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.