The beginning of the 2012 baseball season in the minor leagues is fast approaching and an Orioles minor league camp packed with players at Twin Lakes Park got at least a little smaller yesterday with a few players getting released by the organization.
Right-handed Japanese pitcher Ryohei Tanaka, signed by the Orioles in April of 2009, was among them. The 29-year-old Tanaka went 22-21 with an ERA of 4.13 in three seasons. He spent all of 2009 and 2010 with Double-A Bowie and was mostly with Single-A Frederick last year, going 9-5 with a 3.33 ERA.
Jacob Julius, the Orioles' 33rd-round draft pick in 2007 out of the University of Arkansas, also was released. The 26-year-old first baseman-outfielder batted .225 with 34 homers and 155 RBIs over five seasons and 351 career games. He was the 2010 recipient of the Elrod Hendricks minor league community service award.
Veteran minor league right-handed pitcher Francis Beltran was also let go. The 32-year-old from the Dominican has pitched in the majors for the Cubs, Expos and Tigers. He got into just five games last year for Triple-A Oklahoma City with an ERA of 19.89.
The Orioles also released middle infielder Mike Mooney, the club's 23rd-round pick out of the University of Florida in 2009. The 23-year-old Mooney hit .205 in 60 games last season for Single-A Delmarva and .205 was also his career average over three seasons and 147 games in the O's organization.
The Orioles are expected to release more minor league players over the next several days with 15-20 more cuts likely in that time.
I have heard that Hector Veloz, the young man that received the largest bonus the Orioles have ever given a Dominican-born player, is not quite ready to begin the 2012 with a full-season club. He will start the season either at extended spring training in Sarasota or in the Dominican where the Orioles will also hold an extended spring training this year.
Last season, the right-handed hitting third baseman played his first pro season and batted .225 with two homers, 31 RBIs and an OPS of .666 for the Orioles entry in the Dominican Summer League. Veloz turned 18 last month.
The Orioles signed him to a $300,000 bonus in July of 2009.
Orioles minor league pitcher Ryan O'Shea, who was arrested March 8 on suspicion of driving under the influence by the Sarasota County Sherriff's Office, will not be on an opening day roster, but it doesn't have anything to do with that legal matter.
The 25-year-old right-hander is dealing with shoulder soreness and hasn't pitched yet at camp. He was shut down twice last year with the same ailment when he went 3-6 with a 3.09 ERA for the Frederick Keys. The earliest he is likely to join an affiliate would be sometime in May.
Starting this year, there will now be exactly 100 players active on the Orioles' four full-season affiliates, after that total was 98 the last few seasons. Rosters at the Triple-A and Double-A levels are expanding by one player throughout baseball this year to 25-man totals up from 24. The rosters for the Orioles Single-A teams with Frederick and Delmarva have been at a 25-man limit and remain that way.
Meanwhile the last minor league exhibition games are set for this Saturday in Sarasota. The next day the O's farmhands will play intrasquad games before the four full-season clubs get set to head north. The final rosters may not be complete then, pending the final cuts coming out of the Orioles big league camp and the trickle down effect that will have as players get sent to Triple-A and so on.
Updated: Here are the names of six other players that have been released by the club. They are pitchers Tim Adleman, Douglas Ferguson and Travis Strong and infielders Peter Fatse, Adam Gaylord and Tom Di Benedetto. Adleman was an O's 24th-round pick in 2010 while Gaylord was a 31st-round pick that year and Strong was drafted in round 39 in 2010.