If health conditions allow and Major League Baseball and the Players Association reach agreement on financial terms for a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, there will be a number of interesting components.
One is roster size. There are reports that there will be a 30-man roster with a 20-player taxi squad.
There are many questions. What will be the makeup of a 30-man roster? When baseball and the Players Association agreed on a 26-man roster for 2020, a limit of 13 pitchers was imposed.
Most teams had been carrying 13 pitchers on a 25-man roster, and it meant adding a position player. With 30 players, would there be a limit of pitchers?
A second training period would likely be between two and three weeks and, because there possibly will be three months between the initial spring training and the restart, conditioning will be different.
Pitchers were building up to Opening Day, which was two weeks away when play was suspended on March 12.
No Oriole starter had completed more than three innings during the 18 days of games. A month from now, John Means, Alex Cobb, Asher Wojciechowski, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone aren’t likely to be ready to pitch much longer than that.
There’s a need for larger pitching staffs. If there’s an 82-game season, managers probably will opt for short starts. Although pitchers have been working out, they can’t replicate game conditions.
What wouldn’t be surprising is the addition of pitchers who appeared to have little chance of making the 26-man squad. Including Trey Mancini, who will start the season on the injured list, the Orioles have 50 players on the spring training roster.
Several of the pitchers were non-roster invitees and seemingly had little chance of making a 26-man roster but could be valuable on a larger roster or a taxi squad. They include Ty Blach, Thomas Eshelman and Chandler Shepherd.
All three started for the Orioles last year and could become long relievers, because managers are likely to be paying even more attention to pitch counts.
Other pitchers not on the 40-man roster who could be helpful include Branden Kline, who made frequent stops between the minor leagues and the Orioles last season, and Rob Zastryzny, who has brief experience in the major leagues.
Kohl Stewart, who was signed as a free agent last December 29 and is on the 40-man roster, could find a way, too.
We don’t know how the option rules will work for a possible revamped season. This season, pitchers were supposed to stay in the minor leagues for 15 days after option, up from 10 last season. They were also supposed to stay on the injured list for 15 days, also up from 10.
Position players could still be recalled from the minors after 10 days and activated from the injured list after 10 days.
With a shorter season and a taxi squad, perhaps more liberal use of options will be permitted.
It seemed as if manager Brandon Hyde had difficult decisions on the final members of his bullpen. Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry, Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey were frontrunners for the first six spots.
The leading candidates for the other two spots included Cody Carroll, non-roster right-hander Eric Hanhold, Travis Lakins, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate and Hector Velazquez, who had been acquired four days before the shutdown and had yet to pitch for the Orioles.
With four extra roster spots and a large taxi squad, many of these pitchers could see action for the Orioles this season.
My biggest question is: Will there be an expansion in the 40-man roster? If there are 50 players, including 20 on the taxi squad, it wouldn’t make any sense for a team to add a non-roster starter or long reliever like Blach, Eshelman, Shepherd or Zastryzny and remove a prospect from the 40-man.
Extra position players on the 30-man could lead to a pinch-running specialist. Cedric Mullins, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, could be a candidate.
The guess here is that there will be special rules for this season on the roster, the schedule and everything else.
If there is a 2020 season, it will be the year of the asterisk.