Spring Training Primer: Fifth-starter battle; Tavarez makes push; DL looming for some? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Spring Training Primer: Fifth-starter battle; Tavarez makes push; DL looming for some?


What’s happening: Center fielder Adam Jones and reliever Mychal Givens are due back in Orioles’ camp, perhaps today. Both played for Team USA, which won the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who played for the Netherlands, which lost to Puerto Rico in the semifinals, is also expected back.

Manny Machado and Welington Castillo, who played for the Dominican Republic, returned Wednesday. They’re not expected to play until Saturday night.

With a week left in camp, there are still some important questions to be answered. The big one: Who will be the fifth starter?

With Chris Tillman ruled out for the season’s first month, Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson and Jayson Aquino seem to be the leading candidates.

Lefty Chris Lee, who struggled through two innings Wednesday night, seems to need more time in the high minors, and Gabriel Ynoa, who is set to start Saturday night, hasn’t been able to complete three innings.

While Showalter has named Lee and Ynoa as candidates to take Tillman’s place, they haven’t shown enough consistency.

It’s also possible for Wilson or Wright to open the season in the Orioles’ bullpen. Originally, Showalter wanted the five candidates for Tillman’s spot to comprise Norfolk’s rotation, but Logan Verrett, a favorite for the long relief role, has been inconsistent, though he did throw two spotless innings Tuesday.

With Richard Bleier sent to the minors, Vidal Nuno is the only viable candidate if Showalter elects to use a third left-hander in the bullpen. Aquino is also left-handed, and Showalter is intrigued by him, but he’d prefer Aquino to start.

If the Orioles want to send right-hander Oliver Drake, who has been erratic this spring, to the minors, he’ll have to pass through waivers because he’s out of options.

What’s happened: Besides Tillman, there are now two others who could start the season on the disabled list.

Anthony Santander, who was a Rule 5 selection from the Cleveland Indians, has been idle with a right elbow injury and has yet to play the outfield.

Santander hasn’t played since March 14, and Showalter wants to see him in the outfield before making a final decision on his roster spot. In 14 games as a DH, Santander has hit .250 (7-for-28) with two long home runs.

Outfielder Seth Smith hasn’t played since March 8 due to a strained right hamstring. Smith is expected to be the starting right fielder, especially against right-handers. But if he doesn’t resume playing soon with what’s been described as a minor injury, he could begin the season on the DL.

When Smith comes back, perhaps there’ll be some clarity on the leadoff spot. In recent days, Joey Rickard has been getting more time at the top of the order.

Last year’s training camp sensation has been excellent this time around, too. Rickard is batting .385 with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs. He’s also walked 12 times, has a .538 on-base percentage and has stolen four bases.

What’s up with: Aneury Tavarez. If Smith begins the season on the disabled list, it’s possible the Orioles begin 2017 with Tavarez, a Rule 5 pick from the Boston Red Sox, on the active roster.

Tavarez has stolen seven bases and been thrown out once. He’s entertaining to watch, but his outfield defense isn’t major league quality. In 23 games, Tavarez is hitting .279.

What they’re saying: “We just need to get Mychal Givens back in the fold now. … He hasn’t pitched in a while. I thought we were going to get him back early.” — Showalter on trying to get Givens on a regular routine upon his return from the WBC.

What’s the number? 6 — That’s how many hits Pedro Alvarez, who didn’t sign his minor league contract until March 13, has this spring. Alvarez is 6-for-16 (.375). Meanwhile, Chris Davis (6-for-29) and Mark Trumbo (6-for-37) have the same number of hits in many more at-bats. Jones, who played in only six games before leaving for the WBC on March 6, also has six hits (6-for-17).

What’s the record? 13-11-2 — The Orioles will take on the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. tonight at 7:05 p.m. Wright faces Ervin Santana.

Rich Dubroff covers the Orioles for PressBoxOnline.com. You can read his stories here.



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