A day after the Orioles promoted one of their top prospects, outfielder/first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, they continued to make roster moves.
On Saturday they designated Dwight Smith Jr. for assignment and selected the contract of outfielder Mason Williams, 29, from the Bowie alternate site.
Smith, who hit .222 with two home runs and six RBIs in 21 games, joined the Orioles on March 8, 2019 when Toronto traded him for international bonus slot money. He had a slow start to the season after testing positive for Covid-19 when he reported in early July and played in none of the three exhibition games.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that the move was intended to stabilize the roster because of injuries to centerfielder Austin Hays (fractured rib) and shortstop José Iglesias (sore quadriceps muscle).
“Having Mason with the team along with Ryan Mountcastle will give us a versatile defensive option,” Elias said in a video conference call on Saturday. “Can play a legit center field and a left-handed bat off the bench.
“Dwight Smith is somebody we have a lot of affection for and has had some really good runs since joining the organization last spring training. There’s a lot of promise in his bat and, selfishly, we hope he’ll remain with the organization after this designation period.”
The Orioles have 58 players in their 60-man player pool.
Elias said that Mountcastle needed to work on his defense in left field before coming to the majors.
“We wanted him to be the type of guy that when he gets promoted to the big leagues, he’s here to stay,” Elias said. “We wanted to make sure that we gave him a good chance of that being the case. It may be the case. We hope it’s the case. It may not. If not, it’s not the end of the world. We always hope for that when you bring up a player of his caliber, he’s able to stay put.
“We wanted him to get as many repetitions as we can in left field … With the lack of a minor league season this year, it made for a very strange calculus. We wanted him to work on the offensive development goals [better plate discipline] we had for him this year, but there were no real games to be played and, at some point, it’s in his best interests to go see some other uniforms. We felt this was the time for that. We understand and expect that he’s still developing. He’s still one of the youngest players  in the big leagues now. There’s going to be ups and downs …
“We feel he’s in a decent enough spot in terms of his comfort in left field to at least survive out there right now. He might surprise us. He’s a good athlete, he’s a good baseball player. Getting the real in-game repetitions will be great for him. He performed well at Bowie. He walked a lot more than he struck out.”
Elias said the Orioles could add additional prospects.
“Any of the guys that are at Bowie right now that are upper-level, Double-A, Triple-A guys, they all have a chance to get called up this year.”
Left-hander Keegan Akin was with the team for a week earlier this month and made his major league debut out of the bullpen. Elias expects him to return, but he isn’t sure in what role. He’s viewed as a potential starting pitcher in the long term.
Dean Kremer, who pitched with Bowie and Norfolk last year, is another possibility.
“Kremer’s knocking on the door, too,” Elias said. “He’s throwing well at the alternate site. He had a really minor groin thing that slowed him down, and he’s still kind of building back up. I just saw him [Friday]. He threw four innings and looked good. We could see him, but we just have to see how things go.
“Any of those guys that played at Bowie last year or played a good chunk at Bowie last year or higher need to be ready,” Elias said. “Those guys on the upper levels, they’re all on our radar screen.”
The trade deadline is August 31st.
“It could be that nothing happens,” Elias said. “It could be that we make three or four trades. I don’t know yet. We’re certainly talking and working on it.
“We’re still listening on players that are on our major league roster if it makes sense for our future and next year and the broader picture. We’re not extra motivated to do anything.”
Elias said there has been no talk about shutting down first baseman Chris Davis, who was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday with a left knee injury. Davis is hitting .122 and has become a part-time player for the Orioles.