After barely eking out a .500 record in 2015 and failing to defend their American League East championship, the Orioles will report to 2016 spring training with something to prove. This winter, the Orioles brought back several of their key free agents -- first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters and righty reliever Darren O'Day -- but they still have a few unanswered questions about their roster as they head to Sarasota, Fla. Here are a few storylines the O's will be paying attention to at camp.
Orioles Injury Report
The Orioles finished 2015 as a relatively healthy team, and everybody on their 40-man roster is expected to be ready for 2016 camp. Still, there are two players whose recent injury history could make them the subject of scrutiny at spring training.
Fresh off signing a three-year extension with the Orioles, Hardy suffered the worst offensive season of his career in 2015. During 114 games, he batted .219 with a .564 on-base plus slugging percentage, which would've been the lowest OPS in the major leagues if he'd had enough plate appearances to qualify. After the season, Hardy revealed he'd been playing all season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury he suffered during a collision with second baseman Jonathan Schoop last spring training.
Hardy elected to rehab his shoulder this winter rather than getting it surgically repaired. Hardy previously had surgery on the shoulder in 2004 and didn't want to relive the experience.
"Going through surgery once, I know that it wasn't like a six-month thing when I went through it the first time," Hardy said. "It took another six months of playing baseball and getting used to it. … Having two surgeries on the same shoulder, who knows what it's going to be like. So I'm definitely going at it, rehabbing it, strengthening it as much as I can, and hoping that I kind of never have to deal with it again."
Hardy's decision not to have surgery is a risky one. If his rehab works, he could rebound as a capable hitter to pair with his Gold Glove defense. But if the injury worsens, he could end up with another unproductive season -- or spend most of it on the disabled list. Hardy's spring training performance could give an indication of which way his season is headed.
It seems like ages ago that Bundy was considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Since getting drafted fourth overall in 2011 and making his major league debut a year later, Bundy has been plagued by injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2013 and a calcium buildup in his shoulder in 2015. During his most recent mound action, a stint in the Arizona Fall League, Bundy was shut down after two innings with forearm stiffness.
Bundy, 23, is out of minor league options, so he figures to have a spot reserved in the Orioles' bullpen if he's healthy. But given his injury track record, the O's will be watching him like a hawk during spring training, and they'll surely err on the side of caution if Bundy feels even a twinge of discomfort at any point. Bundy remains one of the Birds' top prospects, so they won't take any risks with his health.
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