O's activate DJ Stewart off injured list

April 11th, 2021

The Orioles bolstered their outfield depth on Saturday by activating from the 10-day injured list. Sidelined since March 5 with a left hamstring strain, Stewart went 1-for-3 with a double and walk in his Saturday return to the lineup in the O's 6-4 loss to the Red Sox in 10 innings.

The O's optioned utility man Pat Valaika to their alternate training site in a corresponding move on Friday, leaving Ramón Urías as the lone backup infielder on their three-man bench. Valaika was 1-for-9 to begin the season. Stewart had been at the alternate site since the Orioles headed north for Opening Day, getting at-bats in simulated game settings.

“We tried to make it as game-like as we could,” Stewart said. “I’ve been hitting since Spring Training while I was still not playing in games. That was also the same thing I was doing at the alternate site.”

The O's first-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Stewart reached the big leagues down the stretch in 2018, but he has been limited to just 92 games due to injuries and inconsistency. He slashed .193/.355/.455 with seven homers, 15 RBIs, 20 walks and 38 strikeouts in 31 games in 2020, then he homered in two of his first three Grapefruit League games this spring before pulling his left hamstring running down the first-base line against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. Stewart ended up missing more than a month due to the issue.

“It definitely took longer than I was expecting it to,” Stewart said. “Initially, I thought it was going to be more of a week or two. But I’m just happy to get that over with.”

Stewart now figures to see regular at-bats at designated hitter and in left field, especially with Austin Hays sidelined with a right hamstring issue. Hays and Stewart were set to battle for playing time amid the O's crowded outfield picture this spring, but they haven't been healthy at the same time. Stewart brings less defensive impact and versatility than Hays, but he presents a left-handed option and potentially more power, having homered six times in six games at one point down the stretch in 2020.