DUNEDIN, Florida—Fifteen days from today, the Orioles open their season. There’s still plenty of roster trimming to do.
After Tuesday night’s game, in which left-hander Keegan Akin gave up a three-run home run and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles had 54 players on their spring training roster, 28 more than the 26-player limit.
Pitcher Evan Phillips and outfielder DJ Stewart are headed to the injured list. It’s probably Trey Mancini will, too, after leaving the team last weekend for a non-baseball medical procedure. Phillips is resting a sore right elbow, and Stewart hasn’t played while recovering from ankle surgery in October.
For now, the top two starters are John Means, who threw a simulated game in Sarasota on Wednesday morning, and Alex Cobb, who was scheduled for start against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers Thursday night but will throw in Sarasota instead because a blister on the middle finger of his right hand. He also missed time because of a blister on his middle finger in 2018.
Asher Wojciechowski, who’s listed as Friday’s starter against Toronto, and Wade LeBlanc, who’ll pitch the home half of a split-squad doubleheader against Pittsburgh on Saturday night, appear to have secured rotation spots, too.
The candidates for the fifth starter spot are left-hander Tommy Milone, who’s had only one two-inning start because of a sore trapezius muscle; Kohl Stewart, who’ll make his second start in the other half of the split-squad on Saturday night against Atlanta in North Port; and Thomas Eshelman, Wednesday’s starter.
A bigger competition exists among relievers. With eight spots, Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey, both scheduled to pitch Wednesday, Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro and Paul Fry are pitching well enough to think they’re likely to go north.
With two available spots, Hector Velázquez, who’s yet to pitch since being claimed on waivers from Boston Sunday, has a good chance. Cody Carroll, with six scoreless innings, Eric Hanhold, who had five scoreless innings entering his scheduled Wednesday outing, and Branden Kline, who has thrown 5 2/3 innings without giving up a run, could factor into the competition.
“We have a lot of guys throwing the ball well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Which is what we were hoping for. Hopefully, we come down to the last few days and have some really tough decisions. That means that things are going well.”
Hanhold and Kline aren’t on the 40-man roster but room could be made for them. Travis Lakins, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate are on the 40-man and could make late pushes.
Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco seem to be leading the catcher’s race. Austin Wynns and non-roster veteran Bryan Holaday are also possibilities.
Chris Davis, Hanser Alberto, José Iglesias, Rio Ruiz and Renato Nunez have infield spots. In the outfield, there’s Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, and assuming Mancini isn’t ready, Dwight Smith Jr.
Ryan Mountcastle probably will begin his season at Triple-A Norfolk, and there are probably three spots up for grabs.
Pat Valaika, Andrew Velázquez and Cedric Mullins seem to be ahead for the utility roles, although Dilson Herrera, José Rondon, Richard Urena and Mason Williams are still on hand.
Of the seven, only Velázquez and Mullins are on the 40-man. Ramón Urias is on the 40-man roster but shin splints have forced him to miss valuable time.