Spring Training Primer: Ynoa's falling stock; Araujo's rising; Mountcastle's mashing - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Spring Training Primer: Ynoa’s falling stock; Araujo’s rising; Mountcastle’s mashing

What’s happening? – It’s not going to be said officially, but the fifth starter’s competition is likely down to three legitimate candidates.

Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa was on the outside looking in anyway, and Sunday’s developments likely cemented that speculation.

The fact Ynoa was actually starting against the Boston Red Sox said something about his candidacy, considering that manager Buck Showalter takes care in making sure his starters don’t often face division rivals in the spring.

Ynoa, 24, didn’t help his cause with a rough outing that began with two strikeouts and basically ended with two homers allowed (to Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers). He permitted six runs on seven hits and a walk in two innings, certainly not the results he had imagined.

“Those are things that happen. I know I have better stuff than what I showed today,” Ynoa said through an interpreter. “I know I can help this team, so I’m just concentrating on the next start right now.”

Showalter made a point that Sunday was March 4, and there is plenty of spring training left for Ynoa to wipe away one terrible outing. But Showalter made another point, too.

“I would like to see him pitch better. Two outs, nobody on, nine pitches, and then what, 20-some pitches later? It’s tough,” Showalter said. “But that’s the big leagues, though. You can’t ever let up. They had a lot of their (regular) guys in the lineup today and he didn’t pitch very well.”

Ynoa, who made four starts for the Orioles last season, realistically was behind Mike Wright, Nestor Cortes and Miguel Castro in the competition (top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey is tangentially a candidate but won’t make the Opening Day roster).

Wright and Cortes have offered solid results so far this spring and Castro is about to enter Grapefruit League action after dealing with knee and back issues.

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Ynoa could still make the club as a long reliever; if he doesn’t he’ll have to be exposed to waivers before he can be sent to Triple-A Norfolk. Given his experience age, however, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ynoa is claimed by another team if given the chance.

What’s happened? – Well, the top part of the offense is looking fairly healthy. On Sunday, Tim Beckham, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado and Adam Jones combined to go 7-for-12 with seven runs scored, six RBIs and two walks.

The damage came against Boston minor leaguers, including starter Jalen Beeks, a Top 10 prospect in the organization.

It was familiar territory for the offense. The Orioles were down 6-0 in the second, something they were accustomed to throughout much of 2017.

** Right-hander Pedro Araujo acquitted himself well again Sunday, allowing a Sam Travis double in a scoreless inning against the Red Sox. The Rule 5 pick from the Chicago Cubs now has thrown three scoreless innings in his three Grapefruit League appearances and has only allowed the Travis double.

Araujo, 24, has pitched one game above High-A in his career, but he is raising eyebrows with every appearance and seems to have a legitimate shot to make the Orioles’ 25-man roster.

“He’s been impressive almost every time he’s taken the ball,” Showalter said. “Very alert in the drills and stuff. He’s made a good impression.”

** Projected closer Brad Brach made his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game Sunday. He entered in the eighth and allowed one hit in a scoreless inning that included a double play.

** Injury updates according to Showalter: Craig Gentry (hamstring) will be ready to play Tuesday. Austin Hays (shoulder) should be available shortly after Tuesday. Chris Davis (elbow) is improving slightly; he’s still three to five days from returning to the baseball mix.

What’s Up With? – Ryan Mountcastle. There may not be anyone in the organization with more offensive upside than Mountcastle, the 21-year-old former supplemental first-round pick who has bashed his way to the forefront of the organization’s list.

And he’s done some bashing while he’s been with the Orioles this spring. He has five hits in 18 at-bats in his first big league camp, including a home run against St. Louis Cardinals middle reliever John Gant earlier this week.

“It’s been a great experience. Learning from these guys, just picking up bits and pieces,” said Mountcastle in his first camp with the Orioles. “Starting to feel good, getting ready for the season.”

Mountcastle was drafted as a shortstop in 2015 but was switched to third base at Double-A Bowie last year. It’s a position he’s learning, and he made an error on his first chance in Sunday’s game.

“It’s just a little bit quicker,” Mountcastle said of playing third base. “That’s all I’ve noticed. The ball gets to you a little bit quicker, but you’ve more time to throw it and field it and I’m getting more comfortable with that.”

The belief is Mountcastle may end up as a first baseman or left fielder as his pro career progresses. But his bat definitely projects as a weapon at the major league level.

What’s what? – Drops in the bucket are being collected by the Orioles on their way to forming a 25-man roster. On Sunday, they reassigned pitchers Jason Gurka and Eddie Gamboa, catcher Audry Perez and infielders Garabez Rosa and Erick Salcedo to minor league camp. Those moves, along with Saturday’s reassignment of lefty Chris Lee, brings Camp Showalter down to a still unwieldy 60.

Salcedo was a longshot for the utility infield job. He impressed with his defense and had four hits in eight at-bats.

“Salcedo can catch the ball. Very intelligent, smart baseball player,” Showalter said. “A guy you can trust, he knows how to play the game.”

Rosa had just three hits in 16 at-bats and wasn’t a real candidate for utility infielder because his defense isn’t particularly strong at any position. His best spot may be first base, which is crowded at the major league level. But Rosa, who has been in the Orioles organization longer than anyone but closer Zach Britton, has always been able to hit.

“I have no doubt that if we brought him up that he would ambush people offensively for a while,” Showalter said. “He just needs to be more selective once guys kind of get a feel for him.”

What’s the word? – “I feel confident that in the next start I’m going to do a better job. So, I’m just concentrating on that right now.” – Gabriel Ynoa on not worrying about one poor outing while competing for a roster spot.

What’s the number? – 8,171. That was the attendance for Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. It was the first sellout in six home games.

What’s the record? – 5-5-1. Not that it matters, but the Orioles don’t have a losing record for the first time this spring. After beating the Red Sox 10-8, the Orioles have now won four straight – and haven’t lost in March. They’ll get a day off today – their only one in the spring – and then play the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. Hunter Harvey gets the start.

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