Orioles' bullpen jobs are open; Rodriguez, Kimbrel on 1st spring outings - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Orioles’ bullpen jobs are open; Rodriguez, Kimbrel on 1st spring outings

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SARASOTA, Florida-What’s happening?-One of the few competitions for the Orioles in spring training will be for spots in the bullpen.

It appears that Craig Kimbrel, Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez are locks. Dillon Tate, who has two options remaining, and Mike Baumann, who doesn’t have any options, also appear to have a good shot.

There are perhaps two jobs open with many candidates to choose from, but manager Brandon Hyde thinks it’s too early to start figuring out slots for his relievers.

“Not quite yet. We’re bringing a lot of guys back,” Hyde said. “We have some bullpen spots open and a lot of interesting candidates with a lot of guys that have come through the system, the organization, guys that we’ve just brought in off of waivers or free-agent guys. Sometimes, you don’t know where the bullpen’s going to come from.

“If you asked me a couple of years ago at this time what our bullpen was going to look like, I had no idea. Some of those guys are still here and put together two really productive seasons. We’re hoping for some surprises in camp.”

Another competition will be for an outfielder’s spot.

“You definitely want to be able to cover center and left at our place,” Hyde said about Camden Yards. “[Jorge] Mateo is a little bit of an ‘X’ factor for us, and then we’re going to see. I don’t know at this point if we’re going to cover four or five, how that’s going to look.

“That’s why [Ryan] McKenna’s been so valuable for us the last couple of years, a guy that can play above average defense both in center and in left field. He’s back again. Our outfield competition is really, really strong. You add Mateo in there with his flexibility. We’ll see how our infield looks at that point, too. It’s way too early to tell how many people we’re going to cover, both in the infield and the outfield.”

Hyde says he’ll name a starter for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Boston on Thursday.

The Orioles’ camp is a bit smaller than last year with 62 players on hand. Some big name prospects, including outfielders Dylan Beavers, Enrique Bradfield, Hudson Haskin, and infielders Mac Horvath and Max Wagner weren’t invited to camp.

“I definitely want guys to get this major league experience,” Hyde said. “We also want to see guys get a lot of at-bats and a lot of innings in the field. Don’t want to crowd it too much to allow some guys to compete for a major league job. That’s really important.

“I think you’re also going to see those guys [who weren’t invited] up here playing in some games, too. Just because they’re not officially here in camp, I’m going to try to bring some of those guys over to get them some experience in a major league spring training setting.”

What’s happened?—Kimbrel and Grayson Rodriguez pitched live batting practice in Ed Smith Stadium for the first time this spring.

James McCann, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, Anthony Santander and Ramón Urías were among those who hit.

McCann caught Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman caught Kimbrel.

“It’s just good to see hitters in the box,” Rodriguez said. “Getting to face our guys is a lot of fun. Getting to talk a lot of trash in the clubhouse. It’s a fun day at work.

“I watched Kimbrel from the dugout. Obviously, he’s pretty special. Seeing the delivery and all, that’s pretty cool. Getting to watch somebody like that, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think we have a good season ahead of us.”

Kimbrel enjoyed pitching for the first time in 2024.

“It felt like it was the first time I faced hitters since last season,” Kimbrel said. “I come into spring to work to get ready for the season. I’m pretty happy where I am right now.

“Making sure the body feels good and watch my velo climb as we go through spring. That’s how I’ve always thrown it, and I expect to do it again this year.”

In the offseason, McCann catches the 35-year-old Kimbrel in Tennessee.

“He knows exactly what he wants to do,” McCann said. “He looks like he’s right on track … He’s been doing it for so long, he’s got it down to a science. He knows exactly where he needs to be at what point in time in camp, and he doesn’t get caught up in the velocities and the results. He gets caught up in: ‘Is he making the pitch he wants to make?’

“I think you probably even heard him say something to Rutsch: ‘I don’t care about that. I care about that.’ There was the ball that that Mounty hit off him. He was more concerned about what the location was than what the hitter was doing because he knows at the end of the day, he makes his pitches when he’s at full-go come season, he’s going to be in a good spot.

“As far as Grayson goes, I thought there were a lot of positives today. If you talked to him, he’s probably going to be frustrated by his command. I think a lot of good things came from today’s session from him.“

“He’s a very good option to have,” Mountcastle said of Kimbrel, who has 417 saves and was signed to be the team’s closer after Félix Bautista was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. “Veteran, throwing strikes out there. His stuff looked good, so I’m excited to have him on the team.

“He’s one of the best to ever do it. Definitely a fun at-bat to get out there and face him. He’s really good. Definitely a good addition.”

Infielder/outfielder Diego Castillo is back in camp after he was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.

 What’s up with?—Wandisson Charles re-signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent. In 2023, Charles, a 27-year-old right-hander, was 7-4 with a 4.57 earned-run average with 11 saves in 41 games with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.

“I felt really good the entire time I was here. They’ve treated me really well,” Charles said through a translator. “I feel really comfortable being here. That’s why I wanted to come back.”

Charles knows he’s a long shot for a bullpen spot.

“I definitely recognize the amount of talent that we have here,” he said. “I can’t control anything else other than what I can go out there and do myself and the hard work that I put in. I’m going to go out there and give my 100 percent.”

What’s what? Hyde received his American League Manager of the Year Award at the annual dinner of the New York Baseball Writers’ Association on January 27th.

“Pretty surreal,” Hyde said. “I had to give two speeches. When people asked me if I enjoyed that, I don’t know if I enjoyed the day of, knowing that I had to get up there twice. A lot of heavy hitters in the audience. A pretty cool peer group that you’re speaking in front of. It’s an incredible honor.”

Hyde was presented by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias for his award and presented Gunnar Henderson for his American League Rookie of the Year award.

What’s the word? “I want to win all the time. I’m a winner. I’m Latin. Latin players always want to win.”-Castillo on what he brings to the Orioles

 What’s the number? 8. The Orioles will be Kimbrel’s eighth team. He’s also played with Atlanta, San Diego, Boston, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia.

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