A spring training full of surprises for Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

A spring training full of surprises for Orioles

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

At the beginning of spring training, I always have an Opening Day roster in mind. Fortunately, I usually don’t publish that roster because it doesn’t come close to being accurate.

There are always surprises that make those predictions look foolish. Here are some from the past six weeks:

Matt Harvey is the No. 2 starter, and Keegan Akin isn’t.

The veteran Harvey signed with the Orioles as spring training began, and while Félix Hernández’s minor league deal got more attention, Harvey’s was more solid.

Not only did he make it into the rotation, but he’ll start the second game of the season on Saturday at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.

Harvey, Hernández, Akin, John Means and Dean Kremer seemed like a good bet for the rotation six weeks ago.

Hernández’s lack of velocity was worrisome. When he felt discomfort in his elbow after an inning on March 16th, his bid to pad his stats in Baltimore was over.

He did provide the most entertaining Zoom session of the spring when he acknowledged he kept pitching to embellish his case for the Hall of Fame. When many players say they don’t look at their stats, it was refreshing to learn that he thought he knew how many more wins and strikeouts he needed for Cooperstown.

When someone began a question by talking about large salaries paid to some Oriole pitchers in the past, Hernández cut them off by saying: “I don’t make that kind of money this year.”

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Hernández didn’t get his $1 million from the Orioles but did conclude his opening Zoom with a “peace out” declaration.

Akin’s spring stats were rough. A 10.00 ERA. Fifteen hits and seven walks in nine innings.

A stint at the alternate site and perhaps more time in Triple-A may help Akin, who made his major league debut last season. As executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said on Saturday night, every pitcher on the 40-man roster probably will get a turn with the Orioles this year.

Zimmermann, López, Kremer make up final three starters.

Bruce Zimmermann has just seven major league innings. Akin and Dean Kremer have 44 1/3. Both showed potential at the end of last season, and when spring training began, it seemed as if Zimmermann’s best shot was as a long reliever.

He pitched so well in his first three outings (nine scoreless innings, one hit) that he earned a spot. Monday’s line in his only start (seven runs on nine hits in 4 1/3) was unsightly, but Zimmermann already had the team made.

Jorge López was in Zimmermann’s category when spring training began, but his 2.75 ERA in 19 2/3 innings, coupled with Hernández’s injury, allowed him to gain the fourth spot.

Kremer’s 6.32 ERA wasn’t impressive, and he seemingly slipped from the second spot to the fifth during Grapefruit League play. Manager Brandon Hyde said he would throw the fewest innings among the starters.

Not one, but two Rule 5 picks make the club.

When spring training began, the additions of Harvey, Hernández and Wade LeBlanc, who made the club as a long reliever, seemed to make it improbable for at least one of the Rule 5 draft picks, Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, to make the team.

But since the Orioles decided to start the 2021 season with 14 pitchers, they’ll take the risk with both of them. It’s a risk because Rule 5 draft picks can’t be sent to the minors if they struggle.

Reliever Hunter Harvey’s oblique injury helped make the decision easier, and having four veteran pitchers from the 2020 staff with options remaining (Paul Fry, Travis Lakins, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate) helped, too.

Sceroler hasn’t pitched above High-A ball. Presumably, had their been minor league baseball, Sceroler would have pitched at Double-A. Wells, who had Tommy John surgery in 2019, could have reached Triple-A after pitching in Double-A in 2018.

The relievers with options might see lots of time in Norfolk and Baltimore, and it will be interesting to see if the Orioles will be able to make it through a season with one or both of the Rule 5 guys.

Yolmer Sánchez wasn’t the answer at second base.

Sánchez won the Gold Glove for the Chicago White Sox in 2019, but was cut twice by the White Sox since then. The Orioles were happy to claim him on waivers and parted ways with offensive threat Hanser Alberto, hoping that Sánchez’s glove would help the young pitching staff.

One scout who watched the Orioles in spring training was stunned by Sánchez’s regression and thought he played like a fringe player. He hit just .190 in 15 spring games.

