Oriole prospect Basallo might be getting at-bats soon; DHs will rotate; Cano ramping up - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Oriole prospect Basallo might be getting at-bats soon; DHs will rotate; Cano ramping up

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SARASOTA, Florida—One of the most intriguing Oriole prospects might play in some Grapefruit League games soon. Nineteen-year-old catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo, who hasn’t been able to play because of a stress fracture in his right elbow, could bat in games in mid-March.

When spring training began, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that Basallo’s injury, which occurred in November, would prevent him from catching until late April.

On March 14th, the Orioles’ and Pittsburgh Pirates’ prospects, the top two farm systems in baseball, will face each other as part of Major League Baseball’s Spring Breakout series. The left-hand hitting Basallo might be able to play in that game.

The rosters for the game, which will follow the regularly scheduled Orioles-Pirates exhibition game at LECOM Park in Bradenton, will be announced on Thursday at 11 a.m. on the MLB Network.

Basallo, the second-ranked Orioles prospect behind Jackson Holliday and the 17th overall by MLB Pipeline, could become the first Latin American prospect signed by Koby Perez, who heads up the team’s international scouting department.

Signed as a 16-year-old for $1.3 million in 2021, Basallo has rocketed through the Orioles’ system last season. He began the year at Single-A Delmarva, and, after 83 games, was promoted to High-A Aberdeen. After 27 games there, he finished 2023 with four games at Double-A Bowie.

In 114 games, Basallo hit .314 with a .953 OPS, 20 home runs and 86 RBIs.

Basallo has been catching bullpen sessions and has someone else throws the ball back to pitcher.

“He’s doing really well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ll probably get him some DH stuff in the middle part of March.”

Rotating designated hitters 

Last season, the Orioles used 14 designated hitters. Outfielder Anthony Santander was the DH 47 times, and catcher Adley Rutschman started 45 games as the DH. First basemen Ryan Mountcastle (22) and Ryan O’Hearn (12) were the other most used players.

Hyde said to expect the rotation to continue this season.

“It’s pretty much a day off,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “To get a guy off his feet, maybe defensively, whether it’s Rutsch or Santander or O’Hearn or Mounty. I’d just like to see those guys get a day off their feet for defense and rotate it around as much as I can.”

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, who started six games at DH last year, is starting in right field on Saturday.

“I’m playing him in the outfield here as much as I possibly can to give him as many defensive reps as I can,” Hyde said. “We’re not going to go into the season with a [primary] DH. We’re going to go in with four or five outfielders, 13 position players and I’ll utilize the DH on a day-to-day basis on who I want to DH that day.”

Cano getting ready

Yennier Cano, who led Oriole relievers with 72 2/3 innings last season, has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game. Cano pitched in a bullpen session on Saturday morning. Because of his heavy workload in 2023, Cano is being held back.

A year ago, Cano, who will turn 30 on March 9th,  was an afterthought. After he was acquired from Minnesota in August 2022  in the trade for All-Star reliever Jorge López, Cano allowed nine runs in 4 1/3 innings in three appearances.

Cano was a late cut last spring but was called up in mid-April and ended up as an American League All-Star with a 2.11 earned-run average and eight saves. He faltered some down the stretch, but Cano doesn’t have to worry about making the team.

“It’s the same thing, but this year I have a lot more confidence,” Cano said through a translator. “Last year was my first real major league spring training. Coming into this one with a lot more experience, a lot more confidence has been the only difference.

“I think it does make a big difference and does give me a lot of confidence, but at the end of the day you also can’t get too ahead of yourself, and you also can’t just stop working or not put in as much effort, knowing they have a secure spot. There’s always someone behind you. They’re working hard. You always have to be ready. You have to be giving it your 100 percent to make sure you’re ready to go for the season.”

Cano’s life is different after his All-Star season.

“I think it’s changed completely,” he said. “Personally, as an athlete, even financially after last year, a lot of it has changed. My grandma told me that even after last year to be able to put a name on your back, going to the All-Star Game, that’s a big deal. A lot of things have changed.”

Cano is going into the season without his close friend Félix Bautista, whose locker is next to his in Sarasota. Bautista will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery.

“It is difficult,” Cano said. “We’d always go out to the field together, especially in spring training…We’d always hang out together, go out to eat or go shopping. We’d do all that stuff together.”

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