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Stewart opts out, 'grateful' for O's support

@JoeTrezz
July 31, 2020

Orioles right-hander Kohl Stewart has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, citing underlying conditions that make him high risk for COVID-19. Stewart, who signed a one-year, $800,000 free-agent contract this offseason, is a Type 1 diabetic. He did not appear in any of the Orioles’ first five games

Orioles right-hander Kohl Stewart has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, citing underlying conditions that make him high risk for COVID-19. Stewart, who signed a one-year, $800,000 free-agent contract this offseason, is a Type 1 diabetic. He did not appear in any of the Orioles’ first five games this season.

“For the time being, I have decided to pause my participation in the 2020 season,” Stewart said in a statement. “My elevated risk of serious complications of COVID-19 due to Type 1 diabetes continues to be of great concern.

“I am grateful to the organization, as well as my coaches and teammates, for their incredible support.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said the organization fully supports Stewart’s decision, citing his underlying conditions. The Orioles replaced Stewart on their 30-man roster with right-hander Thomas Eshelman, who Hyde said would slide into a long man role.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions the last few days,” Hyde said. “I am going to keep those private. I just want him to know I’ll support any decision he makes. This is a personal decision, and I will be fully supportive in anything he decided to do.”

“He’s had some concern about this,” Hyde added.

Stewart, 25, was being prepared for a swingman role. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, he went 4-3 with a 4.79 ERA in 17 games from 2018-19 with the Twins.

Closer situation
Things didn’t go as smoothly for Cole Sulser in his second save chance as they did in his first, with Sulser allowing Aaron Judge’s game-winning, three-run homer in the Orioles' 8-6 loss to the Yankees on Thursday night to blow his first save in two chances. Hyde said the 30-year-old right-hander will continue to get high-leverage chances, including in the ninth inning.

“I really like his stuff,” Hyde said. “In his brief, brief career, he’s gotten right-handers and left-handers out. He did a nice job in Boston, so I gave him another opportunity.”

Acquired on a waiver claim from Tampa Bay last October, Sulser recorded a six-out save in his first Orioles appearance last weekend in Boston. He entered the year with only seven games of big league experience; the Judge homer amounted to the only runs he’s allowed in the big leagues in 10 1/3 innings.

The Orioles' bullpen isn’t at full strength right now, with the club slow-playing Hunter Harvey given his right elbow soreness. He remains on a progression at the club’s alternate training site in Bowie, Md., while Hyde has handed high-leverage situations to Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier and others. Their situation in the late innings remains fluid, as it did for long stretches in 2019.

“I am going to give a lot of guys opportunities because we don’t have much experience down there,” Hyde said. “A lot of these guys haven’t pitched many games in the big leagues. We’re hoping to find roles for these guys. That would be ideal. Until then, we’ll try to mix and match the best we can.”

Iglesias out again
Citing a continuing bout with left quad soreness, Hyde held veteran shortstop José Iglesias out of the lineup Friday for the second straight day. Hyde said Iglesias, the Orioles’ best hitter in the early going, could be available for pinch-hitting duties off the bench. Iglesias went 8-for-16 (.500) with four doubles over the club’s first four games.

“Iggy is feeling better today, but he’s still day to day,” Hyde said. “We don’t want to push anything right now.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.