Still, it was a surprise when Sánchez was designated for assignment after the Orioles acquired right-hander Adam Plutko from Cleveland on Friday. Sánchez was released on Tuesday.

Ramón Urias, who many thought to be expendable, is on the club–at least for now. Pat Valaika, who was valuable in a utility role last year, is the nominal starter.

With the Texas Rangers likely to designate Rougned Odor for assignment, many fans see a link. Odor has $24.667 million left on the remaining two years of his six-year, $49.5 million contract. If the Orioles sign him as a free agent after he passes through waivers, they’d be responsible only for the minimum salary.

Odor has strong power numbers. He has hit more than 30 home runs three times and driven in more than 75 runs three times, but the 27-year-old strikes out a lot. He led the American League with 178 strikeouts in 2019 when he hit only .205. According to BaseballReference.com, his defensive WAR is 1.5.

It seemed unlikely when the Orioles cut Sánchez that they’d go with Urias and Valaika at second for long, and it still seems that way.

Rio Ruiz wasn’t the answer at third, either.

For the first two seasons of the team’s rebuild, Rio Ruiz was the Orioles’ third baseman. He didn’t excite—or annoy. However, when the Orioles swapped out shortstop and second baseman, it seemed logical that they might do the same with third base, but they didn’t.

Then, after Ruiz missed time because of illness, came reports the team was interested in free-agent third baseman Maikel Franco.

Franco ended up signing with the Orioles. But instead of jettisoning Ruiz, the Orioles are keeping him for now, and he even got some work at second base in the final two spring games.

There will be more moves made, especially if another second baseman is added, but it seems that Franco is at least an offensive upgrade over Ruiz

Chris Davis gets two spring training at-bats.

Davis is entering the next-to-last year of his seven-year, $161 million contract. While fans are eager to pile on, they forget he hardly played at all last season.

In 2020, Davis batted just 52 times and spent considerable time on the injured list because of a knee injury.

This spring, he batted twice in the first Grapefruit League game, on February 28th, then went to the sidelines with a back injury. He’s on the 60-day injured list, and the Orioles aren’t speculating on his future.

It would be surprising if he ever received significant playing time again, but it still seems questionable that the Orioles will cut ties with him before the end of next season.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    March 31, 2021 at 8:37 am

    Rougned Odor ‘eh? The little man that famously clocked Jose Bautista! If that weren’t reason enough, factor in he’d be playing in the cozy confines of Camden … I’d say kick those tires!

  2. CalsPals

    March 31, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Totally agree w/Boog, MLB minimum & a lot of K’s, OPACY would be enticing & his price per K wouldn’t be near CD’s…go O’s…

    • BarstoolSleeper

      March 31, 2021 at 9:26 am

      Really? You guys would like to see Odor on this team? A guy the Rangers are willingly paying $24+ million to just go away! What happened? Did you guys fall off of your, “let the youngens play” soapbox?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        March 31, 2021 at 10:43 am

        I’m for putting the best team on the field that you can. Not necessarily the youngsters. You haven’t been around long enough to make that judgement of me.

        At 2nd base I said try Jones or Bannon instead of Yolmer simply because Yolmer stinks/stank/stunk. If he didn’t, I’d have been happy to have him. And as far as Rougned goes …I said “kick the tires”. There ARE some possibilities with this guy.

        Geeeze I hate when people read “into” what I say, instead of reading what I say.

        • Hallbe62

          March 31, 2021 at 11:39 am

          I’ve been around long enough to make that judgement of you Ken.

          Barstool is spot on. You’re a clown Kenny boy, and if I screenshot your garbage everyday and put in on display for the world to see…..they’d all know what a circular clown you are.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            March 31, 2021 at 4:46 pm

            Another BRR hater that tells me how wrong I always am … but never gives any details.

