“When do you head down to spring training?”
I was asked again this week during dinner with some friends. I smiled, shrugged and offered the usual time frame.
Major League Baseball hasn’t shared the report date for pitchers and catchers, which coincides with my report date. We usually know months ago.
The Rays arrive on Feb. 14, with their first workout held the following day. But they’re in upheaval after Hurricane Ian hit Port Charlotte hard in late September.
Every March home game will be played at Tropicana Field. The Orioles visit on the 5th.
Camp competitions will be laid out as we get closer. The roster is incomplete. We don’t know the invites. We don’t know who else is joining the 40-man roster and who’s leaving it to create space.
The most interesting storyline is likely to involve how all of these starter candidates are funneled into a five-man rotation. Who’s in and who’s moving to the bullpen, Triple-A or another organization.
One more veteran is expected to hop into the competition, but I’ve been saying this for months.
Adley Rutschman’s right triceps strain last spring distorted the catching picture. Robinson Chirinos became the starter after he signed on March 14, which left Anthony Bemboom, Jacob Nottingham and later Beau Taylor to battle for the backup job. Bemboom won it.
The haze is lifted in 2023.
Rutschman will start as long as he’s healthy, and James McCann will be the backup after the Orioles acquired him in a trade with the Mets. Bemboom is more likely to be the primary starter at Triple-A Norfolk, though the Tides’ roster also includes Mark Kolozsvary and Randy Florentino.
The Orioles have a pretty settled look, which might be a sign of progress. A left-handed hitter to complement Ryan Mountcastle at first base was a priority and likely remains so.
We’ll monitor whether outfielder Kyle Stowers and infielder Terrin Vavra can stay on the active roster, and whether Rule 5 reliever Andrew Politi sticks in the bullpen.
Who are the 13 position players on this date? Let’s start with the following:
All of them are on the 40-man roster.
Outfielders Franchy Cordero, Nomar Mazara and Daz Cameron and infielders Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz and Josh Lester are expected to be counted among the non-roster invites.
Someone needs to back up Mountcastle. Maybe it’s a group effort with players who don’t count first base as their primary position.
Or we go back to what I said earlier about the left-handed bat being a priority.