Checking in on Orioles' roster decisions as spring training reaches halfway point - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Checking in on Orioles’ roster decisions as spring training reaches halfway point

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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SARASOTA,  Florida—It’s the halfway point in spring training, and the Orioles are exceeding even their lofty expectations. They have a 9-1 record, best in baseball, and though Grapefruit League games don’t count, manager Brandon Hyde is pleased with the first half of camp.

“I’m really happy with how they’ve played,” Hyde said. “They’re playing hard. We’re playing really good defense…Guys are getting their at-bats. I think the camp has gone extremely well. Their energy is really good during our work days, and guys are working their butts off.

“I have nothing to complain about at this point. I’m sure I will at some point. They’ve done everything we’ve asked. They’ve come in incredibly prepared.”

Let’s review what’s happened and what’s ahead.

A fairly healthy camp

As the Orioles’ first workout for pitchers and catchers began on February 15th, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias revealed that starters Kyle Bradish (sprained right elbow) and John Means (left elbow) wouldn’t be available for Opening Day.

Bradish hurt his elbow in a January workout, and the team is being cautious with Means since soreness in the elbow prevented him from pitching in last October’s Division series.

Infielder Gunnar Henderson will start his first spring game on Monday. He’d been held back with a strain of his left oblique muscle.

“It’s been really cool seeing everybody do really well,” Henderson said. “I enjoy watching them. I look forward to getting out there with them and being able to experience it.”

Henderson believes he has lots of time to be ready for the March 28th opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

“You’ve still got a little less than a month of games,” he said. “You don’t even need half that to get ready for the season.”

Catcher/infielder Samuel Basallo, a 19-year-old who’s ranked as the Orioles’ second-highest prospect  behind Jackson Holliday in the new rankings by MLB Prospect, hasn’t played because of a stress fracture in his right elbow. While he won’t be able to catch in a game until late next month, he’s nearing a return and could appear in the March 14th Spring Breakout game matching the Orioles’ prospects against those of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Second baseman/outfielder Connor Norby, who was held out by side soreness, played his first game on Sunday, but there haven’t been any other injuries reported.

They’re here, and they’re gone

Since spring training opened, the Orioles have added infielder/outfielder Diego Castillo, who’s now on a minor league contract, left-handed pitcher Matt Krook, right-hander Kaleb Ort, and two 33-year-old veteran on minor league contracts, right-hander Julio Teheran and second baseman Kolten Wong.

Three players were claimed off waivers — infielder Liván Soto, by the Los Angeles Angels, and outfielders Peyton Burdick (Chicago White Sox) and Sam Hilliard (Colorado).

The Orioles have a glut of outfielders and tried to sneak Hilliard through waivers after the flurry of moves earlier in camp, but they weren’t able to, and their spring roster stands at 39.

Roster battles with three weeks to go

The Orioles’ final scheduled Grapefruit League game is on March 24th, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if there are some late additions in the days between the final game in Florida and the first one in Baltimore three days later.

The acquisition of Wong puts into question whether Holliday, the top prospect in baseball,  will start the season with the Orioles. Both are left-handed hitters, and though Holliday, a natural shortstop, seems to be adapting nicely to second base, the Orioles may choose to delay his promotion for a short time.

Since Jorge Mateo has been given time in center field in addition to shortstop, the Orioles could begin the season with just four outfielders. With Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, the Orioles could use Mateo as well as either Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Ryan McKenna and Kyle Stowers.

Cowser has hit well in early games, and Stowers has shown a new-found ability to hit left-handers. McKenna is out of minor league options and is just 1-for-14 (.071) so far. Kjerstad is just 3-for-18 (.167) without an extra-base hit.

Teheran could slide into the starting rotation if there’s another injury or serve as a long reliever. The bullpen has a few openings, and many candidates.

“There’s a lot of really, really good players in this clubhouse,” reliever Danny Coulombe says. “Probably the most talented, and the most depth I’ve ever seen, especially on the position player side, It’s just wild. Every arm we brought in here is just really, really good.”

With the team looking so strong and deep, Ort, one of the many candidates for a bullpen job, summarized it succinctly: “It’s a good camp, good vibes everywhere. It’s been fun.”

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions this week. Please email your questions to: [email protected].

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