The Orioles’ debut of John Andreoli on Tuesday didn’t exactly make national headlines. The 28-year-old minor league veteran, claimed on waivers from Seattle on Saturday, figures to get a tryout as a backup outfielder for Baltimore as the season winds down.
Still, Andreoli’s arrival brings the Orioles one step closer to breaking a club record that dates back to the 1950s.
Andreoli became the 52nd different player to make an appearance in an Orioles’ uniform this year. (That number would be 53 if right-hander Hunter Harvey, who was called up for two days in early April, had gotten onto the mound with the Orioles.) That already tops the 50 players the club employed in 2017, and it’s only mid-August.
With September roster expansion coming soon, the rebuilding Orioles figure to take a look at several youngsters from their system, likely increasing that player count even more. Possible candidates include Triple-A Norfolk outfielder DJ Stewart and pitchers Luis Gonzalez, John Means, Luis Ortiz and Josh Rogers, as well as Double-A Bowie reliever Branden Kline, outfielder Austin Hays and maybe even infielder Ryan Mountcastle.
If the Orioles add three more players who haven’t already appeared with them this year, they’ll break the franchise record for most players used in a single season (54 in 1955).
The Orioles might not finish with the league lead in players used; they’re currently well behind the injury-decimated Los Angeles Angels (57). And they definitely won’t approach the major league record of 64, held by the 2014 Texas Rangers.
Still, 52 — and counting — is a lot of players to cycle through in a year’s time. It marks only the fourth time in Orioles’ history they’ve used 52 or more.
Here’s a look at the other three times it’s happened.
Number of players: 52 (27 hitters, 25 pitchers)
Most games played: Adam Jones, 162
Fewest games played: Jason Berken, 1
Random names from the roster: Luis Exposito, Ronny Paulino, Stu Pomeranz, Miguel Socolovich
There was a time when employing more than four dozen players was a sure sign that a team was kind of lousy. The constant personnel shuffling was often a sign that a large chunk of the roster wasn’t performing up to expectations and the club was throwing everything against the wall to see what stuck. Indeed, the first three times the Orioles used 50 or more players in a year, all were losing seasons.
That all changed in Baltimore when Dan Duquette took the reins as executive vice president of baseball operations. In 2012, Duquette’s first season with the Orioles, he and manager Buck Showalter installed a revolving-door roster approach that proved you could cycle through dozens of players and still have a successful year. In fact, the club’s use of the “Norfolk shuttle” — calling up pitchers from the minors for a day or two, then sending them back down for fresher arms — kept the bullpen from getting overtaxed and contributed to the Orioles’ stellar relief work. The club went 93-69, making the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
The Orioles had 13 players who appeared in 10 games or fewer. Among them were veteran journeymen who could easily be jettisoned from the roster when they didn’t pan out (such as J.C. Romero, Bill Hall and Randy Wolf) as well as minor leaguers who got a brief cup of coffee in the bigs (most prominently, 19-year-old top prospect Dylan Bundy, who made two relief appearances at the end of the season).
Number of players: 52 (26 hitters, 26 pitchers)
Most games played: Jones/Chris Davis/Nick Markakis, 160 each
Fewest games played: Mike Belfiore/Zach Clark/L.J. Hoes, 1 each
Random names from the roster: Jairo Asencio, Alex Burnett, Travis Ishikawa, Dan Johnson
In Duquette’s second season, the Orioles again used exactly 52 players, and it was a perfectly even split between hitters and pitchers. More than half of those — 28 — were holdovers from the previous year.
Although the Orioles had a winning season (85-77), their rotation was a total mess, with Chris Tillman the only hurler to make at least 30 starts. The club used a whopping 14 different starting pitchers, with luminaries such as Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens and Josh Stinson getting starts.
On the offensive end, the club had a durable core of hitters, with seven regulars playing at least 146 games, but a litany of replaceable bench players poked their heads up for ever-so-short stints. Nine played fewer than 10 games, including injured veteran Wilson Betemit (six) and third-string catchers Chris Snyder (nine) and Steve Clevenger (four). One name stands out among that group: rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who had a five-game introduction to the majors.
The Orioles, in an ultimately fruitless attempt to grab a postseason berth, made a number of midseason acquisitions that didn’t work out, most notably reliever Francisco Rodriguez and injured first baseman Michael Morse.
Number of players: 54 (31 hitters, 23 pitchers)
Most games played: Willy Miranda, 153
Fewest games played: Bob Harrison/Roger Marquis, 1 each
Random names from the roster: Harry Byrd, Chuck Locke, Kal Segrist, Wally Westlake
The “random names from the roster” list probably could’ve been much longer — nobody but the most die-hard fans would recognize many players from this early, unremarkable Orioles club.
The franchise, in its second year after moving to Baltimore, worked to cast off the last vestiges of the St. Louis Browns. At the start of the 1955 season, only five holdovers remained who had accompanied the Browns to their new home city in Sept. 1953. By the end of 1955, none were left, although they did reacquire Miranda, who’d had two previous stints with the Browns.
While the Orioles wanted to make a fresh imprint on the structure of the club, they struggled to find capable players to fill out the roster. They cast an extremely wide net, bringing in past-their-prime veterans — including 38-year-old infielder Hank Majewski and 37-year-old lefty Eddie Lopat — as well as a slew of youngsters. All told, 14 players made their major league debuts for the 57-97 Orioles that season, which still stands as a club record.
Four 18-year-olds played for the Orioles that year. One was Marquis, who had one plate appearance and never played again in his career. Another, who started six games in September, was a third baseman from Little Rock by the name of Brooks Robinson. Things turned out just fine for him.