NEW YORK -- The clock is ticking for Orioles prospect Yusniel Diaz to shake off his injuries and reach the Majors in 2021. The first priority is getting healthy, and Diaz is again embarking on that process.
On Tuesday, the Orioles transferred Diaz, their No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, to Double-A Bowie for what will be an informal rehab assignment as the outfielder works his way back from turf toe. Now 24, Diaz has been limited to 22 games at Triple-A Norfolk and five games at Bowie this season due to toe and quad issues, the latest in a string of lower-body injuries that have interrupted his development.
Diaz has dealt with hamstring, ankle, quad and toe issues since arriving from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade at the 2018 Trade Deadline. Diaz spent all of 2020 at the alternate training site because there was no Minor League season.
It’s been a disappointing series of events for Diaz, who was once considered the Orioles’ top overall prospect. The question now is if he can ramp up quickly enough -- and play well enough at Triple-A down the stretch -- to warrant a big league promotion in September.
Diaz is on the 40-man roster, but he may have trouble getting playing time in a big league outfield that features Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander playing every day, with DJ Stewart and Ryan McKenna serving in bench roles.
From the trainer’s room
The Orioles are nearly ready to activate reliever Tyler Wells from the injured list, planning to do so either Wednesday or after Thursday’s off-day, manager Brandon Hyde said. Sidelined since July 20 with right wrist tendinitis, Wells threw to hitters in a batting-practice session Monday at Yankee Stadium, then played catch on the field Tuesday to test the wrist again. Wells has been throwing for a week, reporting no issues. His return appears imminent.
With it, the Orioles will continue to groom Wells for late-inning duties, as they have since about mid-June. The Rule 5 Draft selection doesn’t yet have a save, but he earned several ninth-inning assignments in games the O's were leading prior to his injury. Wells has a 3.92 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, 55 strikeouts and nine walks in 43 2/3 innings as a rookie this season.
“I see him being a back-end option,” Hyde said. “Our roles in the bullpen are all over the place, and it will be nice to have Tyler pitch in big spots later in the game.”
Speaking of roles
The Orioles are looking at Richie Martin as primarily an infielder in the short term, after he sustained a left wrist fracture in mid-May while playing center field for Triple-A Norfolk. Martin returned to the Orioles' active roster on Monday for the first time since 2019, when he played shortstop regularly as a rookie.
Now 26, Martin profiles as Baltimore's main utility option, behind Ramón Urías at shortstop and Pat Valaika at second base. Martin can also play third and possibly the outfield in a pinch, though that probably won’t be necessary with the Orioles carrying five outfielders (six, if you count Ryan Mountcastle).
"I’m excited to be here and glad to be back with the team. It feels good to be back,” Martin said on Tuesday. “Shortstop is my position, but I’ll play center. … Wherever they need me, that’s where I’m going to be available.”
Added Hyde: “We’re in August and our guys are going to get days off. Richie’s going to play in the infield, probably primarily in the middle, and we’ll go from there.”
Heart & Hustle
Mullins is the Orioles’ recipient of the 2021 Heart & Hustle Award, given annually to one player from each team who demonstrates passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game. It is the only award in MLB that is voted on by former players.
The overall winner will be announced in mid-November on MLB Network.
“So well deserved,” Hyde said. “I was reading the explanation of the award, and there’s nobody that demonstrates that as well as Cedric does, in my opinion. He’s been wonderful in every way, and it’s a great accomplishment being nominated for that award.”