Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was having one of — if not the best — seasons of his career on both sides of the ball. The switch hitter was .308 (AVG) with 18 RBIs and 5 HRs and a slugging percentage of .500 in the 26 games he played to start the season. With the recent announcement that Matt Wieters’ right elbow strain would require surgery, effectively ending his 2014 season, we thought back on some other memorable injuries that the Orioles had to deal with.
1967-1968 – Jim Palmer
Jim Palmer had a rough couple of years in the late 60s. He struggled with arm, shoulder and back injuries which allowed him to pitch only 49 innings in 1967 and miss all of 1968 with the Orioles. After surgery and some time in the Instructional League, Jim returned to the Orioles in 1969 to join Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar in the starting rotation. Jim also pitched a no-hitter that August and finished the season with a 16-4 record.
1990 – Randy Milligan
After the “Why Not” season of 1989, hopes were high (maybe too high) for the 1990 Baltimore Orioles. The injury issues really started in the spring with a few pitchers. Then on Aug. 7 Randy Milligan had a collision with Oakland A’s catcher Ron Hassey, separating his shoulder and causing him to miss the final two months of the season. This injury stands out to O’s fans because he was one of the offensive leaders on the team in a year which offensive consistency was needed.
1994 – Mike Mussina
One of the scariest moments in the history of the Birds, at least in my lifetime, had to be on May 17 when Mike “Moose” Mussina was hit directly in the face by a come-backer off the bat of Sandy Alomar of the Cleveland Indians. The Orioles ace and potential future Hall of Famer suffered a fractured nose, a nasty cut above his eye and was very lucky it wasn’t any worse. He missed about a month. He stated in one interview that the most difficult part of his recovery process was the mental part; standing out there directly in front of the batter, every pitch he threw, each time there was contact, he was terrified it was coming right back at him. Don’t forget this was the season after two consecutive post-season appearances, playing the team that a year earlier beat the Orioles in the ALCS.
2012 – Nick Markakis
On Sept. 8 the Orioles were in the playoff hunt and facing division rival CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees. Nick Markakis came to the plate in the 5th inning at Camden Yards and was plunked on the the hand by the Yankee pitcher. There has been speculation that CC meant to hit Nick in that at-bat but the team denied the accusation noting that CC pitched inside to Nick 90 percent of the time. Nick has been a consistent hitter leading off the Orioles lineup and has been climbing the Orioles all-time franchise hit list. Losing Nick in September didn’t spoil the Orioles playoff run but who knows — if Nicky were able to play when the Orioles faced the Yankees again in the ALDS things may have been different.
2013 – Manny Machado
In his first full major league season, 21-year-old Manny Machado was setting the world on fire with his outstanding play at 3rd base. His incredible range and cannon of an arm made jaws drop in the 2013 All-Star game. His bat was alive as well. He was hitting .283 and on track for a 200 hit season. On Sept. 23, Manny was hustling out a single when he landed awkwardly on the first base bag and immediately crumpled to the ground. The freak accident was replayed dozens of times and there really didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason for the injury. His foot hit the bag, his knee twitched and he collapsed, screaming out in pain. Baltimore held its collective breath as they waited for news of the injury. Just how severe would it be and did it need surgery? Well, Manny returned a little later than expected for the 2014 season but that is clearly a much better outcome than what it could have been for the Oriole youngster.
Machado’s Injury (Credit: MLB.com)
Other notable injuries:
Al Bumbry fractured his ankle in 1978, limiting him to 33 games. In 1967, Al Weiss kneed Frank Robinson in the head at 2nd base causing double-vision which affected Frank though the ’68 season. Gregg Olson blew out his elbow in 1993. Ending his Orioles career.