DUNEDIN, Florida—By noon Thursday, the Orioles must trim their roster to 28 players. That means 11 players must go, discounting the possibility that the team could make a waiver claim, make a trade or sign a free agent who opted out of his minor league contract.
Four of those 11, catcher Adley Rutschman, right-handed pitchers Rico Garcia and Isaac Mattson and infielder Shed Long won’t begin the season with the team because of injuries. Garcia and Long begin the season on the minor league 7-day injured list.
Seven more need to be cut from the 39 players in camp. Left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday morning.
“We feel like Zac needs to go to Triple-A, get some starts under his belt there, work on command and hopefully performs and hopefully we’ll see him some time this summer,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
The Orioles have 17 pitchers, and they’ll begin the season with 15.
John Means, Jordan Lyles and Tyler Wells, who started on Tuesday, are in the rotation. It’s likely that Bruce Zimmermann will be added.
Keegan Akin, who will start on Wednesday against Detroit in Lakeland, Florida, is a candidate for the other spot. So is Dean Kremer, who allowed four earned runs on seven hits in four innings against Minnesota on Sunday.
The Orioles have a number of long-relief candidates — Mike Baumann, Chris Ellis, Spenser Watkins, and Akin and Kremer.
After the trade of Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser on Sunday, the bullpen picture looks clearer.
Paul Fry, Jorge López and Dillon Tate, who’s out with a sore throat, are expected to begin the season with the team. Left-hander Cionel Pérez also should make the team. Right-handers Bryan Baker, Félix Bautista, Joey Krehbiel and Travis Lakins remain in camp.
If Ellis, Lakins or Watkins makes the team, the Orioles will need to add them to the 40-man roster, which is at 38.
“Right now, it’s getting down to a 28-man roster, still trying to figure out some things in the bullpen … from a tandem standpoint [a starter followed by a long reliever] with some guys piggybacking …” Hyde said.
Robinson Chirinos is the starting catcher. A backup from among Anthony Bemboom, Jacob Nottingham and Beau Taylor must be chosen and added to the 40-man.
The Orioles are planning to carry 13 position players. That leaves 11 infielders and outfielders.
Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle will play first base, though Mancini, who has played in the outfield for the first time since 2019, could play there during the season, Hyde said. Mancini also is the primary designated hitter.
Ramón Urias has had a strong camp, and he’ll likely be the Opening Day shortstop. Kelvin Gutiérrez, Jorge Mateo, Rougned Odor and non-roster utilityman Chris Owings, who started in center on Tuesday, have excellent chances, too. Mateo left Tuesday’s game when he was hit on the hand by a pitch in the fifth inning.
If Owings makes the team, a 40-man spot is need for him as well.
Infielders Richie Martin, who is not on the 40-man roster, and Tyler Nevin, who is, are still challenging for a spot.
Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander are the starting outfielders. Ryan McKenna and DJ Stewart are contending for the reserve outfield spot, but Hyde said both could make the team.
“There’s a way,” Hyde said. “We’ll see.”
Friday’s season opener at Tampa Bay is just three days away, and lots of conversations remain.
“There are still things we’re talking about that we continued to talk about this morning, talk about after the game as well,” Hyde said. “We’ll have a clear-cut roster tomorrow. Right now, we’re still talking about different scenarios.”
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