Spring Training Primer: El Toro returns; Brugman clears; Aquino hopes to rebound - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Spring Training Primer: El Toro returns; Brugman clears; Aquino hopes to rebound

What’s happening? – For the third consecutive year, the Orioles have signed Pedro Alvarez, who agreed to a minor league deal that will pay him $1 million if he makes the Orioles’ 40-man roster. He could make an additional $2 million in incentives. The Orioles officially announced the signing, with an invite to camp, this morning.

Last March, the Orioles signed the left-handed hitting Alvarez to a minor league contract, a season after he was their principal designated hitter and hit 22 home runs.

The team hoped Alvarez could make the transition to the outfield in 2017. He was sent to Triple-A Norfolk to learn the position, but the experiment was quickly abandoned.

Alvarez earned a major league callup last September after hitting .239 with 26 home runs and 89 RBIs at Norfolk. He hit .313 with a home run and 4 RBIs in 13 games with the Orioles.

The 31-year-old will serve as insurance in case Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo is injured. Manager Buck Showalter is an admirer of Alvarez’s, but knows it will be hard for Alvarez to make the club without an injury to a key hitter.

** Outfielder Jaycob Brugman, who was designated for assignment Feb. 21 when Chris Tillman was re-signed, has cleared waivers and will return to major league camp today.

** Austin Hays, who had missed the first two days of game action with a lat injury, was the designated hitter Sunday, and Showalter planned on playing him in the field today.

** Colby Rasmus, signed to a minor league contract, is scheduled to make his Orioles’ debut today. He’ll play right field.

** Catcher Andrew Susac, who’s missed a week with a staph infection, is nearing a return.

** Hunter Harvey, the team’s No. 1 draft choice in 2013, is scheduled to start Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

What’s happened? – Gabriel Ynoa, a longshot contender to be the Orioles’ fifth starter, allowed a run on two hits in the Orioles’ 7-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday.

Showalter noted that there are four spots up for grabs, the fifth starter role and three in the bullpen. Ynoa, Mike Wright and the three Rule 5 draft picks, Pedro Araujo, Nestor Cortes and Jose Mesa, are in competition for those jobs.

“It’s pretty easy to see the math,” Showalter said. “One would have to go. There are other people competing very closely for those jobs, too. It’s not just them. You can make a case that the tiebreaker might go to a Rule 5 guy, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that.”

Mesa didn’t help himself Sunday, allowing three runs in the fifth inning. He allowed back-to-back home runs to Blake Swihart and Jeremy Barfield while walking three and throwing a wild pitch. He got two outs, but one of them was on a caught stealing. Mesa was scheduled for two innings.

Showalter thought he was nervous.

“I’m going to give him a little pass on the first one,” the manager said. “He’s got better stuff than that. I think he’ll settle in next time out.”

What’s up with? – Jayson Aquino. A year ago, Aquino was a contender for the fifth starter’s spot. He received two starts for the Orioles last season and was 1-2 with a 7.43 ERA in four appearances.

He wasn’t impressive in 2017 at Norfolk, where the lefty was 4-11 with a 4.51 ERA and lost his spot on the 40-man roster. But the 25-year-old re-signed with the Orioles in December.

“I was just going out there and concentrating and trying to give my best effort,” Aquino said through a translator. “Things didn’t work out for me down there. I don’t spend a lot of time wondering about what could have [been].

“I saw the opportunity that’s here. I really like the team. I think there’s an opportunity for me this year. That’s why I decided to come back.”

Aquino pitched two scoreless innings Sunday.

What’s what? – The Orioles have hit three home runs in four games, and all three have been hit by catchers. Chance Sisco hit a three-run home run Friday, Audry Perez had a two-run shot in the Saturday afternoon loss to the Phillies, and Austin Wynns’ homer accounted for the only run in the 1-1 tie with the Twins on Saturday night.

What’s the word? – “Mathematically, of course, but it’s a challenge to carry three guys unproven at a high level. You’d have to feel really good about your projection and the ability to survive at that level in that division.” – Buck Showalter on whether the Orioles could carry all three Rule 5 pitchers this season.

What’s the number? 64. With the addition of Alvarez and Brugman, the Orioles will have 64 players in camp, the most in memory. That number won’t last long because cuts are probably coming soon. The Orioles have 37 pitchers.

What’s the record? 0-3-1. The Orioles try for their first win today when Kevin Gausman starts in Sarasota against Detroit’s Michael Fulmer.




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