The Orioles open Grapefruit League play on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s the next step in spring training, putting manager Brandon Hyde closer to making decisions on the Opening Day 26-man roster.
Let’s look at some of the decisions facing Hyde and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
13 or 14 pitchers: There will be no limit on pitchers. Last year, which was supposed to be the first with a 26-man roster, was going to have a 13-pitcher limit. Hyde says the 13- or 14-pitcher decision won’t be made until just before the season opener on April 1st at Boston.
“I think we’re going to see what our rotation looks like,” Hyde said. “See how many length guys we have in our bullpen. That’s why we’re planning on stretching these guys out as much as possible to give us some flexibility in our pitching staff, see how the starters throw. See which guys we take with us.”
The Orioles play 18 games in the season’s first 22 days. The offdays on April 2, 9, 19 and 22 could provide recovery time for the bullpen, making it easier to get by with 13.
If the Orioles go with 14, that means they’ll have only three bench players. One would be a backup catcher, another a backup infielder, probably Pat Valaika. If you have Chris Davis as the designated hitter, that leaves only one extra outfielder, perhaps putting DJ Stewart’s job in jeopardy.
A bench of Chance Sisco, Pat Valaika and Cedric Mullins wouldn’t be bad, but it’s hardly ideal.
The guess here is that they go with 13, allowing the Orioles to play Davis occasionally and also to have two extra outfielders.
Hyde is trying to get his relievers to work multiple innings, so it appears he’d prefer an additional bench player.
“I think it’s going to be an end of the camp decision on 13 or 14,” Hyde said.
How many veteran starters? It appears that Matt Harvey and Félix Hernández have a good chance to join the Orioles’ rotation along with John Means, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer.
There’s a third veteran in camp on a minor league contract, Wade LeBlanc.
“It’s going to be such a small sample from a numbers standpoint,” Hyde said. “I don’t think we’re going to be looking at numbers, but we will be looking at what their pitches look like, if they look healthy, the kind of swings they’re getting from opposing hitters.
“I think all those type things are going to be important because if you give up a three-run homer in a two-inning stint, your numbers get inflated. That happens … it’s not about ERA or that type of thing.”
It’s possible all three will make club, though room on the 40-man roster would have to be made for all of them.
“Anything can happen,” Hyde said. “I’ve seen that happen before. I’m not going to count that out.”
Possibilities for Rule 5 gamers: Although Hyde has stated that Rule 5 right-handers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells have thrown properly, it’s going to be exhausting to maintain them.
LeBlanc and Thomas Eshelman, one other pitcher on a minor league contract, Jorge López and Bruce Zimmermann are all being thought of for the beginning rotation. They’re potentialities for the bullpen, too.
The Orioles have plenty of pitchers with a observe document within the bullpen — Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, Hunter Harvey, Travis Lakins, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate and César Valdez.
If all eight had been stored, that might imply Eshelman, LeBlanc, López and Zimmermann wouldn’t be. López, who began six video games final yr, is out of choices.
Of the relievers, Armstrong and Valdez are out of choices. As Rule 5 picks, Sceroler and Wells can’t be despatched down this yr.
“I simply suppose it’s just a little tougher to see all people in recreation conditions this yr,” Hyde stated.
The Orioles had been scheduled to start play on Saturday, and now have two offdays as an alternative of 1. Three split-squad video games had been eradicated.
“Although split-squads are a grind for everyone, they assist out with getting guys innings on the mound,” Hyde stated. “We’re simply going to need to be as artistic as we presumably can on the again fields to actually get look. We’re additionally going to schedule some ‘B’ video games with different groups.”