How the rotation and bullpens are constructed, with the first influencing the second, are the biggest spring training curiosities for me and many others. The final bench spot must be monitored, with a non-roster, left-handed hitting first baseman hoping to crash the opening day party in Boston.
I’ve already filled this space with some spring training storylines. Here’s a recent story.
What else is worthy of our attention besides the exhilarating pitchers fielding practice and bunt drills?
I’ll take a swing at it with some quick hits.
Every Kyle Gibson side session and appearance is noteworthy because the Orioles gave him $10 million guaranteed, their largest deal since hiring Mike Elias, and he could move near or at the top of the rotation. They expect more out of him than just innings, though they'll gladly take those, as well. He's bound to draw comparisons to Jordan Lyles, the pitcher he basically is replacing.
What kind of season are you expecting from Gibson?
Carrying a Rule 5 selection is harder for teams that are trying to contend and can’t sacrifice wins in order to evaluate players and provide them with major league experience. Right-hander Andrew Politi must be able to get outs in some high-leverage situations, because stashing him and waiting for blowouts is a flawed plan. The Orioles will take a long look at him in camp.
Does Politi make the team?
John Means is coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s posted video of his flat-ground throwing, and his workouts will be a source of media curiosity, including how much he progresses in six weeks. He's a big deal in any condition.
When will Means come off the injured list?
Gunnar Henderson is expected to be the starting third baseman on opening day, but the club hasn’t issued that statement. It seems like more of an assumption, and where he does most of his drills and gets most of his innings in exhibition games will draw our interest. Manager Brandon Hyde prefers Henderson on the left side of the infield and Jorge Mateo won a Fielding Bible Award at shortstop. Adam Frazier is primarily a second baseman and Ramón Urías, the Gold Glove winner at third, might be moving around the infield.
Where will Henderson make most of his starts this season?
Every player on the 40-man roster has an automatic ticket to camp, though a few are rehabbing after surgery. The Orioles are getting closer to announcing their non-roster invites. I wrote yesterday about some of the obvious names - Ryan O’Hearn, Lewin Díaz, Nomar Mazara, Franchy Cordero, Daz Cameron, Josh Lester, Colton Cowser, Jordan Westburg, Anthony Bemboom and Mark Kolozsvary – and speculated on others.
Which non-roster player has the best chance to make the opening day roster?
Díaz is his own story, separated from the pack based on his crazy offseason. A player who otherwise might not receive much attention will find a crowd at his locker. We’ll want to get his thoughts on the five times he was designated for assignment. The one trade. The spinning of the head.
Does Díaz stay in the organization for the entire season?
Spring training injuries happen. The Orioles didn’t even make it to the first official day of camp last year before losing Adley Rutschman to a strained triceps and Heston Kjerstad to a strained hamstring. But the regular season was relatively calm, with some notable exceptions: Means, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells. The Orioles had the fewest players on the injured list. Hyde will be asked almost daily about his team’s health in camp.
Which player can the Orioles least afford to lose for an extended period?
I'm less than a month away from flying into Sarasota, the Southwest gods willing. The workload is heavy and it becomes a grind, no matter how high the temperatures and blue the sky. The alarm goes off early each day and there's lots to track. But copy is plentiful for beat writers who endure some dead periods in the offseason. It's especially rough without any breaks.
Is Roch running out of story ideas?