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SARASOTA—The Orioles still have 51 players on their spring training roster, 25 more than they’ll carry on their Opening Day roster. They’ll probably have the 26-man roster set after their final Grapefruit League game eight days from now, March 27th.
Two pitchers, John Means and Dillon Tate, are headed to the 10-day injured list. That leaves 23 extra players still on hand.
“I think we’re going to be waiting until the last day on a bunch of guys,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think there might be a couple of sporadic cuts between now and Opening Day. I think we’re going to have these guys get as many at-bats as possible and see some of these guys throw until the very end.”
How will the Orioles get down to 26?
The starting rotation looks set: Kyle Gibson who starts Sunday against Pittsburgh, Kyle Bradish (Monday at Philadelphia), Cole Irvin (Tuesday vs. Boston) and Dean Kremer (Wednesday at Toronto) seem to have solidified spots.
The Orioles haven’t named their Opening Day starter. That could come on Tuesday, and Gibson looks like the choice.
Although Grayson Rodriguez has struggled in the fourth inning in his last two starts, the Orioles seem to want him to begin the season in the rotation.
Tyler Wells, who starts in a split-squad game on Sunday against the New York Yankees in Tampa, has had a difficult spring training. He has allowed nine runs on 11 hits in seven innings for an 11.57 ERA. He has struck out 11 batters and walked two.
Although Wells might not begin the season in the rotation, he could be part of a piggyback with Rodriguez where each could work three or four innings. That could help Rodriguez manage his innings and make effective use of Wells.
Hyde has cautioned against the piggyback idea because it would mean one reliever (Wells) wouldn’t be available for four games, and the Orioles would be left with a seven-man bullpen.
How close are the Orioles to solidifying a bullpen? Closer than they were a week ago.
Félix Bautista, who hadn’t pitched because of shoulder and knee injuries, threw two perfect innings this week and looks like the excellent closer he was late last season.
Though Bryan Baker, who’s scheduled for an inning on Sunday, has a 14.29 ERA, his spot doesn’t seem to be in danger. Baker, Mychal Givens and Cionel Pérez will join Bautista.
If those four-inning relievers have places on the team, and the Orioles use Wells as a reliever, they have three spots in question.
One of them should belong to Austin Voth, who is out of options. Voth could be a long reliever and an emergency starter. He’s allowed four home runs in 10 2/3 innings, and pitched well for two innings on Saturday against Boston in Fort Myers before tiring in the third.
“The third inning got away from him,” Hyde said. “But the first two innings was the best he’s thrown this spring. That’s definitely the positive. Curveball still not quite there yet. That’s going to come. His fastball and cutter were what they were like last year and good to see him get better every outing. I thought he threw the ball very well yesterday even though that third inning … Sometimes those end-of-the-game innings are tough for a pitcher and just didn’t go very well for him, but the first two innings were outstanding.”
Keegan Akin, who has thrown six scoreless innings, seems to have nailed down a spot.
Joey Krehbiel, Rule 5 pitcher Andrew Politi and long men Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann are still in contention, and DL Hall could still make it as a reliever though his first game action isn’t scheduled until early this week.
Who gets the last position player spot? Lewin Díaz was scratched from Tuesday’s game because of left shoulder soreness, and Hyde said on Sunday morning that he’s still a few days away from playing.
With only eight days remaining in camp, that puts Díaz, who has played excellent defense at first base, behind Franchy Cordero, Josh Lester and Ryan O’Hearn—if the Orioles decide to keep a left-handed hitter who can play first base or DH.
Cordero (.517, 15-for-29), Lester (.361, 13-for-36) and O’Hearn (.429, 9-for-21) are all in the lineup against the Yankees. O’Hearn returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing a week because of a bone bruise on his right knee. He had two at-bats and Hyde said he was scheduled for three on Sunday.
The Orioles could always decide to keep Terrin Vavra, who has demonstrated he can play third base in addition to second this spring. Vavra (.370, 10-for-27) is also playing along with Cordero, Lester and O’Hearn in the split-squad game and is already on the 40-man roster.
If the Orioles decide to add Cordero, Díaz, Lester or O’Hearn, they can move Means to the 60-day injured list.
RAVENS LINKS FROM BALTIMORESPORTS.COM