        • Phil770

          March 31, 2021 at 2:36 pm

          BRR, you have always advocated to put the best players on the field. You have not advocated for the “youngens” per se, but like all of us, there is a pattern to your criticisms. Doesn’t mean you are wrong, just your view. In the exchange here, you were consistent with your past comments. You never liked the signing of Sanchez (I thought you were being a bit harsh, but you proved to be right). You have not been a fan of Ruiz at 3B (or even on the team), so wanting to kick the tires on Odor makes sense – the O’s added the wrong 2B in the offseason, got to fix that. If Odor can be that, check him out. If we are going “tryout”, let’s put Sisco at 2B, Rio in Bowie and watch Bannon closely to bring up as soon as practical.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            March 31, 2021 at 5:42 pm

            Thanks Phil … sounds like a bit of a vote of confidence. I’ll try to break the predictability of my criticisms.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      March 31, 2021 at 11:24 am

      No worries boog just calling it like I read it. I want them to put a good team on the field too. Think our best bet is to follow the minors this year and hope those guys can contribute to the big league club in late summer or fall.
      Bordick was quoted saying he doesn’t think anyone has any idea of what the Orioles are doing at second base. Not exactly what you want to hear the day before the season starts.

    • CalsPals

      March 31, 2021 at 1:29 pm

      Someone didn’t take their meds today…ouchy…go O’s…

    • BarstoolSleeper

      March 31, 2021 at 5:13 pm

      You can’t just put a catcher at 2B at the major league level and hope it works out. It takes time to learn the position and requires a different level of athleticism.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        March 31, 2021 at 6:06 pm

        I agree. Not the time to try turning Sisco. At this point … I’d say it’s too late to try. It’s just an idea that’s been kicked around here for the past 3 years by people much smarter than me.

    • CalsPals

      March 31, 2021 at 5:29 pm

      He was a SS when he was drafted & why not…especially not having an incumbent, where they blew it was not doing it wayyyy earlier…go O’s…

  3. Icterus fan

    March 31, 2021 at 9:00 am

    Pugilism aside (which was delicious theater), he’s always seemed like a gamer. I’m sure we’re not the only team that will show interest, but heck yeah, kick those tires.

  4. TxBirdFan

    March 31, 2021 at 9:20 am

    Rougned Odor would be a big disappointment. He had one good year and the Rangers gave him a huge contract. He’s been terrible ever since. Stay away. Far, far away.

    • Icterus fan

      March 31, 2021 at 10:21 am

      Hmmm. Nobody seems to want Ruiz out there, Jones doesn’t seem ready yet, Sanchez is no mas.
      Valaika by default, correct?

      Agree that Odor is a career low average guy; big strikeout numbers, but seemingly durable enough. Career 520 AB per year average.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 31, 2021 at 10:45 am

      You would know Tex …. but unless you want to give Jones or Bannon a look see, I’d rather put Odor out there than Rio.

    • TxBirdFan

      March 31, 2021 at 4:01 pm

      I’m ok with trying Jones and Bannon. I’ve seen enough of Odor. He’s been the equivalent of Chris Davis – big contract but can’t hit. Hmmm…didn’t we get Crush as a Rangers cast-off as well?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        March 31, 2021 at 4:36 pm

        I think I remember giving up a pretty good pitcher to the Rangers for Crush.

        • mlbbirdfan

          March 31, 2021 at 5:02 pm

          BRR, I respect your opinions!
          About Chris Davis: on July 30, 2011 we traded Koji Uehara to Texas for Chris Davis AND Tommy Hunter! Grade that trade. COLOSSAL win for our O’s! and for the much-maligned Dan Duquette.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            March 31, 2021 at 5:37 pm

            I’m not complaining about that trade, just saying the Rangers go a fairly nice return and I’m not sure I’d label Davis as a “cast off”.

            Koji Uehara was a darned good pitcher. Didn’t he turn into an ace closer for the Sox and contribute a great deal to a world series championship? But I agree, considering Davis’ first 3 years here, I’d favor the O’s in this trade.

