The Orioles have filled 55 spots in their 60-man player pool. There could be two more openings if left-handed pitcher Ty Blach, who had Tommy John surgery on July 15, and utilityman Steve Wilkerson, who broke a finger, are removed from the player pool
In a video conference call on Sunday, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that Wilkerson, whose left ring finger was fractured in summer training, could be sidelined for the 60-game season. Blach and Wilkerson are on minor league contracts. The team will meet Monday to discuss possible additions, Elias said.
Taking priority, though, is an outbreak of the coronavirus on the Marlins, the team the Orioles are scheduled to play next in Miami after the team won two of three games in its opening series in Boston. Monday’s game has been canceled, according to reports, after four Marlins players tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend and the team didn’t return home from its weekend trip in Philadelphia.
Elias didn’t know he would be dealing with an issue that threatens the season so soon.
“I think we wanted to see how this early part of the season went with respect to keeping spots that are devoted to major league depth,” he said.
“Obviously, we have a lot more prospects that we would love to get there. That list is long and we’re itching to get those guys there as much as possible. But we’ll also have to be very concerned and mindful of making sure that we have the depth necessary to navigate any major league season but particularly this one, where the possibility of losing a lot of players very suddenly is greater than normal.”
The Bowie alternate site roster has nine players, two of whom, catcher Bryan Holaday and utilityman Dilson Herrera, are on the Orioles’ three-man taxi squad and with the team for its series in Miami.
There are 11 pitchers at Bowie, and one of them, Thomas Eshelman, is also on the taxi squad.
The most prominent names who could be added include left-handed pitcher Bruce Zimmermann, who was with the Orioles in spring training and was set to start against Minnesota on March 12 when baseball was shut down by Covid-19, and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the team’s top draft pick in 2018.
Elias hasn’t made plans to add any of this year’s six draft choices.
“Obviously, we’re considering everyone in our organization,” Elias said, “but it’s a tight squeeze and we’ve got to choose, so we’ll just kind of see where that takes us.”
Kremer waits at Bowie: One of the top pitching prospects in the organization is right-hander Dean Kremer, who was obtained from the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2018 in the Manny Machado trade.
Kremer has a strong chane of getting a call from Baltimore.
“Not playing in general sucks,” Kremer said in a video conference call. “I’d like to think that I’ve taken advantage of the time I had home, being built up. I had a facility to work out at, to be able to throw live to guys. I definitely didn’t take that time to time to take off … It wasn’t wasted.”
Other than pitching to the handful of hitters at Bowie, Kremer hasn’t faced strong competition since spring training. He did face some college hitters at home in Stockton, California during the break.
“I actually feel like I’ve gotten better,” he said. “I’ve been able to focus on what I need to focus without having the [pressure] of being in a game, without being afraid of having damage done. There are no stats. I can go out there. I’ve been facing hitters since I went home. I was able to get feedback from them as well.”
Buck Britton, who managed Kremer when he played for the Baysox in 2019, thinks he’s close to taking the next step.
“It’s that breaking ball that he’s got,” Britton said. “He’s got a big breaking ball, and he tunnels that with his fastball at the top of the strike zone.
“Dean’s got to locate. He’s got a pretty good fastball. He’s a guy that’s got to mix his stuff up. He’s got a slider that’s pretty good, but I think for him, it was landing that curveball for strikes and then being able to put guys away with that breaking ball down. If Dean has got that breaking ball working, he can be a tough guy to hit.”
Working in these conditions can be difficult, but Kremer has taken the assignment seriously.
“Granted it’s intrasquads, and you’re working on what you want to work on,” he said. “There’s no real consequences to throwing bad or throwing well. You just need to be able to take it serious and get out of it what you want to get out of it.
“It’s hard to replace that competitive nature where you have a guy you don’t know in the box or an umpire necessarily. It’s got to come from within yourself rather than from outside factors like crowds and stuff like that.”