Four weeks from now, when pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Florida, many familiar names will be competing for roster spots.
The competition with the most familiar names is in the bullpen. It’s conceivable that the Orioles’ eight-man bullpen, and we’re assuming that for now, will consist of players who pitched for the 2019 team.
It probably won’t happen because there are some newcomers, and it’s likely that general manager Mike Elias will add candidates in the next 28 days.
Elias could sign another potential starter or two, which could increase the bullpen jockeying because some of the current starter hopefuls could slide into the ‘pen.
The current candidates for the rotation are Alex Cobb, John Means, Asher Wojciechowski, Kohl Stewart, who was signed to a major league contract on December 29, and Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey.
If a veteran or two is added, perhaps Bailey or Stewart will get pushed into the bullpen.
Prospects Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer will be in spring training, but both are likely to begin 2020 in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation.
The bullpen names are familiar. Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry and Mychal Givenswere were the top five in appearances last season.
David Hess, who began the season in the starting rotation, could be in the bullpen again. So could Branden Kline, Evan Phillips and Tanner Scott. They each spent chunks of time with the Orioles and Norfolk in 2019 and could do the same this year.
However, the new rule that a pitcher optioned to the minors must stay there for a minimum of 15 days, up from 10, could reduce the shuffling.
The most exciting bullpen addition of last season was Hunter Harvey, and the Orioles’ hope is that having completed a healthy season for the first time as a professional, he can do it at the major league level in 2020.
Dillon Tate is another reliever who could come north with the Orioles.
Then, there’s Michael Rucker, the Orioles’ other Rule 5 pick. He has scant experience above Double-A and although it seems unlikely that the Orioles will keep Bailey and Rucker as starters, they could keep Bailey as a starter and Rucker as a reliever.
Cole Sulser, whom the Orioles claimed on waivers from Tampa Bay, is an intriguing name. A 29-year-old Dartmouth graduate, Sulser pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings for the Rays last season.
The Orioles also claimed pitchers Marcos Diplán and Eric Hanhold.
Diplán, who was waived when the Orioles signed Stewart, cleared and is still their property. He’s never pitched above Double-A and wasn’t a contender to make the team out of spring training. He still could get a spring training invitation.
Hanhold was designated for assignment when shortstop José Iglesias was signed, and he cleared waivers on Monday. Hanhold made three major league appearances with the New York Mets in 2018.
Another familiar name is Cody Carroll, who had a back injury. He logged just two innings in a rehab assignment at Gulf Coast before moving on to the Arizona Fall League.
Carroll is unlikely to break camp with the Orioles, but if he’s healthy, is likely to log some time in the majors.
The Orioles haven’t announced their non-roster spring training invites, but when they signed 12 players to minor league contracts early last month, there were several who could be in Sarasota.
Hunter Cervenka, a left-hander who had a 2.25 ERA in nine games for Norfolk last season, is an outside contender to make the team.
Cervenka has major league experience with Atlanta and Miami. Another left-hander, Rob Zastryzny, who appeared in 18 games with the Chicago Cubs from 2016-18 when manager Brandon Hyde was there, also could get a look.
Astros penalized for sign-stealing: The year-long suspension by commissioner Rob Manfred and subsequent firing by Houston Astros owner Jim Crane of general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch should serve as a deterrent against future electronic sign-stealing.
Luhnow posted a graceless statement, accepting responsibility but denying knowledge of the gambit, blaming it on “lower-level employees working with the bench coach.”
The Astros’ bench coach in 2017 was Alex Cora, currently the Boston Red Sox manager and facing the likelihood of similarly harsh penalties.
Answering your questions: This week, I’ll be answering your questions. Please leave them in the comment box or email them to: [email protected]