          • mlbbirdfan

            March 31, 2021 at 8:28 pm

            Boog, the trade was in 2011. Texas released Uehara, after 2012 season.
            The trade: Colossal win for Baltimore.

          • mlbbirdfan

            March 31, 2021 at 8:40 pm

            PS: Koji did help lead Sox to WS title — in 2013.

  5. ClyOs

    March 31, 2021 at 9:47 am

    The part I like about Rougned Odor is the Orioles would only be responsible for the minimum salary. In Camden Yards he’s going to hit HRs and, much like Franco, would be traded bait. As it stands now they are trying Rio Ruiz at second, so Odor would definitely be an up grade.

    • CalsPals

      March 31, 2021 at 11:28 am

      That’s exactly what I said earlier & Barstool went bonkers…oh well…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 31, 2021 at 5:44 pm

      Odor could go for 40+ easy in OPACY.

  6. Bhoffman1

    March 31, 2021 at 10:04 am

    Please explain to me your comment about Chris Davis. You know how I feel about him so I promise I won’t reiterate it anymore. He cannot be on the dL I presume for the next two season and if he is going to receive limited playing time once he’s reinstated why take a valuable roster spot away from someone who will play. Either way he’s going to be paid his big bucks and laugh all the way to the bank.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 31, 2021 at 10:34 am

      At the time, Albert Belle was on the disabled list for the last three years of his career. I’m not defending the move, Bruce, it’s just that they haven’t shown any inclination to move on from him ahead of the expiration of the contract.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        March 31, 2021 at 10:47 am

        And don’t I remember some kind of insurance policy coming into play with Belle?

        • Natural Mystic

          March 31, 2021 at 5:02 pm

          Yes, there was an insurance policy on Belle and his contract, and if memory serves it covered 80% of the contract value, with the O’s being responsible for the difference.

        • Rich Dubroff

          March 31, 2021 at 5:47 pm

          Yes.

      • Phil770

        March 31, 2021 at 2:49 pm

        I do remember Belle having what was represented as a career ending injury to his leg/hip – similar to Bo Jackson’s injury. As for not showing any inclination to release CD, doesn’t mean they won’t, there has not really been a reason to release him. He wasn’t really blocking anyone. Now the roster spot is more important. It is highly unlikely (IMHO) that he ever plays for the O’s again.

  7. VegasOriole

    March 31, 2021 at 10:12 am

    I’ll take a chance on Odor, not like we have anything else there. Damm, this rotation sucks! Cant wait until we have a decent pitching staff. Havent had an ace for 20 years. But at least we aren’t Pittsburgh. We might be battling them for worst team. I see 100+ loses again for us this year. Despite this, cant wait for the season to start. Love them Birds(oh why, oh why!)

  8. mlbbirdfan

    March 31, 2021 at 10:28 am

    Stimulating article rich, thanks.
    1. AVOID ODOR!! I have reason to believe he is a cancer in the clubhouse. I can hardly imagine that people on this thread think it’s a good idea to sign the second coming of Chris Davis just because he only gets paid the minimum salary. Davis at least has a good attitude about his team and baseball in general. Odor: not so much. It’s a wasted roster spot!
    2. Davis. Get rid of him! Our beloved Orioles management showing the height of hubris and stupidity by doubling down on their worst error of all time.
    3. Our starting pitching is one area that shows real promise for the future.
    4. Mancini, Santander, Mountcastle, Hays, Mullins, Rutschman. Five positions where we have hope. At least, until two or more are traded …
    5. I am excited to be inside Camden yards on opening day! I can’t wait to see Mancini come down the orange carpet. Watching the Dark Knight, I will feel like I have been transported back in time six years. LOL.
    6. The radio announcing team: keep Melanie Newman, offload Geoff Arnold

    • Icterus fan

      March 31, 2021 at 10:51 am

      Since you “went there”, I really couldn’t disagree more with your assessment of our radio play by play personnel.
      Melanie Newman is a great story, very nice, etc. I truly do wish her well, but she has much to improve with relaying the game and painting a mental picture. Clear dead air gaps, low on air volume and an insipid home run call.
      I am truly hoping she improves, really.
      But at all costs, keep Geoff Arnold. He at least has some personality and keeps the descriptive commentary rolling.

