Checking in on Orioles' roster decisions -
Spring Training

Checking in on Orioles’ roster decisions

Photo Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel USA TODAY Sports


SARASOTA, Florida—Four weeks from now, the Orioles will have ended spring training and headed north for their March 28th season opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

They’ve played only two exhibition games, and not many conclusions can be drawn from less than two weeks of spring training.

Still, there are some interesting story lines in camp.


No panic about the starting rotation

When the Orioles began workouts on February 15th, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias revealed that two starters, Kyle Bradish and John Means, were not going to be available for Opening Day.

Bradish had a sprained right elbow, and he was treated with a platelet-rich-plasma injection. He’s been tossing lightly.

Means had a sore left elbow that kept him out of the Division Series against Texas, and the Orioles decided he should rest for a while Elias said that he’s about a month behind the other pitchers.

Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin, both of whom were in the starting rotation for parts of last season, have moved back into the rotation. Irvin, who didn’t take any time off from workouts after the season, retired all six batters he faced against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

If there’s another injury, the Orioles have a group of young pitchers who could slide in, though they’d prefer they begin at Triple-A — Justin Armbruester, Seth Johnson, Chayce McDermott and Cade Povich.

Povich started for the Orioles on Monday against Tampa Bay, with Armbruester set to follow. Johnson started against Atlanta in North Port.

Bruce Zimmermann, who’s started 27 games for the Orioles, has the best shot of making the rotation in case there’s a need. Garrett Stallings, identified by manager Brandon Hyde as an example of rotation depth, threw three scoreless innings against Boston on Saturday.

No panic about Gunnar Henderson or anyone else

When Elias revealed the injuries to Bradish and Means, he also mentioned that infielder Gunnar Henderson had a strain of his left oblique muscle, not news you want to hear about last season’s Rookie of the Year.

Henderson seems to be closer to a return, and Hyde thought it was possible he could return some time this week. If he’s able to play 10 or 12 Grapefruit League games, he should have enough at-bats to be ready for the opener.

One of the Orioles’ top prospects, second baseman/outfielder Connor Norby, also hasn’t played because of a left side injury. Norby thinks he should be available in a few days, but he’s missing time to show off his skills.

Catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo has a right elbow injury, and he isn’t ready to play, either. Basallo is the 17th-rated prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Elias said if he plays in Grapefruit League games, it will be as a designated hitter. He likely won’t catch until late April.

All eyes are on Jackson Holliday

Holliday, a 20-year-old shortstop who is starting on Monday against the Braves in North Port, is learning to play second base and being given every opportunity to start the season with the Orioles.

The top prospect in baseball has played 25 games at second in the minors, and the Orioles are confident he’ll be comfortable with the move.

Former Oriole greats J.J. Hardy and Brian Roberts are in camp as guest instructors, working with Holliday.

How many bullpen spots are open?

Craig Kimbrel, who cut short his bullpen session on Saturday because of a sore quadriceps muscle, will begin the season as the closer. Yennier Cano and left-handers Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez are assured spots. Mike Baumann is out of options ,as is Jacob Webb. Dillon Tate has two options left, and he could be a big asset.

If the Orioles want a third left-hander, Zimmermann or Nick Vespi have legitimate chances. So do Keegan Akin, Tucker Davidson and Matt Krook. Others with major league experience are right-handers Bryan Baker, Jonathan Heasley and Kaleb Ort.

Who gets the last position player spot?

If Holliday makes the team, that creates a difficult choice for Hyde. Assuming Ramón Urías is on the team along with infielders Henderson, Holliday, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn and Jordan Westburg and outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, that leaves two spots open.

Jorge Mateo will get some time in center field besides shortstop. Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Ryan McKenna have the best chances to come north.

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