LAKELAND, Fla. – Terrin Vavra incorporated ground balls at first base into his winter workouts to increase his versatility and his chances of making the Orioles’ Opening Day roster. He has a new assignment this afternoon, playing third base against the Tigers.
Vavra’s experience at the position consists of one inning last summer with High-A Aberdeen. That’s it. Nothing in college or in the Rockies system.
“He’s going to play all over the place,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Might play the outfield in a couple days. Just continue to move him around.”
James McCann is catching Dean Kremer today in his first Orioles start since they acquired him from the Mets.
“Really impressed with how he goes about his business,” Hyde said. “This guy prepares in the morning, speaks up in meetings and has a great voice for our guys. He’s got a ton of experience.
“He’s been wonderful with the catching group as well as our team drills. It’s a lot of fun. He’s been everything we thought and more.”
The Orioles don’t want to overburden Adley Rutschman behind the plate. McCann gives them a solid option and also can play first base.
“He’s going to play a lot,” Hyde said. “He’s somebody that’s been an All-Star before, has a ton of experience and caught really good pitching staffs. To have two catchers with the talent and ability we have is just fantastic.”
The Orioles checked the free agent market for a backup and entered into trade discussions. McCann was viewed as an important upgrade.
“I didn’t know which direction we were going behind the plate,” Hyde said, “but when I heard we got him, I was very, very excited about it and texted Cos (catching instructor Tim Cossins) right away. We understand the importance of having two catchers back there, so to get somebody with that sort of ability, as well as the makeup that we’ve heard about, and I’ve seen him play quite a bit, we’re excited about it.”
Rutschman will serve again as designated hitter Monday afternoon against the Rays in Sarasota, and he’ll catch for the first time Tuesday against the Pirates in Bradenton. Gunnar Henderson will make his spring debut on Tuesday.
Kremer will work two innings today if his pitch count allows it, but might be restricted to one in his next start before leaving for the World Baseball Classic.
“This is my first time going through this with a starting pitcher, so want to make sure he’s ready as we can,” Hyde said. “That’s why he’s pitching in a second game. Got here a little bit early and prepared himself for this, so he’s in great shape. Hopefully, he feels well today, bounces back well, has one more good outing before he leaves.”
Closer Félix Bautista completed another bullpen session without incident. He’s making the necessary progress to keep the club optimistic about his availability on Opening Day.
Bautista is expected to begin pitching in games by mid-March, with four or five appearances necessary if he’s going to avoid the injured list. He’s been rehabbing his left knee and gaining strength in the right shoulder.
“Right on track, all’s good,” Hyde said. “Everything that’s part of his progression, he’s bouncing back extremely well and he feels good. So, very encouraged by that.”
Former Orioles minor leaguer Brenan Hanifee is listed as one of the Tigers’ available pitchers today.
Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann starts Monday afternoon against the Rays, who are sending right-hander Elvin Rodríguez to the mound.
Kyle Bradish starts Tuesday afternoon against the Pirates in Bradenton. Pittsburgh is starting right-hander Luis Ortiz.