The Baltimore Orioles have been ravaged by injuries this season. The last few weeks have been especially tough on a team considered by many to be lacking talent to begin with. The Orioles have overcome the odds so far this season, but can they continue with key players getting injured left and right? The good news is they are expecting some much needed reinforcements within the next week or so.
This is not to complain, because every team in baseball has to deal with injuries. No one feels sorry for the Orioles, so the Orioles and their fans shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves. Instead, the Orioles need to figure out who will replace their injured players and help them make their first playoff appearance since 1997.
The Orioles are missing three lead-off hitters and everyday starters for the rest of the season. Second baseman Brian Roberts, left fielder Nolan Reimold, and right fielder Nick Markakis are all out for the rest of the season. If you want to look at it in football terms, the Orioles are starting their fourth string lead-off hitter (Nate McLouth) right now. First baseman Mark Reynolds has also reportedly been feeling numbness in his left arm. That can’t be good.
The Orioles have also lost Nick Johnson (remember him?) for the season as well as Wilson Betemit. The latter was an important part of the team after Markakis went down. So now who can the Orioles plug into their battered lineup?
Mid-season pickup and veteran designated hitter Jim Thome will be playing in simulated games this week and the Orioles are hopeful Thome will be back with the team in a week or so. This is huge for the Orioles. With Markakis hurt and now Betemit out, they are lacking power from the left side. Thome may not be the hitter he once was, but he has shown he still has pop in his bat. Not to mention, he is a veteran hitter who provides a presence in the lineup.
Against right handers, manager Buck Showalter can bat Thome around Adam Jones in the middle of the lineup and provide Jones some much needed protection. It would be unfair to expect a lot out of Thome, but he can be very valuable as a pinch hitter late in games down the stretch.
The Orioles pitching staff also has had its share of injuries. Remember Tsuyoshi Wada? Yeah, he never made it to the regular season because of Tommy John surgery. The Orioles have also seen starters Chris Tillman and Jason Hammel go down with injuries. Luckily, Tillman is expected to start Monday night and hopefully Hammel will be able to make it back to the rotation in a couple weeks.
The one loss that has gone unoticed because of more recent injuries, is that of left handed reliever Troy Patton. Brian Matusz has done a great job filling in as the left handed specialist out of the bullpen, but Patton’s return will be huge for a tired bullpen.
The Oriole traded away Matt Lindstrom and now set up man Pedro Strop is struggling greatly. Patton is more than a lefty specialist. He has been a reliable bullpen arm. Patton is expected to throw again off a mound Tuesday and hopefully, if all goes well, he could join the Orioles in Boston on Friday.
Once Patton comes back from an ankle sprain, the Orioles will be getting a pitcher who had a 2.58 ERA and .218 batting average against in 50 games this season. Patton and Matusz will allow Showalter to mix and match late into games. Patton has also proven to be more than just a lefty specialist. Showalter can use Patton for one and two inning relief appearances if needed.
The Orioles are in need of reinforcements and a couple are coming. No one person will replace the players lost to injury. Thome and Patton’s returns aren’t going to grab headlines. However, they will give the Orioles much needed help in their lineup and bullpen. Whether or not their returns are enough to put the Orioles past the New York Yankees remains to be seen.