You happy, Philly?
BALTIMORE – Zach Britton had an MRI on his left ankle Monday, and no damage was found, and three days after injuring the ankle, he says he’s nearly ready to return.
“I feel good today, walking a lot better. So, pretty much normal. I’m going to go out there and play catch. Just take it easy, baby steps. If it feels good playing catch, maybe I can progress to flat ground,” Britton said.
He’d like to pitch on the homestand that concludes Sunday.
“I think this week is a good timeline. It’s not going to be today, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be tomorrow or the next day,” Britton said.
Britton wasn’t available for comment after he injured the ankle on Saturday night, and looked a lot better than he did on Sunday when he used crutches and a soft boot.
“I feel a lot better. I think flexibility, range of motion is back. It’s just swollen. It’s got some bruising but as long as i can manage the pain. It think that’s going to be the biggest issue right now is does it hurt me doing baseball things? Covering first, fielding a bunt, or whatnot. Those are things that I’m going to have to test out. Whether it’s today, I’m not sure. I’m just going to go out there and play catch and see how it goes,” Britton said.
NOTES: Hunter Harvey, the Orioles No. 1 draft pick in 2013 who hasn’t pitched competitively since July 2014, underwent sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia. He’s expected to be out from four to six weeks.
Manager Buck Showalter isn’t concerned about Harvey’s long absence from pitching.
“I think if he pitches from June, July on and finishes up strong like we think he can, I think he’s OK. But you’d really like to see him get the ball every fifth day at some point there and kind of get some of that experience he needs to finish off some things,” Showalter said.
-Yovani Gallardo, who’s been on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder and rotator cuff tendinitis, is improving.
“He’s doing good. I’m very optimistic on the return we’re going to get on some of the things he’s doing. He’s moving towards throwing before too long,” Showalter said.
-LHP Jeff Beliveau, who labrum surgery a year ago, has been assigned to Frederick. Beliveau, who pitched for the Cubs and Rays, has intrigued Showalter, and could pitch for the Orioles later this season.
-INF/OF Jimmy Paredes is batting .318 in six rehab games for Bowie and Frederick. Paredes’ rehab stint for his left wrist injury ends on May 15.
MORE ORIOLES: HARDY WON'T PUT DATE ON EXPECTED RETURN
Through the first three games of the much-anticipated second-round playoff series between the Capitals and Penguins, Sidney Crosby has been nearly invisible, while Alex Ovechkin has been a runaway freight train.
Playing head-to-head for most of the first three games, Crosby is still looking for his first point and is a minus-3. Ovechkin has one goal and two assists in the series, but it’s his physical play that has made the biggest impact. Through three games Ovechkin leads both teams with 21 hits and 35 shot attempts.
“The great thing is that there’s one of them in this league and we’ve got him,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said of his 30-year-old captain. “He’s very physical, he’s a sniper, he’s quick. You talk about skill, power and determination; all those things, he’s got a lot of that. Last night he showed why he’s a force.’’
Ovechkin imposed his will on the Penguins in Game 3, with 18 shots attempts and nine hits. Six of those shots were blocked and five missed the net, but Capitals center Jay Beagle said Ovechkin’s impact might be felt later in the series, when all those bumps and bruises take their toll. Ovechkin currently leads the NHL in playoff hits (49) and shots (43).
“He’s had a huge impact” Beagle said. “You see him finishing the body. No one wants to go back for a puck when you’ve got a guy like that coming full speed at you ready to finish his check.
“He had some big blocks in Game 1 and Game 2. There are a lot of things he’s doing great.”
Ovechkin finally scored his first goal of the series 8:02 into the third period of Monday night’s 3-2 loss when he snapped a rising wrist shot through a screen and off Matt Murray’s glove hand.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray said Ovechkin possesses one of the hardest shots he’s ever faced but said he should have caught Ovechkin’s shot Monday night.
"He's obviously got quite the shot," Murray said. "That goal he had, it was obviously a bomb, but I've got to save that, 10 times out of 10. It was from pretty far out. Obviously, he's got a good shot and I don't think we can let him just fire away like that or we're going to be in trouble."
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who watched from the bench, said there’s not a lot of advice he can give the 21-year rookie goalie when it comes to facing Ovechkin.
“I think he knows he shoots pretty hard so I didn’t’ have to tell him that,” Fleury said. “He’s fine. He challenges the one-timer. (Ovechkin) will score sometimes. He’s one of the best scorers in the league. He’s got a good shot. You’ve got to do your best in front of him. If it goes in then screw it and keep going.”
Making sweeping judgments just one month into the Major League Baseball season is always a risky proposition. After all, we're talking about a small sample size — not even one-fifth of the 162-game slate — so it's hard to tell exactly which early-surprise teams will be out of the running down the road.
But at 15-11, the Philadelphia Phillies so far are showing that they're not laying down just because they were widely expected to struggle in 2016.
Just ask the Nationals. The suddenly youthful Phillies' three-game sweep of the NL-East leaders last week felt like a head-scratcher for Nats fans, but it was a series that showed that Pete Mackanin's club might no longer stuck in the seemingly perpetual quagmire of a rebuild.
"Every time we play somebody, I get the same question, but it's a good question because of course we [believe in ourselves]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said via MLB.com. "We played the Mets, we played them well. We just got done sweeping the Nationals and that was one of those teams where we wanted to gauge how good we were."
Of course, the Phils had already been hard a work trying to retool the roster under the direction of new President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail. Once known for a core featuring stars like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, Philly's now getting major contributions from the likes of Vince Velasquez, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola — not exactly household names, but potential building blocks that are all under 25.
So, can this last? Are the Phillies ahead of schedule?
Well, though they're winning, the Phillies certainly aren't exactly dominating any one area of the game. Their better-than-expected pitching staff owns a so-so 3.93 ERA, which is helping to keep this team afloat. The staff will need to keep this up, because the offense is currently ranked 29th in the majors in on-base percentage (.289) and 28th in OPS (.651), which explains why this team can have a winning record despite a minus-23 run differential.
As the Phillies fight to show that they aren't a mirage, the one thing that does seem real for the team and its fans is that there might finally be light at the end of the tunnel. The rebuilding plan appears to be paying dividends early on, and perhaps sometime soon, this club could pose as a serious threat to the Nats and the rest of the NL East for the division crown.
"The players should feel proud of what they've done so far this season, no matter what happens down the road," Mackanin said. "The biggest thing for me was how we reacted after going 0-4 at the beginning of the season. What have we gone, 15-6 since then? It's a good feeling."