Spring Training Primer: Fifth starter battle; Tillman redux; Davis' self-critique; Wojo info - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Spring Training Primer: Fifth starter battle; Tillman redux; Davis’ self-critique; Wojo info

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

What’s happening – Once the Orioles officially sign right-hander Chris Tillman, they’ll presumably have four-fifths of their starting rotation set.

In the past five days, they’ve added Tillman and Andrew Cashner to go along with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

There are still several candidates for the fifth starter’s job including right-handers Miguel Castro and Mike Wright.

Tillman’s signing could make it harder for Wright and Gabriel Ynoa, both of whom are out of options, to make the club.

Bundy, Cashner, Castro, Gausman, Tillman and Wright are all right-handers, and the Orioles might want a left-handed starter to fill the fifth spot.

If they want a lefty, they could use Nestor Cortes, a Rule 5 draft pick.

There aren’t many established left-handed starters remaining on the free agent market. One is Francisco Liriano, who’s pitched for five major league teams in a 12-year career.

Regardless, Tillman’s return to the rotation is welcomed by his teammates.

“He’s a guy when he’s healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4,” Gausman said. “That, in the AL East, is always going to be very valuable.”

** Catcher Andrew Susac has been hospitalized with a staph infection and may have to stay an additional 24 to 48 hours.

** Infielder Engelb Vielma, a contender for the utility infielder’s job, is the only player who hasn’t arrived. He’s being delayed from Venezuela because of visa problems.

Something to think about – Alex Presley, whom the Orioles signed to a minor league contract Monday, took the field for drills immediately after the agreement was announced.

Presley is a left-handed hitting outfielder, and the Orioles have been searching for one. The 32-year-old joins Jaycob Brugman and DJ Stewart as the only left-handed hitting outfielders in camp. Minor leaguer Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander are switch-hitters.

It’s possible that Presley, who plays all three outfield positions, and Craig Gentry, who was signed to a minor league contract earlier this month, could both make the club as reserve outfielders.

Gentry, Presley and Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 draft pick two years ago, can play all three outfield positions, but Rickard seemingly faces a more difficult competition to make the club than he did last season.

Presley’s addition puts the camp roster at 62.

A name to consider Asher Wojciechowski. He has both the longest name in camp, and behind Bundy, Cashner, Gausman and Tillman, the fifth most major league starts.

Wojciechowski, who signed a minor league contract on Dec. 1, was 4-3 with a 6.50 ERA in 25 games (eight starts) for Cincinnati last year. He had three starts for Houston in 2015.

The right-hander could be headed to Triple-A Norfolk to start for the Tides, but what really stands out is his name.

“It definitely adds a couple of pounds to my jersey,” Wojciechowski joked.

“I thought about just asking to put ‘Wojo’ a couple of times. I did that for the Players Weekend last year. It’s something I’m used to. People look at my name, give me funny looks because they have no idea how to say it. It’s something I’ve just grown up with, and become accustomed to.”

What they are saying — “I think it was completely mental. Mechanically, I feel like I’ve pretty much done the same thing year-to-year. The mentality was too passive, and I made it a point to say that at the end of the year last year. There were too many called third strikes. There were too many called first strikes. There were too many times when I was starting the at-bat 0-2 and hadn’t even swung the bat, hadn’t taken the bat off my shoulder. That’s just not who I am as a hitter. It never has been. I think early on in spring it’s good to swing the bat, kind of know where I’m at, to kind of get a little bit of feedback to know where I’m at. That’s something I plan to do.” – slugger Chris Davis on what he plans to do differently this season.

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

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    February 20, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Wow … Chris Davis … must of had a moment of clarity.

    Why did it take an entire lost year for him to realize what we fans saw happening about 20 games into 2017?
    “That’s just not who I am as a hitter” … “It’s good to swing the bat”. Ya think? What a novel idea Chris. Sheesh.

    Here’s to hoping for an entire season of clarity for the big dope.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 9:04 am

      I hear ya. But when you are in that moment things happen quickly. It’s nice he recognizes it. But we’ll see what happens when games start.

  2. Dblack2508

    February 20, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Chris needs to have the Drs increase the dosage for aderal, then go to the left side of the infield against the shift. I do believe Davis and Trumbo both will not be as bad in 2018.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 9:05 am

      The left side of the shift is definitely something that could be utilized more by a lot of LH hitters. Davis in particular.

  3. Orial

    February 20, 2018 at 8:32 am

    I feel confident about Davis this year. Of course a little aderall wouldn’t hurt. Hey if they can get 120 games out of him before he gets busted all the better. Seriously though–fans looking for Lynn/Cobb and Dickerson/Jay may have to settle for Tillman and Presley. I’m ok with Tillman but Presley? please NO! Give Jay a shout out.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

      I agree. A LH hitting OFer with a little more cred would be ideal.

  4. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    February 20, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Davis should have had these revelations after a month last year. Why did it take him an entire season to see what we were all yelling at the screen?

