SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde remains uncertain about numerous aspects of his opening day roster. The final rotation spots, the complete bullpen and outfield compositions, the two catchers heading north.
Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier were locks for the bullpen, the latter just needing to recover from lat surgery. I’ve always included Miguel Castro and left-handers Tanner Scott and Paul Fry, and Nate Karns will work in relief at least in the early stages of the season, bringing the total to six and leaving us to wonder whether Hyde will carry seven or eight.
The Orioles actually could go with nine until needing a fifth starter on April 3 - as long as Hyde is comfortable with a three man bench. He hasn’t made a final decision, or at least shared it with the media.
I’ll plug David Hess into the fourth spot in the rotation for now with Mike Wright, out of options, at least temporarily moving to the bullpen. But left-hander Josh Rogers gets another start Thursday in Bradenton and he’s lurking.
Pedro Araujo goes into my bullpen because he needs 17 more days to shed Rule 5 status and seems like a worthy organizational project.
The group of relievers stands at eight in this scenario until the fifth starter is needed. Jimmy Yacabonis and Evan Phillips remain in the mix. I’m still not sure whether the Orioles want to stretch out Yacabonis in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation or use him as a multi-inning reliever.
I liked Austin Wynns’ chances of making the team, but time lost to an oblique injury really hurt him. Sisco cooled down before collecting two hits yesterday, but he’s a left-handed hitter and much more confident than the 2018 version. Sucre comes as advertised defensively and that’s good.
The infield isn’t set. Jonathan Villar is going to play second base and Chris Davis is staying at first unless shifted on occasion to the designated hitter role. And I’m assuming that Rule 5 pick Richie Martin is the shortstop. However, I’m not handing Renato Núñez the third base job despite his lack of minor league options. Not yet anyway.
Rio Ruiz has outplayed Núñez in camp. He’s the more reliable defender. He has two options and for that reason it probably makes sense to send him down, but it depends on just how much the new regime likes Núñez.
It also depends whether Núñez’s sore arm really is a minor injury.
I’m inclined to keep Alcides Escobar in a utility role, providing veteran insurance behind Martin. Drew Jackson has got to make the club as a second Rule 5 infielder, but I’m not completely sold on him being the fourth outfielder.
Jackson has played center - along with shortstop, second based and third - but yesterday marked his first professional appearance in right. He’s got a week to prove that he can handle the corner spots.
He got tied up yesterday on Jordy Mercer’s slicing liner, going into a semi-slide and missing the ball, but was able to get the out at second base for a 9-6 fielder’s choice.
The versatility is a big selling point and Jackson is hitting .333 with a .370 on-base percentage. He’s on the team and ready to keep changing positions.
“I knew it coming into camp,” he said. “They asked me how comfortable in the outfield. I told them very comfortable. I’ve played there dating back to high school, a handful of games every year. It wasn’t until a week, a couple of weeks ago that I started getting more reps in the outfield, which is great because I’m feeling even more comfortable every outing.”
Having Jackson, Escobar and the backup catcher on a three-man bench would be risky. Escobar made six starts in center field last year for the Royals, but let’s not get carried away here. He’s an infielder.
Eric Young Jr. has survived three rounds of cuts and I could see him as an extra outfielder, at least until one of the prospects beats down the door. One reason he’s here is to allow some of the young outfielders to continue their development in the minors.
This is where one of the decisions might rest. Does Young make the club as outfield insurance or is Young deemed trustworthy?
The Orioles would have to make room for Young, Escobar and Sucre on the 40-man roster. It’s rarely been an issue.
I’m not sure whether Hanser Alberto ever unpacked his bags.
A mock roster comes with an asterisk because the Orioles could claim a player off waivers in the final days of camp.