BALTIMORE -- For Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart, 2019 brought the dual challenge of trying to establish himself in the Majors while battling through an injury-plagued season. It seems that '20 will bring some of the same, at least to start.
The Orioles on Friday announced that Stewart, who spent more than a month on the injured list with a right ankle sprain this summer, underwent microfracture surgery on Thursday on that same ankle. The operation, performed by Dr. Kenneth Jung at Los Angeles’ Kerlan-Jobe Institute, is expected to sideline Stewart at least until late March, according to the club.
Stewart is expected to return to baseball activities “near the end of Spring Training,” per a team statement. That would appear to preclude him from the chance of heading north with the team by Opening Day. The team called the operation “successful.”
If healthy, Stewart ostensibly would have arrived in Sarasota, Fla., in the mix for a bench job, with chances to start in right field when Trey Mancini played first base. Those opportunities would likely now go to the likes of Dwight Smith Jr., Mason Williams, Stevie Wilkerson, Cedric Mullins, or perhaps No. 4 prospect Ryan Mountcastle, who began playing outfield in '19. The Orioles are expected to pencil Anthony Santander in left and Austin Hays in center field, leaving the aforementioned names in the mix for two spots.
Stewart originally injured the ankle in a collision with Hanser Alberto in the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Rangers in Arlington on June 5. He remained sidelined until July 15, and was subsequently optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on that date. Stewart returned to the Majors on Aug. 6, only to suffer a concussion in his first game back, which kept him out of action for another week.
Seemingly healthy again, Stewart appeared in 36 games down the stretch, making 27 starts. All told, Stewart, who turns 26 next month, hit .238 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .698 OPS in 44 big league games in 2019. He posted a .291/.396/.548 slash line with 12 homers in 63 games for Triple-A.