SARASOTA, Fla. - Reliever Oliver Drake has his locker set up inside the home clubhouse at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. He isn’t attending minicamp, but it’s waiting for him next month as pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
The Orioles currently appear to have two openings in their bullpen and Drake may be given a shot to occupy one of them. It will be his most important camp, with the former 43rd round pick out of the Naval Academy now out of minor league options.
Drake turns 30 on Friday. He posted a 4.00 ERA last season in 14 appearances with the Orioles, but he allowed only two earned runs (five total) in his last 10 outings over 12 1/3 innings.
Drake was 1-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 47 games with Triple-A Norfolk. He had a 0.82 ERA, 23 saves and a 0.886 WHIP in 42 appearances in 2015 and was named the organization’s co-minor league Pitcher of the Year.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland, who was tendered a contract, also is out of options. The camp competition should be interesting.
It could get a lot more crowded. The Orioles are open to bringing back relievers Tommy Hunter and Vance Worley, who are free agents. They haven’t been eliminated from consideration.
Worley was non-tendered while MLBTradeRumors.com projected that he’d receive $3.3 million in arbitration, a price that won’t work for the Orioles.
* There’s been no movement toward a deal with free agent outfielder Mark Trumbo and it’s becoming less likely that the Orioles will re-sign him. Their interest hasn’t disappeared, but previous talks went nowhere and there hasn’t been renewed dialogue to leave either side encouraged.
The Orioles run the risk of letting a home run champ walk out the door for the second time in three winters. They’re taking a hit in the power department, with Trumbo (47), Pedro Alvarez (22) and Matt Wieters (17) accounting for 86 of the club’s 253 home runs.
Alvarez could be re-signed as another left-handed hitter, though the Orioles currently are focused on finding one more outfielder. Meanwhile, the Orioles seem more willing to take the draft pick than keep Trumbo, understanding the risk of letting a power bat so perfectly suited for Camden Yards roll out the door.
* Left-hander Tim Berry, 25, signed a minor league deal and is returning to the organization that drafted him in the 50th round in 2009 out of San Marcos (Calif.) High School.
The Marlins claimed Berry off waivers in December 2015. He pitched for four minor league teams last season, including two in the Padres system, and didn’t rise above Double-A.
* Mike Wright was waiting yesterday to meet new pitching coach Roger McDowell. They spoke over the phone earlier in the offseason and discussed the possibility of a minicamp invite.
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to invite me or not,” Wright said. “I’m glad he did. I’m excited to meet him and see where he foresees this season going.”
Wright wants it to move past Triple-A, whether he can crack the Orioles rotation or be part of their bullpen.
“Like every year I’m coming to do the best job I can and try to fit anywhere in the big leagues,” Wright said. “Just like last year, I hope to be a starter, but like I said, I mainly want to help the team win this year.”
Wright began the season in the rotation and was optioned on June 2 and again on June 17, July 8 and Aug. 27. He ended the season 3-4 with a 5.79 ERA in 18 games, including 12 starts.
“Pretty much like every season, a roller coaster,” he said. “But there was a lot of positive and a lot of stuff to work on. Being consistent.
“Obviously, I want to stick up there instead of being spotty like I’ve been the past two years. And help the team win.”
With Yovani Gallardo traded to the Mariners, Wright has a better chance of winning a spot in the rotation. However, the Orioles still have five starters and are at least intrigued by a reunion with free agent Jason Hammel. Their level of interest is unknown, but he’s been discussed.
“I love Gallardo,” Wright said. “It was good having him in the clubhouse, but I guess it was the best decision for the team. Just like last year, there’s always moves with pitchers and different opportunities. Just have to make the most of them.”