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Injury-plagued Orioles await return of former All-Stars

The 2018 Orioles have a plethora of holes, but the returns of Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo and Zach Britton would go a long way in the coming months.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With Jonathan Schoop expected to remain on the disabled list for at least a few more days, the Orioles currently have three former All-Stars on the DL. Judging by the current state of affairs in Baltimore, the Orioles would greatly benefit from the returns of Schoop, Mark Trumbo and Zach Britton. However, each player has his own path back to the injury-plagued Orioles, and Baltimore fans should have different expectations for each one.

The Orioles placed Schoop on the 10-day disabled list on April 14, after he suffered a Grade 1 oblique strain during an at bat against Boston. Despite chatter that Schoop hoped to return after the required 10 days were up, the Curacao native will likely need a few more days before he can return to the lineup. However, Schoop fielded ground balls, threw and hit off of a tee during the Orioles early workout on Tuesday. So what should Baltimore expect from the second baseman when he returns?

Schoop is the only member of the trio that played earlier this season, and his production did not resemble his 2017 All-Star campaign. In his first 14 games, Schoop hit .230 and got on base at a .266 clip. Those numbers are down from his 2017 stats of .293 and .338, respectively. Schoop managed only five extra-base hits in 61 at bats, and drove in only three runs.

Yes, 14 games is a small sample size. And Schoop’s injury, while serious enough to send him to the DL, was the mildest form of an oblique strain. The Orioles can still expect big things from Schoop in 2018. Last year, the righty hit only .274 from March-May, before hitting .327 in June and an impressive .343 in July. Schoop only had 24 RBIs by the end of May in 2017, but he drove in 25 runs in June alone, and 28 more in the month of July. He may need to get a few games under his belt, but Schoop should heat up with the weather this season.

Unlike Schoop, Trumbo is now two years removed from his All-Star campaign. The power hitter came over in a trade from Seattle and proceeded to mash a league-leading 47 home runs in 2016. In his career year, Trumbo drove in 108 runs and held an OPS of .850. We all know what happened after that.

The Orioles rewarded Trumbo with a three year, $37.5 million contract that will expire after next year. Last season, Trumbo failed to keep pace with his monster 2016 performance, homering 23 times and driving in only 65 runs in 146 games.

Trumbo began the season on the disabled list after aggravating his right quad in spring training. An MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain, and Trumbo was completely upfront about his path to recovery.

“However long it takes, is what it takes, because it’s one of those things that can nag and nag,” Trumbo said before the season started. The slugger did not intend to play unless he felt 100 percent, and he has stayed true to that game plan.

Trumbo made his first attempt at a rehab assignment on April 10. He went 0-for-3 with a walk at Double-A Bowie before the Orioles halted his return. Trumbo clearly felt he needed more time, and rested until returning to the Bowie lineup Monday night. Trumbo played first base and went 1-for-3 while also working a walk. He took batting practice in Baltimore on Tuesday, but did not return to Bowie due to the rain. Trumbo is schedule to play for Bowie today and take the field for Norfolk this weekend.

Speaking of taking the field, the main question with Trumbo’s return lies on the defensive side of the ball. Will he be healthy enough to play right field at times? He’s never garnered praise for his defensive skills, even when healthy. He could spare Chris Davis at first base, who has struggled immensely in 2018.

Davis is hitting a mere .169 and has only two homers. Perdro Alvarez has started 12 games at the designated hitter position and fared okay with a .321 on base percentage. Still, Alvarez should not be a long-term fixture in the starting lineup. Regardless of where Trumbo falls, he should be an improvement over the performances of Davis and Alvarez.

Zach Britton took a big step in his rehab by throwing off a full-sized mound on Tuesday. Britton had thrown off a half mound the week prior, and has fielded ground balls and bunts. Britton underwent surgery in December 2017 for a ruptured Achilles that occurred during an offseason workout. The Orioles placed Britton on the 60-day DL, and he is eligible to return on May 28. Britton and the Orioles hope that he will be able to return early in the month of June.

Britton made the All-Star team in 2015, but he made history in 2016. Britton converted every one of his 47 save attempts, and set a record with 43 consecutive scoreless appearances. His ERA of 0.54 was unprecedented for a pitcher with over 50 innings pitched. Those were the days...

The closer made multiple trips to the DL last year with forearm and knee issues. Britton never resembled his former self, and the Orioles eventually shut the lefty down to nurse a left knee issue. The Orioles declined to trade Britton last year after being underwhelmed by the offers made at the trade deadline.

There may not be many games for Britton to save in Baltimore this year, but if he appears to be a formidable closer by the end of July, let alone regain his All-Star form, the Orioles could squeak a prospect or two out of a playoff contender.

The return of any of these players would likely not be enough to save the Orioles’ season. With an abysmal 6-17 record and familiar issues in the starting rotation, that’s simply too much to ask. However, Trumbo and Schoop both appear to be nearing returns. Both players could provide a spark to a struggling lineup, and offer consistency to a team in limbo. With the Orioles preparing to place Tim Beckham on the disabled list, Baltimore would welcome the return of any of its former stars.