Those of us on the Orioles beat like to joke that no matter what place the team is in, it is always making news.
Right now, the Orioles are playing well, and the news continues.
Tuesday was a particularly newsy day.
Here are some of the things that happened, and my take on each.
Nolan Reimold returns to Baltimore and is diagnosed with a bulging disk in his back
First, we’ll start with the good news. Now Reimold and the Orioles have an explanation for why he was having neck spasms and finger numbness. The team believes it all could be related to the bulging disk. They’ve given him anti-inflammatory medication, and he hopes to be back by the Boston series, which starts Friday.
Now the bad news. Back injuries to hitters are like shoulder injuries to pitchers. Some are mild, but they always raise a red flag. A hitter needs strength and flexibility in the core/trunk area to be effective. Hopefully, this is just a minor setback because Reimold was really starting to show his promise again. He was derailed by injuries in 2009, and here’s hoping he isn’t again after such a great start to 2012. But I’ve been in this business too long to dismiss any injury as minor, especially when the back is involved.
UPDATE: Orioles have clarified that the bulging disk is actually in Reimold’s cervical spine and not what was initially disclosed to reporters. So it is a neck issue and not a back issue. And that, from a hitter’s point of view, is good news.
Tsuyoshi Wada’s second opinion confirms a UCL tear
The Orioles are waiting for the 31-year-old Wada to make a decision on what his course of action will be. But, really, it seems like just a formality. It would be shocking if Wada didn’t choose to have elbow surgery, which would cost him about a year.
He has the security of a two-year deal, signed in December, so it’s not as if he’ll be without a job if he goes under the knife. Renowned surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum has recommended surgery, and Wada is comfortable with Yocum, who removed bone chips from Wada’s elbow in 2007.
Honestly, this signing is starting to be reminiscent of Omar Daal, a lefty starter who was inked for two years (Daal got $7.5 million before 2003; Wada, $8.14 before 2012) by an incoming Orioles regime only
to have injuries derail its effectiveness. Daal pitched in just 19 games (17 starts) for the Orioles.
Showalter gets 1,000th win
Orioles manager Buck Showalter tried to downplay the milestone after the game, but you could tell the way his players celebrated it – they encircled him at home plate like he hit a walk-off homer and later had a champagne toast in the clubhouse – meant a lot to Showalter.
I’ve said this plenty of times: Showalter is one of the more interesting people I’ve ever covered. It’s a complex statement, and tough to really get into in a few paragraphs. But I’m not sure I have ever met someone whose mind is going as quickly – or often – as his is. I do think he genuinely believes it’s the players who make the manager, so it is nice to see him get a little recognition Tuesday – especially in New York.
Brian Matusz snaps losing streak
I think what’s more important here is how well he pitched. The 25-year-old lefty handled a good Yankees lineup – albeit one without Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner due to injury. And he did it by throwing strikes. Early on, he went 0-1 on just about every Yankees hitter. He didn’t walk a batter until the seventh.
That’s huge progress for Matusz, who is a real key for the Orioles if they have any chance of competing in 2012. A week ago, I was ready to send Matusz to the minors. He has to do more than string together two good outings to prove that he is back to his 2010 form, but Tuesday was a big step forward.
Nick Johnson snaps hitless streak
People keep asking me how long of a leash the Orioles will have with Johnson, who went a club-record (for position players) 29 hitless at-bats to start his Orioles career before an eighth-inning double Tuesday. Showalter likes his veterans, but one month is a long time in the big leagues to be hitless.
Johnson is a pro, and very much liked by his teammates. Ultimately, though, he has to contribute. Hopefully, this will get him going. Because when he has been healthy, he’s always hit.
Brooks Robinson’s statue unveiling is pushed back
When Brooks wasn’t at Frank Robinson’s statue unveiling on Saturday, we knew he must not be doing well. The fall he had in January – when he toppled backward off a stage – really affected him, apparently. The recovery has been slow, understandably, especially considering he previously has dealt with surgeries and infections and is a cancer survivor. His new ceremony has been switched from May to September.