New major league roster rules should expand Orioles' options -

Rich Dubroff

New major league roster rules should expand Orioles’ options

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

There are a number of changes to roster rules in Major League Baseball for 2020, and it will be interesting to see how they affect the Orioles.

Much of the attention has centered on a 26-man roster instead of 25. Major league teams will be able to carry a 26th man from Opening Day until September 1, when rosters will expand to 28. But they’ll be limited to 13 pitchers.

Since the Orioles carried 13 pitchers last season, that will mean that they’ll have another position player.

That might affect a player such as outfielder/infielder Stevie Wilkerson, whose versatility was valued last season.

Because he had only three extra position players, one a backup catcher, manager Brandon Hyde wanted a player who could play anywhere, and Wilkerson provided that. Wilkerson hadn’t played the outfield before last season, and he ended up starting in center field more than any other player.

The Orioles hope that Austin Hays, who was impressive at the end of the season, can begin 2020 as their centerfielder.  Wilkerson will have to compete for a roster spot because the team will be able to carry a backup infielder or outfielder.

However, with four bench players, the Orioles could carry a backup catcher, infielder, outfielder and Wilkerson.

A year ago, the Orioles used a franchise-record 58 players. Because of another new rule, they might end up using fewer players.

Last year, teams were allowed to option players to the minor leagues for 10 days before recalling them. This year, pitchers must stay in the minors for 15 days when they’re optioned unless they’re replacing a player on the injured list.


In 2019, the Orioles liberally recalled and optioned pitchers Branden Kline, Evan Phillips and Tanner Scott.

Sometimes, an option was necessary because the bullpen was exhausted. In order for the Orioles to option players for 15 days, they must have multiple pitchers in the minor leagues who are on the 40-man roster.

Players optioned to the minor leagues who are on the minor league injured list remain on the 40-man roster unless the Orioles put them on the 60-day injured list. That saves a roster spot, but the injured player accrues major league service time.

Currently, the Orioles have 21 pitchers and 19 position players on the 40-man roster. That would ordinarily mean eight pitchers on option to the minor leagues.

Pitchers must be placed on the injured list for 15 days in 2020. Last year, Alex Cobb was placed on the 10-day injured list three times in the season’s first month. His first two trips were for fewer than 15 days, and his last one turned out to be for the rest of the season.

Dylan Bundy was also put on the 10-day injured list in July with knee tendinitis. After he served the 10-day minimum, Bundy started again.

Teams won’t be able to use the IL as a precaution for relatively minor injuries in 2020.

Position players can continue to be optioned and placed on the injured list  for 10 days this season.

The 26-man roster will become a 27-man roster for doubleheaders. After September 1, teams will be mandated to carry 28 players. In the past, teams could carry up to 40.

This change would have prevented the Orioles from getting an extended look at Hays last year.

It’s possible that the two extra players in September might be another pitcher and a third catcher, but that doesn’t mean that Adley Rutschman will come up for the last month of the season.

If teams want looks at promising infielders or outfielders for the final month, they might have to remove players from both the 28- and 40-man rosters.

Often teams didn’t place injured players on the IL in September, but now they might have to so that they can see Yusniel Diaz or Ryan McKenna if they’re not with the team before then.

The rule change that’s been talked about most often is the three-batter minimum, where pitchers will have to face at least three batters when entering a game. If they enter the game with an out or two in the inning and quickly end the inning, that satisfies the requirement.

A left-handed reliever such as Paul Fry might be affected by it.

During last month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, Hyde expressed misgivings about the rule. Since spring training games are devoid of strategic moves, we’ll have to wait until Opening Day for its effect.

There’s something else new that should be greeted with universal acceptance. Decisions on replay challenges will be announced and explained by the crew chief, who will be outfitted with a microphone.

Caravan change: The Orioles’ meet and greet at the La Palapa Grill and Cantina in Ellicott City on February 8 from 11 a.m.- 12 p.m., will now be held at the Turf Valley Resort, also in Ellicott City.

General manager Mike Ellias, Hanser Alberto and Brian Roberts will be on hand.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. CalsPals

    January 28, 2020 at 7:41 am

    Dropping from 40 to 28 probably won’t change his mindset, he didn’t really bring up anyone he should have for a prolonged look when rosters expanded, I would say this plays more into his philosophical mindset…we’ll see…go O’s…

  2. J Guy

    January 28, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Put Davis on third and have Moncastle on first. They don’t have a legitimate third baseman,so what’s to lose

    • Aaron5070

      January 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

      I agree with Davis at third, why not…it won’t hurt anything and he still plays so he can’t complain. Plus free up a spot for Mountcastle. He would be a better option at first anyways, he is the future.

