5/19/2014 3:56 P.M. ET
Inbox: How is Wieters' recovery going?
Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers O's fans' questions
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
How far along is Matt Wieters? And is the organization still looking for upgrades?
-- Gary S., Frederick, Md.
Wieters received a platelet-rich plasma injection a week ago in his right elbow, and the club should have a more definitive idea of how he's responded to that in the next day or so. PRP injections typically help spur healing and require about a week's worth of rest. Wieters hasn't been throwing, and the plan was for him to take at least two weeks off from doing so before testing things. So this didn't set him back at all.
Wieters was already a long shot to come off the 15-day disabled list when eligible on May 26, and the club would like to know his status by July 1 at the latest. Obviously the Orioles are hoping Wieters can pick up a ball before that, and the steps they take in the next few days will go a long way in determining his schedule going forward.
The tricky part, given that Wieters doesn't feel right when throwing, is that you don't want to test things too early and have a setback. But the Orioles could certainly use the Gold Glove Award winner behind the plate and in the lineup. Wieters was on track for the best offensive season of his career before he was shut down. The O's can only hope the PRP helps speed things up for Wieters, who is trying to avoid a surgical option that would end his season.
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As far as external options, the Orioles continue to look around, although executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has been publicly vocal in his support for in-house guys Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph. It's impossible to replace Wieters in-season, but the O's are exploring all avenues in the event they are without him long term.
Should anything be read into the fact that Steve Lombardozzi has been playing some left field at Triple-A Norfolk?
-- Dan R., Baltimore
I think so. It's no secret that Lombardozzi has been swinging a hot bat since being optioned to Norfolk, batting .304 through 14 games, with a pair of doubles and five RBIs, and left fielder David Lough has gotten off to a rough start with Baltimore. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Royals, Lough hasn't looked quite right at the plate and is hitting .177 in 31 games. A roster move is certainly a possibility, especially given that Lombardozzi was only optioned because of a roster crunch.
I was disappointed Kevin Gausman only made one start. What's the plan for him moving forward?
-- Patricia B., Baltimore
The Orioles needed innings, and Gausman, who made his season debut on Wednesday, couldn't deliver that against the Tigers. Given most of the rotation's struggles to go deep consistently, Gausman was an easy move to get in a fresh arm (Evan Meek) to help add length to the bullpen prior to this weekend's series in Kansas City.
If the rest of the team's starters were cruising along, the O's could have given Gausman a longer leash. But manager Buck Showalter has made it a priority to not burn out his relief corps. Gausman, who had a rough start to the season that included a stint on the DL with pneumonia, is certainly still in the organization's plans. And if the first month-plus has shown anything, it's how much of a premium there is on solid starting pitching. He'll continue to start for Norfolk and be an option for Baltimore moving forward.
How much should be read into Showalter's decision to go with Zach Britton in the ninth inning on Thursday?
-- Alex H., Columbia, Md.
A lot, in my opinion. While Showalter's postgame comments in Kansas City weren't particularly revealing, the decision to go with Britton -- who earned his first career save -- over Tommy Hunter showed that the Orioles' skipper won't give Hunter nearly as long of a leash as he did to Jim Johnson. The matchups on Thursday certainly weren't in Britton's favor, and he still managed to get the job done.
So what happens next? I'm interested in seeing how this will play out in the O's next save opportunity, or if they have a need for back-to-back saves. Is Hunter out as closer? Will Showalter rotate it around despite saying he's not a fan of closer by committee? Britton has pitched well enough to make himself a strong candidate, and he succeeded in his first opportunity. I say go with the hot hand until he proves he can't do it.
When -- if ever -- will Johan Santana be ready to help the Major League team?
-- Don R., Rochester, N.Y.
Santana threw again in extended spring camp on Friday, and while his outing reportedly wasn't as good as the previous time out, he felt fine physically afterward. That's one of the big things for Santana, who is on a five-man rotation schedule and is trying to come back from a second left shoulder surgery.
Santana is still hitting in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball, the target velocity to set up that trademark changeup, and there's been no setbacks to suggest that the Orioles' original timeline of having him be a June option couldn't happen. The thing to watch for now is when Santana will go out on a rehab assignment, which would put him one step away from helping and in a more competitive setting. There was nothing imminent when I asked Showalter recently, but obviously that's a step that needs to happen.