      • mlbbirdfan

        March 31, 2021 at 11:08 am

        That’s what makes baseball fans who we are. We’ll just agree to disagree on radio announcers and move on

  9. BobKominski

    March 31, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Odor wil not be an Oriole – there are too many other potential suitors.
    If you didn’t notice, Ruiz played 2nd in the last 2 games. In my opinion, he was fine in the field – nothing amazing, nothing bad.
    I am sure Valaika will get his share of playing time, but dont be surprised if – at least for the first month – Ruiz plays 2nd.
    Ruiz will not disappear, becasue the minute Elias can turn Franco into 1-2 ‘prospects”, he will. Franco has made it clear he’s here “to put up stats”. And the moment Franco goes, Ruiz goes back to 3B. BTW – Galvis made the same “put up stats” comment when we signed him.
    We are now the live audition site for guys trying to prove they are still MLB everyday players.
    We have way too many guys on this team who THINK they can play way too many positions.
    I long for the days of Ripken-Hardy-Roberts. We did not know how good we had it.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 31, 2021 at 4:42 pm

      I long for the days of Brooks, Boog, Johnson and the Blade. And we did know how good we had it.

      But hey…I’d certainly ‘settle’ for Ripken-Hardy-Roberts. Hah!

    • TxBirdFan

      March 31, 2021 at 10:47 pm

      BRR – didn’t we have some guy named Murray holding down first for awhile as well. I’d take those days anytime.

  10. dlgruber1

    March 31, 2021 at 11:24 am

    I have just one comment to make about the pitching, actually it’s more of a comment about Hyde’s managing. Unlike most on this site who seem to think Hyde will be gone when “the team becomes good again”, I hope he’s around a long time. Yes, he knew what he was getting into but no manager I can recall has ever been put into a worse position to begin their managerial career. A TOTAL rebuild with the ONlY player kept from the previous team being an albatross around the new team. I think Hyde clearly deserves a chance to stay once they start winning more than losing. Having said all that, now back to my original point. If Valdez stats healthy and doesn’t pitch in at least 70 games I believe Hyde will have under utilized him. Until the league figures him out I hope to see him in every situation except long relief. The guy has been incredible.

    • Icterus fan

      March 31, 2021 at 11:48 am

      Gruber1, well written on both points. As if you needed my affirmation
      Valdez has mileage, but floats like a butterfly. Let’s hope can sting like a bee

    • BrooksPJs

      March 31, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Fact check: “A TOTAL rebuild with the ONlY player kept from the previous team being an albatross around the new team.” False lol…

      Position players on both 2018 and 2019 roster besides Chris Davis:
      Mancini, Nunez, Villar, Sisco, Wilkerson, Santander, Stewart, and for Pete’s Sake how can you forget Jace Peterson man! Jace Friggin’ Peterson!!!

    • dlgruber1

      March 31, 2021 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks for the fact check PJs, that certainly changes everything. With that much talent left behind how could Hyde possibly not have a WS ring by now? All kidding aside, one constant I’ve heard on this site is that the O’s play hard. That’s Hyde’s main job right now and I think he’s doing a good job of it. I’ve said before sometimes it can be easier managing a rebuilding team because the players are playing for their future, not their future paycheck. But I’d hope you’d agree Hyde was put into a terrible situation, even tho as I said he knew what he was getting into. My main point was I simply think with given what he’s had to work with so far he at least deserves a chance to manage once the cavalry arrives in the next 2-3 years.

      • BrooksPJs

        March 31, 2021 at 4:14 pm

        I agree Hyde came on as manager in a very tough situation, gotta admire him just for taking on a challenge and not trying to protect his reputation by avoiding the situation. I am a big fan of Hyde and hope he is around for the Oriole’s resurgence.