    • Bancells Moustache

      January 28, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      I’d agree with this if it didn’t somehow forget the best first baseman on the Orioles roster for 3 years now has been a guy named Mancini. Jeez, what else does this poor man have to do to earn the starting first base gig?

    • WorldlyView

      January 28, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      If Davis continues to hit below .200, he should NOT play anywhere. If that happens, maybe put him on the ‘non-football related injury’ list and hope the League does not right away notice that it’s bogus.
      Could somebody assure me that the O’s have at least 26 MLB-ready players to fill out the roster and frequently overpower opponents.

      • Eastern Sho Joe

        January 28, 2020 at 4:49 pm

        Have there been any recent attempts made to get the waiver for CD to take Adderall again? I know he switched to another medicine, but he clearly still has some type of deficit disorder. He was permitted to take it in the years before his suspension, is there a reason why he can’t take it anymore?

        Whether if it’s his decision or the MLBs, it’s kinda like making someone wear glasses even though contact lenses are what they need.

        I don’t know, but it’s bs. Maybe he’ll rebound in spring training, but if he doesn’t, hopefully he’ll be gone before opening day. We don’t need that negative vibe for another year.

  3. willmiranda

    January 28, 2020 at 10:16 am

    On the three-batter rule, does the end of an inning satisfy it? For example, if a pitcher comes in with no outs and men on base and gets a triple play, is he done? Or, more likely, gets a double play and an out?

  4. Lookouts400

    January 28, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Did not know about the changes to pitchers regarding the injuries and the minors. Good stuff, Rich!

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Thank you, lookouts.

  5. whiterose

    January 28, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Does the microphone on the umpire go over the PA system or to the pressbox with PA announcer relaying to fans?

    Great to have you at the SABR meeting. Enjoyed your talk.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      To the fans, Jeff. Thank you. It was good to meet you.

  6. Bancells Moustache

    January 28, 2020 at 3:27 pm


    Ugh. This ain’t football. It’s never been football. So why do we have to keep trying to turn it into an Eagles-Cowboys game? How exactly does having some umpire awkwardly explain a rule, after having it be awkwardly explained to him from the New York office that is actually making the decision, move the game along? How about this. Crew Chief wears a tablet on his hip. Questionable call, he whips it out, takes a look, sees what he needs to see, signals safe or out and we move on? Better still, how about we look back and notice the current system has been in place for 150 years and the game seems to be doing just fine and do it that way?

    • BirdsCaps

      January 28, 2020 at 11:48 pm

      I could not have said that better Bancells! I also think that Manfred is jealous of Goodell and wants baseball to be like football.

  7. Eastern Sho Joe

    January 28, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Great article Rich, it’s filled with info that will help a lot of us (or me anyway), understand how and why they develop the roster the way they will do.

    Also, if you do another article where you’re answering questions, I have one that I’d like to be considered. It may be a question that you will have to pass on to the web-designer for this page.

    Anyway, is there another option that can be used for ads than the pop-ups that are being used now?

    The pop-ups are on the home page, and on each article page as well, and they’re kind of deceptive because the thumbnail pic loads after the page, but the link is still there. I’ve unintentionally hit the link numerous times before it pops up and have been taken to another page which is very frustrating.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      I am planning a q&a next week, but that’s a question for our publisher, Joe.

    • Steve Cockey

      January 28, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Joe — we’ll do our best to eliminate these ads as much as possible. I really appreciate your feedback.

      • Eastern Sho Joe

        January 28, 2020 at 7:07 pm

        Thank you both for your response.

      • whiterose

        January 29, 2020 at 11:46 am

        Now you can update the pages that were last done in 2016. 😉

  8. Bumble bee

    January 28, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Can’t we just have the best players without salary in the way. Make Davis the most high priced pinch hitter. Mancini at first and our stud player at dh till we trade uggg Mancini for who know what

  9. BirdsCaps

    January 28, 2020 at 11:57 pm

    The rule changes on roster spots (dL and minor league demotion) seem to hurt small mkt clubs more than the big boys (LA Bos NYY). Clubs that have to be “creative” with roster spots are hurt (bal TB KC etc) while high payroll clubs likely don’t have to be quite as clever with their roster. I would imagine that the MLBPA and the large mkt clubs pushed for this rule change. Also, can’t Manfred leave the on the field game alone. I cannot stand the 3 batter rule. It’s just another attempt to make the game more marketable ,even though it reduces strategy to an extent.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 29, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Actually, the elimination of a bloated roster in September hurts the teams with bigger budgets because they have costlier minor leaguers. The 15-day option rule could hurt the Rays because they need optionable pitchers for the opener.

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