SARASOTA—The Orioles have yet to make their first cuts to their 71-man spring training roster. That’s coming soon, and it’s only 25 days until the March 30th opener against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park.
Since pitchers and catchers reported on February 15th, there haven’t been any roster moves, and while some injuries have been reported, let’s look at some questions still left to decide.
What does the starting rotation look like? At the beginning of camp, I thought the rotation would be, in no particular order, Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish.
I’ve seen nothing in a week’s worth of Grapefruit League games to change my mind.
Bradish starts on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. In his first start against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, he threw two perfect innings.
Irvin starts against Philadelphia on Monday. Rodriguez faces Minnesota at Fort Myers on Tuesday and Gibson faces Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Irvin pitched two scoreless innings against Toronto on Wednesday. Rodriguez threw two hitless innings when he faced Detroit in Lakeland on Thursday, and Gibson gave up a run on three hits in two innings on Friday night against the Pirates.
Kremer, who leaves for the World Baseball Classic on Monday to play for Team Israel, gave up one hit in three scoreless innings on Friday night.
The other major contenders for the rotation are Tyler Wells, who gave up three runs on five hits in two innings on Saturday to Atlanta and Austin Voth, who allowed a run on three hits in two innings on Wednesday.
Are any of the starters headed for the bullpen? If Voth doesn’t make the rotation, he’s headed to the bullpen for a likely long relief role. He doesn’t have an option remaining so he can’t be sent to the minor leagues.
If Wells doesn’t make the rotation, he could also be in the bullpen.
Mike Baumann, who like Bradish pitched against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, also throws on Sunday. He gave up a run on a hit in two innings.
Spenser Watkins will likely pitch on Tuesday after Rodriguez. He threw two spotless innings against the Tigers.
Bruce Zimmermann, who gave up two runs on three hits in two innings against the Rays in his first start, was much better in his second appearance. He pitched three scoreless innings and allowed one hit against the Braves on Saturday.
Drew Rom gave up one run on two hits in two innings against Minnesota on February 25th. He’s yet to pitch in another Grapefruit League game.
Manager Brandon Hyde has scheduled simulated games and batting practice outings for some of his pitchers who haven’t received much game action.
If two or three of the starting candidates get to the bullpen, how many jobs are open? Félix Bautista, the breakout closer of late last season has been limited because of shoulder and knee injuries. He threw on Saturday and could pitch in his first game on March 16th, the day after the team’s off day.
Bautista probably needs four or five innings before Grapefruit League games end on March 27th to ensure he won’t begin the season on the 10-day injured list.
With Dillon Tate beginning the season on the injured list with a forearm injury and Bautista questionable, there are three sure spots: right-handers Bryan Baker and Mychal Givens and left-hander Cionel Pérez.
If two of the starting candidates slide into the bullpen and Bautista is out, that leaves three spots.
Hyde would like to keep a second left-hander, and Keegan Akin, who’s pitched one scoreless inning, has a good chance. If Bautista is ready, there might only be one spot left.
Joey Krehbiel has had a rough start, giving up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.
An interesting name to watch is Rule 5 right-hander Andrew Politi, who’s pitched two scoreless innings so far.
In every other recent year, Politi would be a near certainty to begin the season with the Orioles, but this bullpen is more experienced than those in recent years.
Where does that leave DL Hall? Hall’s back injury hasn’t allowed him to pitch yet, and he won’t have enough innings to factor into the starting competition. Perhaps the most interesting question in camp is will he start the season in the bullpen or in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation?
Are the position players set? Not yet, but Terrin Vavra, who was scratched from Saturday’s lineup with left shoulder discomfort was proving himself valuable in early Grapefruit League games.
Vavra, who’s resting his shoulder, was 6-for-11, and played both second base, his regular position, and third base. He was scheduled to play left field before he was scratched.
Outfielders Ryan McKenna and Kyle Stowers have done nothing to weaken their cases for Opening Day roster spots.
What about a backup first baseman? Vavra, a left-handed hitter has volunteered, but he hasn’t played there this spring. Nor has Anthony Santander, who leaves after Monday’s game for the WBC. Hyde said he could play some first in the final days of camp after he returns from the WBC.
Franchy Cordero, Lewin Díaz, Josh Lester and Ryan O’Hearn are all left-handed hitters and not on the 40-man roster.
Is there any young player who’s been particularly impressive? I really like what I’ve seen from Heston Kjerstad, who’s in his first major league spring training.
Kjerstad, who’s on the travel roster for Sunday’s game is 6-for-10 with two home runs and he’s displayed impressive power.
The group of young infielders, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby, Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg, have shown well.
It’s been fun watching Jackson Holliday, who’s played only 20 professional games after he was the overall No. 1 selection. At 19, Holliday’s defense if far ahead of his bat, but he should advance through the system quickly.