Front end of the bullpen
Even with closer Zach Britton on the shelf for the first two months of the season, the Orioles have four sports claimed in the bullpen, barring injury: Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day and lefty Richard Bleier. That leaves three openings in a conventional, seven-man pen. At least one of the losers in the starting rotation battle will end up in the bullpen, and maybe two if the Orioles feel they are better with Castro revisiting his long-man role from 2017. If Castro ends up in the minors to get more exposure as a starter, however, then the fifth-starter runner-up (Cortes, in my opinion) will be joined by two more pitchers to fill out the bullpen. I’m getting the growing sense that one will be Rule 5 right-hander Pedro Araujo, who has electric stuff and has overshadowed the club’s third Rule 5 pick from this winter, Jose Mesa Jr. My sense is the Orioles send Mesa back to the Yankees, and keep Cortes and Araujo, who was selected from the Chicago Cubs. That would leave a knock-down, drag-out for one final relief spot among a cast of hundreds including Castro, Ynoa, Jimmy Yacabonis, Donnie Hart, Josh Edgin, Asher Wojciechowski and Joely Rodriguez. A left-hander wins the tiebreaker and Rodriguez is a power arm that has pitched in the majors each of the past two seasons with the Phillies, so he may be the favorite here. Edgin also has experience and has made a good impression so far. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles added a free-agent to this mix or to the rotation, which, in that case, would then push Wright to the bullpen.
My projected winners: Cortes, Araujo and Castro or Rodriguez