BALTIMORE — Garrett Whitlock made 60 throws in the outfield at Camden Yards on Tuesday afternoon and is on track to come off the injured list this weekend.
“A big step for him, obviously, to be able to go out there and play catch,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before a 4-2 loss against the Orioles.
The valuable rookie righthander, who has a 1.99 earned run average in 45 relief appearances, hasn’t pitched since Sept. 19 because of what the team has said is a strained pectoral muscle.
Whitlock is eligible to return Thursday, but Cora suggested the Sox would want him to throw in the bullpen first.
“As of now, as of right now, I think [Thursday] is too soon to be honest with you,” Cora said. “But you never know how guys will react.”
The time off could serve Whitlock well. He allowed five earned runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, over 7⅓ innings in the six outings before he went on the IL.
As Whitlock recovers, the Sox are evaluating how best to use deposed closer Matt Barnes. The righthander threw a scoreless sixth inning against the Yankees on Friday, striking out two but also allowing a double.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Cora said. “We need everybody this week. That’s the reality of this. At one point I guarantee you he’ll be part of something important here.”
Lefthander Josh Taylor, who is on the IL with a sore back, has not yet resumed throwing.
Getting a feel
Rajai Davis, a senior director of on-field operations with Major League Baseball, was on the field before the game showing players and coaches from both teams the new experimental baseballs MLB has developed.
The balls have a tacky coating, which would allow for their use out of the box without being first rubbed down with mud. Professional leagues in Asia use similar baseballs.
In June, MLB prohibited pitchers from using sticky substances to improve their grip and started in-game inspections by umpires.
A tacky ball would further advance the idea of creating a level playing field and having a “standard” ball.
Here’s to Nate
The Red Sox paid tribute to Nate Eovaldi recently achieving 10 years of service time in the majors by wearing red T-shirts on the trip from Boston to Baltimore.
“Ten years of Nasty Nate. Domi-Nate” they read across the front.
“That’s how much he means to this group,” Cora said.
Eovaldi, who is scheduled to start Wednesday, said he saved one of the shirts as a souvenir.
Eovaldi is 10-9 with a 3.88 ERA in 31 starts. He has faced the Orioles twice and allowed four earned runs on 11 hits over 10⅓ innings with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
A bright spot
The 51-106 Orioles will finish with the worst record in the American League. But they have a core group of hitters to build around led by 26-year-old Cedric Mullins.
The center fielder gave up switch hitting before this season and has hit .297 with an .898 OPS, 30 homers. 59 RBIs, 89 runs, and 30 stolen bases.
Mullins is the first 30-30 player in Orioles history and his 49 hits are the most in the first inning in the majors this season.
He’s also the first player since Mookie Betts in 2018 with at least 30 homers, 35 doubles, five triples, and 30 steals.
“He made a decision to stop switch hitting and he’s been really good since,” Cora said. “Hitting the ball hard, running the bases, playing great defense . . . it’s something that gets your attention. It really does.”
MLB Pipeline named Nick Yorke as the second baseman on its Prospect Team of the Year. The 19-year-old hit .325 with a .928 OPS Single A Salem and Greenville this season . . . Eduardo Rodriguez took batting practice before the game in anticipation for his start at Washington on Friday. Rodriguez is 0 for 23 with 12 strikeouts in his career . . . The Sox have used 56 players this season, tying the franchise record first set in 2012.