The Orioles’ final Grapefruit League game is in just eight days, and it seems that each day there are new factors that complicate the makeup of the 26-man roster for the April 1st opener at Boston.
When outfielder DJ Stewart hurt his right hamstring on March 5th, manager Brandon Hyde reported that it was a tweak and that Stewart wouldn’t miss much time. Never underestimate a hamstring injury. Stewart hasn’t returned and, with just eight spring training at-bats, time is running out. A spot on the 26-man roster is unlikely.
Relief pitcher Hunter Harvey has already been placed on the 60-day injured list because of a strained left oblique. Chris Davis might be headed there. He has had just two at-bats, coming in the first exhibition game on February 28th, because of a back injury. If he’s put on the 60-day injured list, that will open another spot on the 40-man roster.
One opened this week when right-hander Ashton Goudeau was claimed on waivers by the San Francisco Giants. Veteran right-hander Matt Harvey, who pitched well on Saturday night (one run, one hit in four innings), will have to be added to the major league roster.
Another veteran right-hander, Félix Hernández, would have to be added, too, but he might not be ready to start the season because of discomfort in his right elbow. Hernández, Matt Harvey and left-hander Wade LeBlanc were signed to minor league contracts and would all have to be added to the 40-man roster.
“I still think we have a lot of question marks, so it’s not just one specific area,” Hyde said. “I think we have question marks [in] the rotation. We have question marks [in the] bullpen. We have question marks as it comes to some of our extra infielders. I think we have a lot of things to still finalize before we leave.”
Assuming John Means, Dean Kremer and Harvey are the first three starters, that leaves Keegan Akin, who pitched in an intrasquad game on Saturday, for one spot and either LeBlanc, Jorge López or Bruce Zimmermann for the last—assuming the Orioles go with five starters.
LeBlanc helped himself with three hitless innings against Pittsburgh on Friday. López hurt himself when he gave up three home runs in a seven-run third inning on Sunday.
Zimmermann, who pitched five innings in an intrasquad on Friday, has nine scoreless innings this spring, allowing just one hit.
If López doesn’t make the team, he’ll go on waivers because he’s out of minor league options.
The two Rule 5 picks, Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, who seemed like long shots in the early days of camp, made a strong case for themselves with two shutout innings each on Saturday night against the New York Yankees.
Sceroler, who appeared to put himself behind the others on March 5th when he gave up five runs and recorded one out against Toronto, allowed one hit against the Yankees. Wells has allowed just one run on six hits in six innings this spring. He also gave up just one hit on Saturday night.
“We’re trying to evaluate them correctly and get them as many game innings on the mound to see how they react,” Hyde said. “That’s been a priority.”
Reliever Paul Fry has had a difficult spring and it continued when he gave up one run on two hits in two innings on Sunday. He’s allowed runs in four of his five outings and has a 13.50 ERA.
Fry and Travis Lakins, who has a 10.38 ERA in 4 1/3 innings, have options remaining. As a left-hander, Fry has the advantage.
If the Orioles want to keep one or both Rule 5 picks, Fry, Lakins, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate could all be vulnerable to an option to Triple-A Norfolk.
Shawn Armstrong and César Valdez, who’ll be the nominal starter on Tuesday against the Rays, don’t have options but both have been impressive this spring.
“We have a lot of guys for 13 or 14 spots,” Hyde said. “Still might carry 14 pitchers, might carry 13. Who knows? A lot of things to figure out this last week.”
Another injury or a waiver claim could further cloud the picture.
“We’re not close yet to making any final decision right now,” Hyde said.