SARASOTA, Fla.-What’s happening? –Looking to increase their infield depth and add a veteran presence, the Orioles signed 32-year-old Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.
Escobar, an 11-year major league veteran, had been with the Kansas City Royals from 2011-18. Perhaps his most impressive trait is his durability. He’s played at least 140 games in each of his last nine seasons, and played the full 162-game schedule in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
A .258 lifetime hitter, Escobar hit .231 with four home runs and 34 RBIs in 2018.
Escobar is expected compete for the starting shortstop job with Richie Martin, who was the first selection in the Rule 5 draft.
“Alcides Escobar will add a great veteran option to the middle infield competition we have brought into this camp. We are looking forward to having him join us here in Sarasota and enter the mix,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said in a statement.
Escobar’s addition gives the Orioles 62 players on their spring training roster.
The first Grapefruit League game is on Feb. 23, and manager Brandon Hyde is eager for the competition to begin.
“I was just thinking about it,” Hyde said. “Once you get through those live [batting practices], you’re really ready for games to start. You’ve been out here for 10, 11, 12 days, and it’s time to start seeing another jersey. At this point, it’s going to come quick, but when that day comes, you are ready for it to happen.”
What’s happened?—Position players continued to arrive a day ahead of today’s mandatory report day. Among Saturday arrivals were third baseman Renato Nunez, outfielder DJ Stewart, minor league infielders Ryan Mountcastle and Jack Reinheimer and minor league outfielder Yusniel Diaz.
Diaz was the biggest name the Orioles acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Manny Machado last July.
In 38 games with Double-A Bowie, Diaz hit .238 with five home runs and 15 RBIs.
“The whole purpose for me being here is to try and make the team, from the very beginning, make the roster, get along my teammates, help my team,” Diaz said through a translator. “That is the whole purpose of my being here.”
Just before the Orioles acquired him, Diaz hit two home runs in the Futures Game. He hit .314 with Double-A Tulsa but didn’t continue his strong hitting with the Baysox.
“I didn’t feel disappointed,” Diaz said. “Unfortunately, those are the kind of things that happen in baseball, the ups and downs, but I’m looking forward to having a good spring training.”“
What’s up with? –Richie Martin. He’s one of the Orioles Tampa-area contingent along with Mychal Givens and minor league left-hander Chris Lee.
Martin faces competition from Escobar to make the team. Because he had been the first overall selection in the Rule 5 draft, Martin was thought to have a good chance to make the Orioles.
“I didn’t really know what the process was. I wasn’t that familiar with the Rule 5 draft,” Martin said. “To say I knew I was going to be picked early, that wouldn’t be the truth.”
What’s what? – The addition of Escobar gives the Orioles 13 players who can play second, short and third.
There are only four players who have yet to report, and three are infielders: Hanser Alberto, Jonathan Villar and Steve Wilkerson. Outfielder Eric Young Jr is the fourth.
Martin, Nunez, fellow Rule 5 draft pick Drew Jackson and Rio Ruiz are the other infield hopefuls on the 40-man.
Other non-roster infield hopefuls are Mountcastle, Reinheimer, Chris Bostick, Jace Peterson and Zach Vincej.
What’s the word? – “The most [important factor] to me is how well we play and the effort we give. That’s going to be my thing all camp is the effort in the games, how we prepare for the game. It’s not going to be the result of the game, how we played throughout. Were we prepared? Did we compete in the game? Spring training games are a coin toss on how things can go.”-Brandon Hyde on what he’s looking for during spring games.
What’s the number? Zero. That’s the number of intrasquad games that the Orioles are scheduled to play. Under former manager Buck Showalter, the Orioles played an intrasquad game or two just before the beginning of the Grapefruit League schedule. Sometimes those games were played in Ed Smith Stadium.
Hyde said he thinks there are a sufficient number of scheduled spring games to judge players without adding unscheduled ones.