Call-ups, roster expansion, Rule 5 decisions and minor league award candidates

The Orioles are taking all the drama and excitement out of the September call-ups.

I may as well shut down until the playoffs.

(Yes, I said that word.)

steve-clevenger-swings-orange.jpgThe Orioles always add an extra catcher when rosters expand, but they already recalled Steve Clevenger from Triple-A Norfolk. They figured to bring up at least one utility infielder, allowing Ryan Flaherty to actually get in the lineup, but they already recalled Jimmy Paredes.

Actually, these were sharp moves by the Orioles. Take advantage of the rule allowing optioned players to return when the affiliate’s season is completed.

Manager Buck Showalter wondered yesterday whether Major League Baseball will change the rule. In the meantime, it made perfect sense to send down starters who wouldn’t be available right away and lengthen the bench with two position players.

Clevenger is a left-handed bat with some pop who can play a couple of positions. Paredes is a switch-hitter who can play just about anywhere and steal bases.

Defense matters to Showalter, as you know. Paredes got here ahead of a couple of other infield candidates. You can connect the dots.

More moves are coming, of course. Ryan Webb will get back here and Joe Saunders could join him in the bullpen. Preston Guilmet and Evan Meek have been on the shuttle enough times to warrant consideration.

Saunders, making the transition to reliever, is 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 10 appearances with Norfolk. He’s allowed two runs and 11 hits in 12 innings, with six walks (two intentional) and eight strikeouts.

Left-handers were hitting .235 against Saunders before last night, compared to the .273 average posted by right-handers.

Steve Johnson, who’s out of options next year, is working to regain his command after coming back from shoulder tendinitis. He allowed four runs (three earned) and four hits in 2 2/3 innings last night for Norfolk, with three walks, two strikeouts and a home run. His ERA is 7.11 in 38 innings.

As I’ve stated, Quintin Berry should be added in September based on his ability to play all three outfield spots and his inability to get thrown out trying to steal. He’s 24-for-24 during the regular season and 5-for-5 in the playoffs.

Norfolk outfielder Dariel Alvarez extended his hitting streak to 17 games last night. He’s also got a cannon for an arm. As the story goes, a radar gun in Charlotte clocked one of his throws from right field at 99 mph. I’ve also heard that he made a throw that hit the top of the screen behind home plate on the fly.

Alvarez is expected to be part of a group that will head to Sarasota following Norfolk’s season and stay ready in case the Orioles need reinforcements. A taxi squad of sorts. Christian Walker, Henry Urrutia, Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson, among others, are likely to join him at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Oliver Drake (Navy) has 31 saves at Double-A Bowie. He won’t get called up next month, but I wanted to mention him. Nice story due to the local angle and his comeback from shoulder surgery.

Do the Orioles protect him in the Rule 5 draft? What about Single-A Frederick pitcher Parker Bridwell, who is maddeningly inconsistent but blessed with an arm that makes scouts drool?

At least one of those scouts can be found in Texas. The Rangers have been trying to acquire Bridwell for years. I’m going all the way back to the December 2011 Taylor Teagarden trade.

Bridwell allowed five earned runs in two innings on Aug. 19. In his next start, he allowed one hit and struck out 13 in eight scoreless innings.

Yeah, he’s been that guy. He’s also got some of the best stuff in the organization and, while it’s hard to imagine a team stashing him on a major league roster all season, I’d find a spot for him on the 40-man.

Or I’d see how much I could get from the Rangers. I mean, since they like him so much.

Alvarez will play in the Arizona Fall League, but Walker isn’t reporting to the Glendale Desert Dogs - whose logo, by the way, is pretty awesome. Not as cool as, say, the Glendale Dessert Dogs, but it’s right up there.

I’ve been asked why Walker isn’t on the roster. Sounds like the Orioles would prefer to rest him. He’s done plenty this year. He’s going to compete for a roster spot in spring training.

I’ve got to submit my picks to Baseball America for the organizational Player and Pitcher of the Year, along with the player who made the biggest leap forward.

So many candidates, which wasn’t the case back in the day.

Walker probably will get my vote for top player, though I’m giving strong consideration to Alvarez, Mike Yastrzemski, Chance Sisco and Drew Dosch. Really couldn’t go wrong with any of them, but Walker leads the organization in home runs (25) and RBIs (94), right? Too bad his average has taken a serious dive. He’s hitting .184 in his last 10 games.

Walker has gone from a player regarded as “so-so” defensively at first base, as Showalter put it, to being above average.

The Orioles are expected to announce their organizational award winners next week. Got to figure that Wilson - the University of Virginia product who’s 14-7 with a 3.53 ERA between Bowie and Norfolk - will be named top pitcher, but the Baysox’s Zach Davies and Single-A Delmarva’s Hunter Harvey and Steven Brault need to be part of the discussion.

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