More on Rule 5 decisions, spring slate and trade rumblings

The Orioles set their 40-man roster yesterday with about two hours to spare before the deadline imposed by Major League Baseball.

Seven spots remain open as the Orioles navigate through the offseason and attempt to add pitching and at least one left-handed bat. They also could make a pick in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 14. Only teams with room on the 40-man are eligible to participate.

Serious consideration was given to left-hander Luis Gonzalez and infielder Steve Wilkerson, but they weren’t protected.

Multiple people in the industry believe that Gonzalez has a serious chance of being selected despite never pitching above high Single-A. He’s a left-hander who posted a 2.47 ERA in 36 relief appearances with Frederick and allowed only an unearned run in 9 2/3 innings with the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.

Scouts were further sold on him in the AFL and a team may attempt to stash him in the back end of the bullpen, as the Orioles did with Jason GarcĂ­a in 2015. He turns 26 in January, so we’re not talking about a raw kid.

Wilkerson’s weakest position is shortstop, which doesn’t make him an ideal utility player. However, the Orioles want to keep him in the organization and are banking on clubs passing on him.

“Everybody likes Wilkerson,” said Brian Graham, the Orioles’ director of player development. “He’s a gamer. He can play multiple positions and play them well, he’s a switch-hitter, he runs well. Everybody likes him, but at this time, it just wasn’t the right fit.”

Hunter Harvey throws black.pngPitchers Hunter Harvey and David Hess and catcher Austin Wynns were placed on the 40-man roster, raising the total to 33. It’s a nice reward for Wynns, who didn’t receive much attention before this summer.

“He’s a quality major league defender right now,” Graham said. “He played behind (Chance) Sisco for about three years and didn’t catch as much as he would have had Chance Sisco not been there. He’s always been able to receive, he throws well, tremendous maturity, good game-caller, real good blocker and he’s a guy who can really handle a pitching staff.

“Offensively, he’s made great strides. He had a good year at Double-A and I would have all the confidence in the world to say that he can catch in the big leagues.”

The Orioles will give him that chance in spring training.

Wynns is now on Twitter as @AustinWynns, which should be easy to remember. He sent out his first tweet last night:

“Want to thank the @Orioles for the opportunity. I have had a lot of people reach out today & that means a lot to me. A huge thanks to my family, friends & fans that have watched me play for the support. I hope to help & bring a championship to the city of Baltimore. Let’s go O’s”

Hess came on strong in the second half at Bowie, posting a 2.25 ERA in six August starts. His ERA at Bowie fell from 5.37 in 2016 to 3.85. His average-against dropped from .310 to .235.

“Hess has four pitches and he throws them all for strikes,” Graham said. “He competes, he’s got average-to-plus stuff. What David has lacked is consistent command.”

The surge in August coincided with Hess’ decision to move back from the left to right side of the pitching rubber. He never was comfortable with the switch and asked to start throwing again from the third base side, which gave him a little more crossfire against right-handed hitters.

The improvement in results also can be explained by the implementation of a split-change to his repertoire.

“It got better and better every time he used it that last month of the season,” Graham said.

Hess (@hess_express28) fired off his own tweet last night:

“Wow, what an honor. Thank you to everyone who has helped along this journey and has reached out to me today. It’s a blessing to have this opportunity and to share it with people. I can’t wait to get going next year and be a part of #Birdland, God is good! #GoO’s”

* The spring training schedule that I shared yesterday may not be complete. A game could be added at the end of it before the Orioles hold their workout at Camden Yards in preparation for opening day.

I’ve heard rumblings of a possible game at Harbor Park in Norfolk, but it hasn’t been confirmed.

The Orioles and Tides most recently met on March 31 in a game that ended in a 3-3 tie and included J.J. Hardy’s solo home run off Brandon Barker. The teams also played in 2012 and 2014.

* Speaking of rumblings, I heard something last night about the Orioles sending an international signing bonus slot to the Rockies for right-hander Konner Wade, but I couldn’t get it confirmed by a team official.

Perhaps the deal will be announced today if it didn’t fall through. It definitely came across to me as more than just a rumor.

Wade, 25, and outfielder Joey Rickard were teammates at the University of Arizona. He’s 29-35 with a 4.05 ERA in five minor league seasons.

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