The Orioles’ designated 44 players for their 60-man summer training roster on Sunday, and the list contained a few surprises.
Perhaps the biggest was the addition of right-handed pitcher César Valdez, who was signed to a minor league contract on January 10 but didn’t receive an invitation to major league spring training.
However, Valdez was regularly brought to games as an emergency pitcher and performed well, striking out nine and walking none in five scoreless innings.
The 35-year-old Valdez has a 2-3 record and 7.64 ERA in 20 major league games with Arizona, Oakland and Toronto.
His major league debut came more than 10 years ago on May 3, 2010 but he didn’t return to the big leagues until 2017.
Last year, Valdez sparkled in the Mexican League, going 15-2 with a 2.26 ERA for Yucatan and had a 1.11 ERA in 40 2/3 innings in the Dominican Winter League.
Because Valdez has so little service time, he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season, when he’ll be 40.
The Orioles have a number of pitchers vying for bullpen spots, including Cody Carroll, Travis Lakins, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate, all of whom are on the 40-man roster.
Besides Valdez, the Orioles have seven other non-roster pitchers: Ty Blach, Thomas Eshelman, Eric Hanhold, Branden Kline, Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Milone, Chandler Shepherd and Rob Zastryzny. LeBlanc and Milone are expected to be in the starting rotation.
One pitcher who apparently is not in the mix for a bullpen spot is Evan Phillips, who was expected to miss significant time with a sore right elbow when camp ended in March. Phillips was omitted from the 44-man list, but unlike Trey Mancini, was not placed on the 60-day injured list.
The only non-roster position players on the initial list were catcher Bryan Holaday and infielders Dilson Herrera, Pat Valaika and Stevie Wilkerson.
Outfielder Mason Williams, who was thought to have a good chance to make the Opening Day roster, was not on the initial list. Sixteen players can be added in the coming days. Some, including left-handers Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann, right-hander Dean Kremer, infielder/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Yusniel Diaz have a realistic chance to play for the Orioles at some point in the 60-game season.
Others, including left-hander DL Hall, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and catcher Adley Rutschman, won’t play for the Orioles this season but will benefit from intensive instruction from the higher minor league staff.
While the 44 will train at Oriole Park, the others, presumably including catcher Taylor Davis and infielder Richard Urena, will train at either Aberdeen, Bowie or Frederick.
The first players are scheduled to report Wednesday for Covid-19 testing, and the workouts won’t begin until Friday when pitchers and catchers start practicing.
It’s not known when the 60-game schedule will be released or if the Orioles will begin play on July 23 or 24.
Draft pick signings: On Saturday, the Orioles signed two of their draft choices — infielder Jordan Westburg from Mississippi State, the 30th overall pick in the competitive balance round, and outfielder Hudson Haskin from Tulane, their second-round pick. He was the 39th overall pick.
Westburg received a reported $2.365,500 bonus while Haskin’s is reportedly $1,906,800.
Earlier this month, the Orioles reached reported agreements with their fourth-round pick, Florida high school third baseman Coby Mayo, for a reported $1.75 million, and fifth-round pick, Iowa high school right-handed pitcher Carter Baumler, whose agreement is for a reported $1.5 million.
The Orioles have yet to announce the Mayo and Baumler signings, but they made Mayo available in a Zoom call. Baumler was not made available.
First-round pick Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstand and third-round pick Mississippi infielder Anthony Servideo have yet to reach agreements with the Orioles.
What’s missing? The Orioles were scheduled to hold a 50th anniversary schedule for their 1970 World Series championship team on August 7.
That celebration appears to be another casualty of the pandemic-marred season.
In 2010, at the 40th anniversary celebration, Brooks Robinson remarked that he was afraid that would probably be the last time he’d see some of his former teammates and, sadly, that’s been true.
Since then, Don Baylor, Paul Blair, Andy Etchebarren, Tom Phoebus and Frank Robinson have died.
In addition to Brooks, Don Buford, Terry Crowley, Bobby Grich, Dick Hall, Davey Johnson, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Pete Richert, Merv Rettenmund and Eddie Watt are alive.
The Orioles are hoping another celebration can arranged when the pandemic abates.