SARASOTA, FLA. – Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz, who was hit in the helmet by a pitch during Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale and was forced out of the game, was feeling better Friday and will be ready for opening day Monday.
A precautionary CT scan performed Thursday night at a local hospital was negative and Cruz showed no symptoms of a concussion or any other head injury on Friday.
Cruz is expected to start in left field Monday and bat fifth against Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.
Still, the incident on Thursday initially scared everyone in the Orioles dugout. Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb’s first pitch to Cruz was a curveball that he lost control of, but the velocity was enough to crack Cruz’s helmet on the left side where the bill and the side of the helmet meet.
Cruz’s helmet flew off as he fell to one knee, but he was able to quickly get back to his feet and went to the Orioles clubhouse.
The loss of Cruz would have been a devastating blow, and one is never quite certain of the long-term outcome when a player is hit by a pitch in the head, but the Orioles seemed to dodge a bad situation with Cruz, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal last month.
No roster moves were announced Friday — and the final spring cuts might not come until Saturday or Sunday — but infielder Jonathan Schoop is likely to make the Orioles opening-day roster, according to a team source.
Schoop was battling with Jemile Weeks for the final infielder spot on the roster, and keeping the 22-year-old Schoop will allow him to share playing time with Steve Lombardozzi at second and Ryan Flaherty at third.
While Schoop’s positional flexibility — he played second, third and shortstop this spring — played a role, he earned a roster spot with his bat. He hit .385 (15-for-39) with five doubles, two homers and eight RBIs in 22 spring games. . . .
No word yet on whether the Orioles will play their Saturday exhibition game at Class AAA Norfolk.
There’s an 80 percent chance of rain Saturday in Norfolk, where they have sold 9,000 tickets for the game, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
The Orioles will try to get the game in, but have already made contingency plans to work out in Sarasota on Saturday morning and then fly north to Baltimore if the game is canceled.
For the minor league team, hosting the major league club is a financial boon, but the Orioles could promise to play there next spring. . . .
Catcher Johnny Monell cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk. Monell could not elect free agency.
The 28-year-old was designated and removed from the Orioles’ 40-man roster to make room for Lombardozzi.
Monell battled Steve Clevenger for the backup catcher job, hitting .278 with one homer and six RBI over 11 games this spring.
— Baltimore Sun