Orioles spring training is scheduled to begin a week from Tuesday in Sarasota, Florida, and there are many baseball-related questions to be answered.
On Monday, as I do each month, I answered a selection of Orioles questions from readers. Here are questions I have for manager Brandon Hyde.
What are your plans for Jahmai Jones?
Last week, the Orioles acquired Jones, who can play second, left and center fields, from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Alex Cobb.
I’m curious whether Jones can stick as a possible utility infielder or, if there’s an injury to an outfielder, as an Orioles handyman.
There’s probably room for one utility infielder, and Pat Valaika, who has experience at all four infield spots, would probably be the favorite.
But could Jones make his way on the club?
Do you envision Yolmer Sánchez as your second baseman?
In 2019, the Orioles had several infielders who could play multiple positions. Jonathan Villar started at second and shortstop. Hanser Alberto played second and third. Rio Ruiz and Alberto shared third base starts.
Now, only Ruiz remains, but with Freddy Galvis set to play shortstop, will Sánchez play second regularly or will he be this year’s version of Alberto, starting at second and third?
If Sánchez, who won a Gold Glove in 2019 at second but has substantial experience at third, starts over Ruiz, would Valaika play second? Or could Jones somehow fit in?
How many starting pitchers would you like?
Last week, the Orioles signed Felix Hernández and Wade LeBlanc to minor league contracts to augment John Means, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer.
Jorge López, Bruce Zimmermann and non-roster invitee Thomas Eshelman will also be in camp, as will Rule 5 picks Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells.
Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells will be in camp, too, and there’s always the possibility that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias signs another pitcher or two.
Baumann, Lowther and Wells could have roles like Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann had last year — to pitch early in camp and audition for roles later in 2021. But if the number of spring training games is reduced because of Covid-19, that may cut into their time.
How many of these guys will get starters’ innings in Grapefruit League games? Will it be a five-man rotation?
What about a long reliever?
Eshelman, López and Zimmermann could fit into that role, and would be useful as long men if they’re not in the rotation.
Last year’s 60-game season, which came after the season was put on hold by the pandemic, meant pitchers weren’t as built up as they would be normally and innings limits were closely followed. Will that be the case again this season?
Who might play roles later in the season?
Besides Baumann, Lowther and Wells, there’s Rylan Bannon, who could see some time if there’s an injury at second or third base.
Richie Martin, who’ll have a late start because of surgery to remove his left hamate bone, will probably begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk. He should be an option at shortstop or perhaps elsewhere later in the season.
If either Pedro Severino or Chance Sisco gets hurt, Austin Wynns, who was taken off the 40-man roster late last year, could find his way back.
Elias mentioned catching as an area that he’s satisfied with, and with Adley Rutschman set to start at Double-Bowie, perhaps Rutschman gets a shot if Severino is traded in July.
In the outfield, there are two obvious options — Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna. Chris Shaw, who was taken off the 40-man roster when Freddy Galvis was signed, is another possibility.
Are three left-handed relievers a possibility?
The Orioles already have Paul Fry and Tanner Scott, and they signed veteran Fernando Abad to a minor league deal. Zimmermann is also a left-hander.
There are a number of right-handers who have a shot to begin the season with the Orioles — Shawn Armstrong, Hunter Harvey, Travis Lakins, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate and César Valdez. Armstrong and Valdez don’t have options remaining, and if the team wants to keep a Rule 5 pitcher, there could be some tough decisions.