and 20 RBIs in 220 at-bats this season. He won’t be in the minors for long.
Flaherty was optioned to Low-A Delmarva, where he's expected to play Wednesday and Thursday. He will then likely be transferred to High-A Frederick for the Keys' weekend home series. The Keys are not in playoff contention and their season ends Monday. Because big league rosters can be extended Sunday, Flaherty will be able to rejoin the Orioles as soon as the Keys season ends instead of waiting the requisite 10 days.
“I explained it to [Flaherty]. I think they deserved to know from top to bottom about everything,” Showalter said. “I don’t hold much back where these things are concerned. I think they deserve to know.”
Because the switch-hitting Betemit is better from the left side and the Orioles may face four left-handed starters in six games, the left-handed hitting Flaherty probably wouldn’t have gotten much playing time in the next week anyway. Right-hander Danny Valencia started at DH on Tuesday against Boston lefty Felix Doubront.
“If we were in a little different situation with the starting pitching we’re facing, we would have tried to look at it in a different direction,” Showalter said. “We’ve been seeing this coming for two or three days and ran about seven scenarios around. But, for where we are, this probably fits us best to keep all the pieces in place.”
More shuffling coming?
The Orioles would like to get rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman back to the big leagues to help fortify their bullpen, and it could happen as early as Wednesday.
One potential scenario is for the club to send Tuesday’s starter Wei-Yin Chen to the Gulf Coast League after his outing and recall Gausman from Triple-A Norfolk.
Because he has no minor league service time, Chen could be optioned all the way down to the GCL. And because the rookie-level affiliate is not in the playoffs, Chen could return after the GCL Orioles’ season ends Thursday.
Another roster move would have to be made, but Chen could be back in time for his next Orioles start Sunday in New York. In fact, Chen would have 72 hours to report to the GCL, so technically he wouldn’t have to go to Florida at all; he just couldn’t remain with the Orioles.
Showalter wouldn’t speculate on any moves, but he said it’s possible the team could make a pitching addition Wednesday.
Technically, Chen — and Flaherty — wouldn’t be initially eligible for the postseason roster if they are not back on the 25-man roster by Aug. 31. But that’s not really a concern. The Orioles would actually have a pool of 27 players to choose from, because they currently have two players on the disabled list (Jason Hammel and Nolan Reimold) and injured players can be replaced when choosing the playoff roster.
In fact, any player in the organization on Aug. 31 that remains in the organization in September can be considered for the playoff roster if he is replacing an injured player — even if that player is injured after Sept. 1.
It’s one of those weird baseball rules where it actually helps a playoff contender to have multiple players on the DL in the final weeks of the season.
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Around the horn
The Orioles have won five straight series at Fenway Park, which ties them with four other teams for the longest such streak in Boston since 1969, according to STATS LLC. The most recent club to capture five straight series at Fenway was the Atlanta Braves from 1997 to 2002. … Right-hander Steve Johnson (St. Paul’s) allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday for Norfolk. He gave up a solo homer to rehabbing Braves infielder Dan Uggla. … Norfolk closer Jairo Asencio, who has 24 saves, has been named the top reliever in the International League and has made the IL’s postseason All-Star team. This is the second time Asencio has been named to that team, but the first time with this name. He made it in 2009 with Gwinnett, the Braves’ top affiliate, when he was known as Luis Valdez. ... Outfielder Lew Ford, whom the Orioles released Monday, signed Tuesday with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Ford was playing for the Ducks last season before the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal.