Orioles make decision on Holliday, but they're not finished with roster moves - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Orioles make decision on Holliday, but they’re not finished with roster moves

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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SARASOTA, Florida—With Friday’s surprising demotion of top prospect Jackson Holliday along with those of Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers, odds are the Orioles’ Opening Day roster will be older than many thought heading into spring training.

As executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias pointed out in his 25-minute news briefing after the flurry of roster moves drew fury from fans, there are more moves to be made. While spending a good portion of his time explaining or defending the demotion of the 20-year-old Holliday, Elias hinted that others from outside the organization might be joining the team before next Thursday morning, the deadline for setting the 26-man roster.

While Holliday’s reassignment to minor league camp was unexpected and unpopular with the fan base, the other moves, which also included reassigning right-hander Albert Suárez and catcher David Bañuelos to minor league camp, left the Orioles’ roster at 38.

Closer Félix Bautista, who had Tommy John surgery, will begin the season on the 60-day injured list. Starters Kyle Bradish and John Means also be placed on the injured list because of elbow injuries. That leaves the Orioles with nine more players to cut.

Manager Brandon Hyde’s starting rotation is Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer and Cole Irvin. Craig Kimbrel is the closer, and it’s a safe bet that left-handers Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez, right-handers Mike Baumann, Yennier Cano and Dillon Tate will join them.

Left-hander Keegan Akin has pitched impressively in camp, and if he’s included, the final spot will be a decision between Bryan Baker, Jonathan Heasley, Andrew Suárez, Julio Teheran and Jacob Webb.

Teheran signed a minor league deal last month and according to a report by The Baltimore Banner, which was confirmed by an industry source, will opt out of his contract if he doesn’t make the Orioles.

With catchers Adley Rutschman, James McCann, infielders Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo and Jordan Westburg and outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander assured of spots, that leaves three openings.

One opening seems certain to go to Ramón Urías, who’s had an excellent camp, and won the 2022 Gold Glove at third base.

“I haven’t been told anything,” Urías said. “I think they’re going to figure it out in the next couple of days … At the end of the day, I have to put myself in the best position to start the season.”

Second baseman Kolten Wong, who was signed as a minor league free agent on February 28th, has opted out of his contract. The Orioles have until Sunday to decide whether to place the 33-year-old left-handed hitter on the major league roster or release him.

“I’ve got 10 years in this. I don’t plan to go down to the minor leagues after this,” Wong said. “It’s been a fun time to see all these young guys, see all this talent coming up.”

Catchers Maverick Handley and Michael Pérez, infielders Nick Maton and Tyler Nevin, neither of whom has options left, and outfielders Colton Cowser and Ryan McKenna are also on the roster. McKenna also does not have options left.

Cowser, who had a difficult first taste of the major leagues last summer when he hit .115 (7-for-61), has been outstanding this spring with a .325 average and 1.174 OPS along with five home runs and 11 RBIs. He hasn’t been told if he’s made the team.

“You never know. I’m going to work and continue to do what I’m called on to do,” he said. “I came into camp and had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish. I’ve started to develop a solid routine and solid resume this camp.”

Kjerstad ended last season with the Orioles and was included on their Division Series roster while Cowser ended his with Triple-A Norfolk. Cowser watched as Kjerstad and Stowers were both optioned.

“I love those guys and want nothing [but] the best for them,” Cowser said. “I’m still not on the team or anything like that, and I can only speak about what’s happened up to this point. Hopefully, we’ll be productive at some point in the big leagues this year.”

A year ago, Stowers made the Orioles, but after a 2-for-30 start was optioned in May. This spring, he hit seven home runs and drove in 11 runs, hitting .256 with a 1.011 OPS and seemingly improved his standing with the team.

“Last year, broke camp with the team and less favorable things happened after that,” Stowers said. “Just because this year, didn’t break with the team doesn’t mean it’s not going to a good year for me in the big leagues.”

Elias said the decision to option Stowers was “a close call and a tough decision,” but Stowers’ improvement was evident.

“I think I continued to get better on the defensive end.” Stowers said. “A good bit of homers in camp, which I think is never a problem. Hopefully, more to come this season.”

“We just looked at our outfield configuration and with both him and Heston, it became clear that different player profiles were going to be better fits for this first homestand or this first month or whatever it ends up being with the non-primary outfield spots we’re talking about here,” Elias said.

“This is a player where we see having a bright long-term future and having him sit on the end of the bench and pinch-hit here and there is not ideal. That goes into the calculus, too. He is going to get an extended chance and when he does, he’s going to take huge advantage of it. All of these guys, their times are coming. You can’t predict when, but it’s going be this year.”

Stowers knew that being optioned was a possibility, but that doesn’t make it easier.

“I’m bummed. I’m really bummed,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said this possibility didn’t cross my mind going into camp. I’m aware of the state of the team. There are so many good players in this clubhouse. You’ve got good veterans and good young guys. It’s not an easy roster to make, but, hey, that’s the big leagues. Wherever you’re at, you’ve got to compete and you’re going to be around good players.”

Note: Friday night’s game between the Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates was canceled because of rain. On Saturday night, the Orioles are scheduled to host the Toronto Blue Jays in a split-squad game at 6:05. Opening Day starter Corbin Burnes, whose start was rained out on Friday will start, and Tyler Wells is scheduled to follow him.  They’re also supposed to play the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte at 1:05 p.m. Julio Teheran and Chayce McDermott are scheduled.

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