Orioles' bullpen candidates include familiar faces; Luhnow's graceless statement; Question time - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ bullpen candidates include familiar faces; Luhnow’s graceless statement; Question time

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]

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Camden Brooks

    January 14, 2020 at 7:26 am

    I’m not sure I buy what Luhnow is selling. While I guess it is possible he was unaware, I don’t see MLB booting him for a year without some sort of evidence that contradicts his statement. As a side note, I’d also like to hear from Pete Rose regarding the punishments.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      January 14, 2020 at 7:34 am

      Ever heard Pete interviewed? About as bright as a bag of rocks.

    • Hyp81

      January 14, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Him being unaware is about as likely as Belichick being unaware of all their illicit activities.

    • Camden Brooks

      January 14, 2020 at 8:39 am

      My point being is that this manager cheats and gets a 1-year suspension, while Rose gets a lifetime ban for betting on his own team.

      • Bancells Moustache

        January 14, 2020 at 10:26 am

        Rose has done more for baseball sitting at his house pissed off than he ever could have done in Cooperstown. Have you heard even a whiff of gambling controversy in the ensuing 30 years? Pete knew the consequences, broke the rules anyway, lied about it, and was made an example of.

        Also, everyone says he only bet on his team to win because… well, he said so. Yeah, ok…

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          January 14, 2020 at 11:19 am

          Whether or not Pete only bet on his own team is irrelevant when you consider the following ….

          If Pete continually bet only on his own team … logic dictates that when he didn’t bet on his own team .. he was in essence betting against them.

        • Baltimore Castaway

          January 14, 2020 at 6:59 pm

          Thank you Mr. Bancells Moustache!!! You nailed the central issue w Pete Rose….

          Brilliantly stated.


          The stress of pinning Rose down with all his shenanigans likely cost the life of one of the greatest Commissioners the game has ever had in Bart Giamatti.

    • CalsPals

      January 14, 2020 at 2:43 pm

      MLB network has good articles on this, as well as ESPN today, they didn’t go into specific details, but they did mention two emails that implied he knew & did nothing…go O’s…

  2. In The Triangle

    January 14, 2020 at 8:17 am

    If it didn’t stop at “lower-level employees working with the bench coach” how far into management does it reach? If this involves management, this quickly starts to hit close to home for Orioles’ fans.

    I’m hoping that Luhnow had a “don’t tell Mike and Sig policy”.

  3. OrangeBird21

    January 14, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I know Elias and our former Astros are not implicated in this mess, but you must admit Elias picked a good time to rocket out of Houston

    • Bancells Moustache

      January 14, 2020 at 10:28 am

      Nice wordplay!

    • CalsPals

      January 14, 2020 at 2:45 pm

      Awful coincidental…go O’s…

  4. willmiranda

    January 14, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Question: How do you distinguish cheating from analytics? Follow up: Why is it that the kind of people good at one are so good at the other? Finally: Why is it that people who are wildly praised for being smart and knowing everything always claim not to know what’s going on in their own kitchens?

  5. Bancells Moustache

    January 14, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Wow. I thought the hammer would fall, but didn’t expect Manfred to go straight to the nukes. No doubt Alex Cora is hiding in an underground bunker with plenty of bottled water and Spam.

  6. Shamus

    January 14, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    Is Elias invoked in that Houston scandal?

  7. Shamus

    January 14, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    I meant to type involved

  8. WorldlyView

    January 14, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Please help me out on how sign stealing works. Let’s assume the opposing pitcher is ready to deliver a pitch within seconds of getting the sign from his catcher. How is there enough time for the following sequence? The spotter needs to process the finger movement, and send the right signal to someone, presumably in the dugout. The latter then needs to react and send a signal to the batter. Finally, the batter needs time to 1) refocus his attention from listening (?) for the signal, 2) adjust his batting stance, and 3) concentrate on the pitcher’s motion.
    And if the signal is a sound, wouldn’t it become totally obvious after a couple of innings? I don’t doubt there was sign stealing, I’m just too slow to understand the physics of making it effective.
    On a different subject, has ANY of the Waiver Wire wonders signed and then waived to make room for a new WWW? If not, what does this say about the current state of the rebuild?

    • Bancells Moustache

      January 14, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      The signal used was the banging of a bat on a trash can, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t do it every single pitch, for the very reason it would be too obvious. The sign-stealing isn’t necessarily a massive advantage, it does take skill to adjust to the signaling, however we are talking about elite Major League hitters here. While it’s no guarantee of success, being aware of whether an off-speed pitch or fastball is coming does confer an advantage to the hitter. I think people saying the Championship needs to be vacated are silly, it’s awfully hard to hit Major League pitching, let alone win a World Series even WITH a slight advantage, but they still crossed the line and had to be brought to heel.

  9. WorldlyView

    January 14, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Omitted words in next to last sentence of previous posting: “for a new www BEEN SIGNED BY ANOTHER MLB TEAM? if not…

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      The Orioles have second choice of all major league teams on the waiver wire. Sometimes, they’re claiming a player, knowing that they’ll probably have to take him off when they sign or acquire another player. They guess, usually correctly, that they’ll be able to get a certain player through waivers so that they can add him to their minor league system. They lost Joey Rickard on waivers to the Giants last season. They also lost Keon Broxton to Seattle, and most notably, lost Hanser Alberto to the Giants, only to claim him a week later.

  10. BirdsCaps

    January 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    Am I the only one that sees Hinch/Luhnow being signed by Elias in a year or two? Obviously, on a utilitarian level it would be a boost in organizational talent. However, both of them turned a blind eye to actions that damaged the history and statistics of the game, much like the PED users. I think both should work again ( and Luhnow did put too much blame on nameless/faceless underlings), but I would urge HOF voters to not vote either into the hall even if their careers eventually become hall worthy. With that said, I would be a little disappointed if the birds signed either.

    • ClayDal

      January 14, 2020 at 9:16 pm

      You are forgetting that John and Lou Angelos still own the team. If the Orioles can turn this around and be successful in a few years, the last thing they would want is to bring in distractions such as Luhnow and Hinch. If the Orioles are still floundering in 2-3 years, Elias won’t be able to hire them because he won’t be here either.

      • BirdsCaps

        January 15, 2020 at 1:22 am

        The team may not be awful in 2-3 yrs, but I doubt that they will be winners at that point. It would not shock me if a team (not necessarily the birds) signs one of the two in about two yrs. People have very short memories (sometimes to a fault). For example look at Arod. there was a 60 minutes special where Selig presented facts that ruined Arods image.Now (with a lot of help from JLo), he has a seat at Mlb/fox’s baseball discussion table. So he went from persona non grata to a retired superstar in less than a decade.

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