Taking another look at camp competitions

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles first baseman Chris Davis built up his spring at-bats yesterday at Twin Lakes Park, where the spectators included executive vice president Dan Duquette, and he should remain in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Rays in Sarasota.

MASN is carrying it live, so pull up a sofa and enjoy baseball under the lights.

The forecast is calling for rain, of course, because the Orioles are playing at home and we’re nearing the start of the regular season.

Left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. gets the start tonight and Miguel Castro is scheduled to follow him in relief. Manager Buck Showalter told the media yesterday in Lakeland that he’s hoping the duo can cover all nine innings if the tarp isn’t covering the field.

(I added the last part.)

The innings are going away, as Showalter says each spring while more pitchers are optioned or reassigned. No cuts were made yesterday, but further reductions could be coming this afternoon.

Though it won’t be portrayed as such, Cortes and Castro appear to be going head-to-head tonight in the competition for the last rotation spot. Cortes tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings, with only one hit allowed, in his most recent appearance on March 14 versus the Yankees, but he was pitching in relief. A follow-up tonight that also grades highly will go a long way toward getting him to Baltimore later this month, whether it’s as a starter or reliever.

sidebar-Miguel-Castro-black.jpgCastro was the early favorite, but his debut came late due to soreness in his knees and back, and he’s allowed five runs and six hits with five walks in two Grapefruit League appearances over 6 2/3 innings.

The competition for backup catcher is down to Chance Sisco and Andrew Susac, and I’ll plead ignorance because I expected Austin Wynns to last longer. His removal on Sunday came as a surprise. All the talk about defense being a potential tiebreaker didn’t hold up.

Susac has made up a significant chunk of ground, considering his hospital stay due to a staph infection and the process of getting him back on the field and in game shape. He singled twice yesterday after replacing Sisco and is 5-for-12. He’s also looked pretty good behind the plate.

Sisco doubled and tripled yesterday and is 11-for-28 (.393). He remains a work in progress defensively and needs to demonstrate that he can make the necessary throws, but the bat can’t be ignored. He hits from the left side, which is a nice bonus.

Would sporadic playing time hinder his development? Would it prove beneficial to keep him close to bench coach John Russell, who’s also the catching instructor? It’s part of the discussion as the Orioles figure out whether to include him on the opening day roster.

I’m sure that Showalter has cast his vote, but he isn’t going to share it.

Left-handers Josh Edgin and Joely Rodriguez seem to be competing against each other for a spot in the bullpen if there’s room for one more. Cortes, as I’ve written and stated countless times, could influence whether they receive a major league paycheck. It depends on how many lefties are kept in the bullpen and the role that Cortes fills if he remains in the organization.

Does Edgin have the edge following yesterday’s game against the Tigers? He retired all three batters he faced, and Rodriguez gave up a run and two hits in the eighth. Edgin has allowed one run and two hits in six innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. Rodriguez has been charged with only one run in 7 1/3 innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.

If you’re compiling a list of players who deserve to be on the opening day roster, but might be forced to head down to the minors, don’t forget about outfielder Alex Presley. He had two more hits yesterday and quietly is batting .342/.422/.447 (13-for-38) with two doubles, a triple, four RBIs and six walks. He’s also capable of backing up at all three spots.

Mark Trumbo’s pending move to the disabled list opens up another spot on the roster and Presley could fill it if the Orioles don’t choose Pedro Álvarez to platoon at designated hitter. Colby Rasmus figures to be the right fielder against right-handed pitching, which reduces Presley’s chances of avoiding the shuttle to Triple-A Norfolk.

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