SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles are set to pare down the remainder of their spring training roster via the injured list.
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias confirmed this morning that pitcher Alex Cobb likely will miss Thursday's opening day start due to a strained groin muscle, forcing him onto the injured list and giving the assignment to Andrew Cashner.
The rest of the rotation order hasn't been decided, according to manager Brandon Hyde, but Dylan Bundy figures to start Saturday afternoon following the off-day.
Cobb will attempt to do some light throwing today, but he's unable to make an opening day start for the second time in his career, an elbow injury that led to surgery in 2015 denying him the honor with the Rays. He should be ready for the home opener April 4 against the Yankees, his IL assignment backdated to today.
"Yeah, I know, it stinks," Hyde said. "Just awful timing. This was something he was really looking forward to and I think he had a lot of people going and it's something you'll be able to save forever. So we were holding out hope that he'd be able to do it, but it doesn't sound like it's probably the right thing to do.
"The home opener, yeah, I think at the worst we'll be able to do that. And that might be the right time for him to come back anyway with the progression if we are holding him out, so we're hopeful that the home opener at the worst."
Cobb, designated hitter Mark Trumbo and catcher Austin Wynns will go on the injured list and bring down the roster from 28 to the required 25. However, waiver claims remain a possibility, so write the names in pencil.
"I think the group that's here today is the group that we're going to take north with us," Elias said. "There's still several days before the deadline for the opening day roster. I'm hopeful that this is the group, but we do have a couple balls in the air in terms of finalizing some injured list assignments for the beginning of the year. We're still kind of waiting on some information about how some people are feeling.
"This is kind of a crazy waiver period and that's just the reality of it, so if something happens in the next few days, it happens, but we like this group. This is the group that we're hoping to bring north with us and that's the expectation at this point."
Catcher JesÃºs Sucre hasn't formally been placed on the 40-man roster as the extension on his opt-out reaches today, but he's on the club.
"He has not be added to the roster, but I'm very hopeful at this point that he will be making the team," Elias said. "It's just a matter of transactional timing and having corresponding moves lined up and so forth."
One spot need to be cleared on the 40-man and Elias confirmed that Trumbo is a candidate for the 60-day IL while continuing his rehab from Sept. 7 knee surgery.
"We can't add him to the roster without removing someone in some way, shape or form," Elias said. "The reality of it is it's a little funky with us leaving now and then there still being like three days until opening day and there's just a lot going on around the league, but we've got contingencies and plans for how to do that to make room for him when the time comes."
Trumbo tried to stay ahead of the timetable following a complicated procedure on his knee, but the discomfort and restrictions forced him to shut down baseball activities. He conceded yesterday that it could be a month or more before he's able to play again, making the 60-day IL a real possibility.
"We're looking at that, and that's something that might factor into what happens to our roster here," Elias said. "That's a little bit of a lengthy process. We're still waiting on some info for that.
"Obviously we want him back as soon as we can, but it's tricky in that we want the best version of him back. We want to take absolutely no risk in some kind of major setback, and he had a procedure that's not a cakewalk in terms of rehab. Relative to other players that have done this, he's very early in the time horizon for the rehab. He's doing well, but we don't want to push it, and he's not ready. That's for sure."
Losing Cobb leaves the Orioles with 12 pitchers, including left-hander John Means, who sat at his locker this morning unsure of his status beyond a scheduled relief appearance behind Bundy.
"I think it's more likely we'll have 12," Elias said. "We're talking with Cobb about how to address his injury. I think right now the overwhelming likelihood is that we're going to place him on the injured list. It would only cause him to miss one start because there are basically three off days baked into that first 10 days in which case he would miss the opening day start and probably line up to come back for the home opener.
"If we do that, it's just out of an abundance of caution. He's feeling really good. He thinks that was just a very minor flare up of the groin, but for us we want to guard against the scenario where we march him out for opening day in the cold in New York and then it's re-aggravated and then now we've got to get somebody up out of the bullpen and scramble to figure out the rest of the rotation.
"He's feeling really good, but from our standpoint there's just a lot more downside in taking that risk than upside and getting one more start out of him basically in the beginning."
Putting Cobb on the shelf forces the Orioles to get more creative with their rotation, relievers turned into starters, games pieced together with lots of baton passing and prayers.
"I hope that we settle into a situation where we have more regular starters, but I think you'll see some creativity early with a couple of bullpen games, maybe a pseudo-opener kind of thing going on," Elias said. "I'll leave it to Brandon to talk about those plans, because it's kind of dependent on getting Cobb nailed down. But yeah, in the early part of the season, we'll probably see some days where there are a couple of pitchers going with length, as opposed to a designated starter you hope would go six, seven innings".
Hyde managed to find the humor in a situation that's going to further challenge him and the clubhouse.
"Even more creativity? Let's get super-creative," he said, laughing.
"It just adds to more conversations and more talks about how we want to go about with the off-days also. The opener is still a possibility, especially around an off-day. So we'll figure it out."
Could Paul Fry be one of those openers after starting yesterday in Clearwater and going 1 2/3 innings?
"I see about 12, 13 guys have an opportunity to do something like that." Hyde said.
Meanwhile, the Orioles received a positive report on outfielder Austin Hays, who underwent an MRI yesterday on his left thumb. No structural damage and nothing that should keep him out for an extended period.
"I think he's got a mild sprain of his thumb and it's going to be more weeks than months in terms of him getting back on the field," Elias said.
"Obviously that can always evolve, but it was about as good of news we could have hoped for and it was a weight off his shoulders and ours."