While their Minor League success continues to be a bright spot this season, the Orioles learned this week of injuries regarding two of their top prospects.
The club is shutting down left-hander D.L. Hall for several weeks due to elbow tendinitis and bracing for the possibility that outfielder Heston Kjerstad might not play this season due to a reoccurrence of heart inflammation, O’s general manager Mike Elias announced Wednesday. Kjerstad and Hall are the Orioles’ No. 3 and No. 4 ranked prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline.
The larger long-term concern is Kjerstad, whom the Orioles selected No. 2 overall in the 2020 Draft, signed for $5.2 million and have yet to see play professionally. The reason is lingering effects of myocarditis, a viral infection that causes inflammation of the heart muscle, that has kept Kjerstad sidelined since last summer. The Orioles were expecting Kjerstad to report to Major League Spring Training this year and their alternate site at Double-A Bowie in April, but Kjerstad did not recover in time for either to occur. He experienced a setback recently, Elias said Wednesday.
There is no timetable for Kjerstad’s return.
“This is still a situation that I feel will be a matter of time,” Elias said. “He's putting a lot of work in, he's very determined. But this is a bump in the road.”
Hall was off to a great start at Double-A Bowie, going 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA and 56 strikeouts over his first seven starts, before complaining of triceps soreness this week. A subsequent MRI revealed no structural damage, but tendinitis, Elias said. The Orioles’ first-round pick (21st overall) in 2017, Hall, 22, was shut down late in 2019 with a lat issue but does not have a history of elbow problems.
“We’ll let him rest for a couple of weeks and then start to build him back up,” Elias said.
Elias responds to tweet about Bowie players
Elias on Wednesday spent a considerable amount of his Zoom meeting with reporters responding to a series of tweets from @MiLBAdvocates that surfaced Tuesday, claiming multiple Orioles Minor Leaguers were considering sleeping in their cars due to what the tweets described as the prohibitive cost of Minor League housing.
“I can assure you that all of our players at Bowie have accommodations,” Elias said. “Our players did know and continue to know that we're available to them, should they have any type of hardships arise. That does happen from time to time, and we handle them quietly from time to time, and we're here as a resource for them. We’re here to help them.
“But with all that said, this is an area that has, industry-wide, gotten a lot of attention in the last couple of years. There was a big reorganization in the Minor Leagues. We’re continuing to evolve, we're continuing to fine tune the way that the industry invests in player development and just approaches the whole thing. And the way the industry thinks about it. We're going to continue to listen and look at stuff as we go along. So we will continue to do that, as well. But we've talked to our players before and since that tweet, and now we're making sure that they have what we need, but it's something that we're gonna continue looking at and continue to take into account.”
Elias called the information in the tweets inaccurate, but said that the club would continue to take the issue of Minor League housing seriously.
“There was nothing brought to my or our staff or our coaching staff’s attention of anyone considering sleeping in cars prior to this tweet,” Elias said. “This has been a topic the last couple of years: their ability to make ends meet during the season. It's been an ongoing topic. That's why Twitter accounts like the Minor League advocates are popping up. That's why we're going through kind of the reimagining of player development that's been going on for the last couple of years. We will never allow a situation where someone is not safe.”
Also from the trainer’s room
Right fielder Anthony Santander, who continues to battle lingering ankle soreness, entered Wednesday's game against Cleveland as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He struck out to strand two runners.
Santander missed a month after spraining his left ankle on a pickoff play April 20 in Miami, playing since his May 21 return largely at less than 100 percent. Entering Wednesday, he had hit .286/.313/.473 with two home runs and a 23 to 3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 games since.
All told, Santander is hitting .250/.278/.412 with four homers in 40 games after hitting .261/.315/.575 with 11 homers in 37 games in 2020.
“I just wanted to get him off his feet today,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game.
And ... one more from the trainer’s room
Elias also announced Wednesday that injured first baseman Chris Davis had his rehab from hip surgery transferred to Baltimore, where he will work his way back to baseball activity in conjunction with the Orioles’ training staff. Davis underwent hip labrum surgery May 19; he remains out for the season.