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Again. Seeing it is one thing. Doing something about it in the heat of battle is another. Making obvious adjustments is easy from the couch (or press box). But when you are in a game you often let instinct, muscle memory take over. To change that takes a whole lot of work.

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      February 20, 2018 at 10:07 am

      A rhetorical question, obviously.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      Fair enough.

  5. jimcarter

    February 20, 2018 at 9:37 am

    The team’s strategy is now clear! Bring back last season’s team. I believe Seth Smith is still available, but they missed out on Flaherty.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      If you suggest the Ubaldo, the site will self-destruct.

  6. Osfan73

    February 20, 2018 at 10:21 am

    There’s nowhere to go but ‘up’ for Davis and Tillman after last year. Trying to be optimistic and think they’ll have something of a bounce-back season. We’ll see.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      It’s hard to imagine worse for both of them.

  7. GSISDANNO

    February 20, 2018 at 10:43 am

    I seriously hope the Orioles aren’t counting on Chris Tillman as their fifth starter. That didn’t work last year. I guess it’s a nice gamble but we need more Plan B’s. In my opinion, we need to bring in two new guys to compete for that 4th and 5th starter spots or else it’s going to be another season of going to the bullpen in the third inning.
    I like Chris Davis but I don’t understand why it took the entire off-season for him to come to those conclusions. For anyone who watched him last season, it was very obvious he was taking way too many pitches. It seemed to me that he was having trouble seeing the ball and may need glasses. But I’m just a fan and I am sure there are better minds than me working on this.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      I think what some are missing is that Tillman’s 2017 was a disaster but he was more than serviceable before that. You aren’t gonna find many affordable pitchers with his track record still available. That’s the reality. Either you really spend or you go with this group and maybe one more flyer.

  8. Birdman

    February 20, 2018 at 11:50 am

    I’m skeptical about the assumption that with the signing of Tillman the Orioles “presumably have four-fifths of their starting rotation set.” Do we really have any cause for optimism, in view of his performance last season and the low level of interest shown in him by other MLB teams? I know the Orioles don’t have many good options so, sure, give Tillman a shot early in the season to see if he can get back on track. Just don’t be shocked, if he looks more like the return of Wade Miley than the old Chris Tillman.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      He’s locked in. Until he’s proven otherwise.

  9. willmiranda

    February 20, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Hey, wasn’t Wojo on Barney Miller? Good to have a guy with a sense of humor.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      And played hoops at Gibbons and Duke.

  10. Bancells Moustache

    February 20, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Another year believing some dude named Asher can save the day. Yay.

    As to Mr. Davis, I don’t suppose he has considered only placing half the can of Copenhagen in his mouth prior to stepping to the plate? Its gotta be difficult to see around that mountain of chaw which is nearing Tettleton-esque levels of size and circumference. At least we know what he’s spending his money on. As a fellow dipper, the cost of a tin of Cope wintergreen in Baltimore makes me wish I too could be making 160 mil…

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      Well, at least the money ain’t going up in smoke.

  11. ClyOs

    February 20, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Glad to hear Davis finally realized he can’t hit the ball over the fence if he doesn’t swing the bat. And make no mistakes Chris Davis is paid $21 mil a year to swing the bat for the sole purpose of hitting home runs. He isn’t paid that amount of money to hitting single to left field or play glove gold caliber defense, all though he does play pretty good D. He is being paid to hit 45 plus home runs and driving in 125 plus RBIs, and if he does that everyone will look the other way when he bats .221 with 219 strikeouts.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      You’d certainly like more than .221 and 200 Ks. But you’re right. He’s a power hitter.

  12. thebookdoc

    February 20, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    I may be the only fan who likes what is going on in this sorta pivotal year. A few good additions recently, players talking themselves up, a few vets a manager and GM who know they have to win…outfielders who have to fight for a position, competition for the fith spot in the rotations — and maybe then-some. If Tilly actually comes back, it raises Gausmann and Bundy to higher competitiveness as well. They thought they were shoe-ins to 1-2…well, not if Tilman remembers how he pitched in every season but last year. I had to laugh at the line that there were only 6 lefthanded bats vying for OF positions…how many do you need (I’m counting the switch-hitters…). I’m looking for Santander to pull a surprise.

    And if it turns out they are sagging hard and no one turns it around, it is time to jettison Machado and Jones and Britton and Trumbo, and create something brand new in 2019. I don’t fit with a lot of Os fans…for goodness sake I like in Spain…But I never put out the light till the last out, and it’s possible the sun might be coming up around then.

  13. TxBirdFan

    February 20, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    It’s nice to have Tilly back since I’ve always liked him, but he needs to beat out Wright and Ynoa for the 5th spot, and we need to bring someone in for the 4th spot. We’re in trouble if he’s #4.

    I hope our pitching coach does a better job recognizing when a guy is ready to start and when he isn’t. We whiffed on that last year. Why not have a backup starter ready if the scheduled starter has no stuff before the game. How many times did we get behind by 4-5 runs by the third inning? That needs to improve.

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