SARASOTA, Fla. - Let the games begin.
Not the real ones that count in the Grapefruit League standings, but the intrasquad games that lead into Friday’s exhibition opener against the Rays in Port Charlotte.
Brian Matusz and Kevin Gausman will make today’s starts, each pitcher going one inning. Matusz also will try to get through the entire day without being forced to talk about his wart.
I’ve named the situation “Wartgate,” and I don’t expect it to start trending on Twitter.
Today also marks the first time that I get to post lineups on this blog since the final game of the 2013 season. Can you feel the excitement in the air?
Please continue to breathe normally.
The Orioles won’t schedule a press conference today. Bank on it.
Are they done doing business? Well, there’s always the chance that they pick up a player or two as cuts are made in other camps. Executive vice president Dan Duquette is always looking to improve the depth in the organization. And he won’t completely dismiss the possibility of a bigger signing, though he stated yesterday following the Nelson Cruz press conference that he didn’t anticipate “any players of this caliber soon.”
Of course, he had to tag on the word “soon,” just to keep us on edge.
Left-hander Chris Jones came off the 40-man roster on Monday to make room for Cruz. It may take another seven days before we know his fate.
Pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti know Jones from their days in the Braves organization. You have to wonder whether they offered up an opinion that influenced the decision to designate him.
With Troy Patton serving a 25-game suspension to start the season, I figured that the Orioles would hold onto Jones to provide more left-handed bullpen options.
More 40-man moves could be coming later in camp. There are at least three non-roster players with a shot to head north at the end of March - pitcher Alfredo Aceves, infielder Alexi Casilla and outfielder/designated hitter Delmon Young.
Young will have his work cut out for him after the Orioles signed Cruz. He already had to contend with Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce, who are out of options.
Casilla has an excellent chance to make the club as a utility player, capable of backing up at second, shortstop and third. He’d become more valuable if Ryan Flaherty needs to play third base on opening day.
Aceves is my darkhorse pick to click in camp. He can be a spot starter, work in long relief and as a set-up man, and close if Tommy Hunter falters or isn’t available.
Aceves is in Mexico obtaining his work visa. He left camp on Friday, but probably had to wait through the weekend to get the paper work moving.
Here’s the current 40-man roster. Troy Patton is listed, but he’s on the restricted list:
Kelvin De La Cruz
I still don’t see a scenario where Almanzar makes the team as a Rule 5 pick unless Machado goes on the disabled list.
The Orioles are intrigued by Peguero’s skill set, thinking he just needs an opportunity, but he’s out of options. Escalona and De La Cruz also would have to pass through waivers and be outrighted to stay in the organization.