        I just looked up Jace Peterson’s stats since he left the Orioles and it looks like he is going down the Jake Arrieta path of fame and fortune after leaving Ball’more…0.749 OPS with the Brewers in 2020 and 1.037 OPS this spring.

        • CalsPals

          March 31, 2021 at 6:32 pm

          It was Hyde’s first time as an MLB manager, really don’t think he cared if they had potential, were experienced or flat out sucked, he just wanted a managers position, I think he had a pretty good idea what he was getting into…go O’s…

          • BrooksPJs

            March 31, 2021 at 6:44 pm

            Good to know you really don’t think he cared if they had potential CP, duly noted sir!

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          March 31, 2021 at 8:01 pm

          I didn’t even know Peterson was still alive.

    • CalsPals

      March 31, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      PJ’s, don’t forget experienced or sucking, need to quote them all, not just the ones you want…reading is important, sir…go O’s…

  11. willmiranda

    March 31, 2021 at 11:30 am

    Question: Is the surprise that Davis got as many as two at-bats or as few as two at-bats? Speaking of infielders, the Royals site has some nice recent video of offensive threat Alberto flashing the leather at third base.

    • dlgruber1

      March 31, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      willmiranda, I’ve asked people politely not to mention Hanser on this site. It’s just too painful to me. He was my fav player the past 2 seasons. Not only because he could hit and unlike I think EVERY other player in MLB didn’t K at least 25% of the time, he played the game with joy. When you can play with the joy that he did on teams THAT bad you are special indeed. I’ll ALWAYS wish him the best. I’m looking forward to going to OPACY when KC comes to town this season and hopefully get the chance to thank him for his time in Baltimore. Tho his tenure in Baltimore was brief, he’s on my All-Time O’s team roster. Just kidding about that first sentence I hope ya know.

      • willmiranda

        March 31, 2021 at 12:20 pm

        Thanks for the response, dlg. Hanser’s value is so obvious that devious people are blind to it. (Sorry for breaking your rule again.)

    • dlgruber1

      March 31, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      I’ll never forget 2 years ago reading an article some guy wrote about him saying how he wasn’t a good hitter, just a lucky hitter. He said his exit velocity was in the lowest 10% in MLB. I sent a post back to him asking “what’s the exit velocity of a K?” Not surprisingly I didn’t receive a response.

      • VegasOriole

        March 31, 2021 at 12:51 pm

        I loved Hanser so much I got his jersey. Oops. Miss you #57. Didnt know Odor was a bad personality. AVOID THAT. Dont need that in the clubhouse.

    • TxBirdFan

      March 31, 2021 at 10:48 pm

      Loved Hansen as well. He should have been out all-star rep.

  12. mlbbirdfan

    March 31, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    This site has always been cordial and friendly. Hope it stays that way.

    • VegasOriole

      March 31, 2021 at 1:01 pm

      Yes, remember we all love this team.

  13. BrooksPJs

    March 31, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    My name is Ramon Urias, you killed my father, prepare to die…

    No that’s not right…

    My name is Ramon Urias, I had an OPS of 0.967 and I will you make forget about this Odor fellow!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 31, 2021 at 9:03 pm

      Brooks … tomorrow is April Fools day. Not today.

      Urias won’t be on the roster past April 15th.

  14. BrooksPJs

    March 31, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Question for Rich’s mailbag thingie…

    Is blowing bubbles while in the field an acceptable MLB or Oriole practice?

    I coached HS JV and varsity and pretty sure any player blowing a bubble while fielding would either be pulled during the inning in the field or wouldn’t be in the field the next inning. I remember Adam Jones making errors in CF but he had blown a perfect bubble…

    Yes, I am an old curmudgeon! Thanks!

    • VICTORTEE

      April 1, 2021 at 8:16 am

      Did Ken Griffey, Jr wearing his hat backwards annoy you too?

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