FREDERICK, Md.—Caleb Joseph had just spent eight innings behind the plate for the first time in four weeks. He watched the Frederick Keys come from behind an inning after he took himself out of the game, and even joined in the on-field celebration.
As he walked off Nymeo Field, Joseph walked up a flight of stairs to a concourse that leads to the Keys locker room. Joseph was surrounded by well wishers, and they wanted autographs.
In this unique setting, Joseph promised his fans he’d be back out momentarily, and he was, spending several minutes fulfilling each request.
Soon, Joseph will resume his duties as Matt Wieters’ understudy for the Orioles, but on Monday night in his return to catching after his scary May 30 testicular injury that required surgery, everything seemed normal.
Joseph caught eight innings and was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly for the Keys.
“It was good. It felt great. All the preparation I did in Bowie paid off. Felt strong even into those later innings. Pitchers did a great job, didn’t throw too many balls in the dirt. It was fun to be out there, especially fun to get that ‘W’ in walkoff fashion,” Joseph said.
The Carolina Mudcats’ leadoff hitter, Stephen Gaylor fouled a ball off his left eye, a little reminder of the incident that necessitated surgery.
“I was thinking, ‘oh man, is this a bad omen here?’ The poor guy, a full swing, and it hit him in his eye, and I think ‘good night, do I really want to be back here?’ This is a weird game. People think this is a non-contact sport. It’s contact in different ways. It’s high speed. There’s a lot of danger involved. We know that going into it. I’m glad the guy was O.K,” Joseph said.
Manager Buck Showalter originally said that Joseph would catch one game, and if everything went well, he’d come back to the Orioles and could catch in San Diego on Wednesday afternoon.
After Sunday’s game, Showalter amended the plan and said that Joseph would catch in Frederick again on Tuesday night, this time to Orioles pitcher Vance Worley, who’s rehabbing a right groin injury.
“I’m going to have to make a few phone calls here. I felt really good. I expected to feel good, but I felt better than anticipated, so it’s a really good sign. I’m going to make a few phone calls, then we’ll see what happens,” Joseph said.
In the seventh, Joseph threw one runner out stealing. Another had such an enormous lead that no throw could have gotten him.
There were only a few reminders of the accident for Joseph.
“A few pitches to some left-handers who were trying to elevate the ball to the same exact location. It did cross my mind a few times, but we’re still living to tell about it, so it’s a good first step. I think, over time, that will just go away and we’ll go back to normal,” he said.
Joseph has hit .308 in his four games with the Keys. In his first three, he was the designated hitter. He also hit .286 in six games as a DH for Bowie.
His new protective cup worked out well, he said.
“No issues at all. For the most part, I had peace of mind and the people at NutShellz, they’ve done a great job and had a superior product. I feel really good about it. Maybe I can order you guys one, you guys can try it out,” Joseph said.