The Orioles allowed media inside yesterday’s workout at Camden Yards for a 90-minute period that didn't reveal much in the way of news.
Four players who weren’t on the 28-man roster participated: Relievers Mike Baumann and Bryan Baker, outfielder Ryan McKenna and catcher Anthony Bemboom. Don't stop the presses, but they could comprise the taxi squad or at least a portion of it. One or more could be chosen to the 26-man roster for the Division Series.
“Postseason baseball. As a lover of the game, it’s really awesome to see the game played at a high level, and especially being a part of the team,” McKenna said.
“Whether they activate me or not, I’m going to be rooting for the guys and doing everything I can staying ready. And when the time comes if they need me, I’ll be ready and just enjoying the experience, as well.”
McKenna wasn’t with the club for the two clinching celebrations and barely missed the second after the Orioles optioned him Sept. 27 and reinstated first baseman Ryan Mountcastle from the injured list – one day before they won the American League East.
“Obviously, you want to be there with the team and celebrate what we’ve done all year, but it was awesome to see,” he said. “I was watching and keeping tabs and just enjoying it from a distance.”
Do the Orioles have what it takes to win the World Series? McKenna believes so. Anyone in the organization who's asked believes so.
“Absolutely,” McKenna said. “I think we proved it all year. We know who we’re potentially going to face, and if you look back at how we played them in the past, we’re very much in the mix, and I think very well could be a dominant force in the postseason. So, we’re excited to see how it goes.”
Grayson Rodriguez was the only pitcher who threw a live batting practice session, simulating two innings by returning to the dugout for a brief period, wrapping his right arm in a towel, removing it and heading back to the mound. Hard contact against him was scarce.
Kyle Gibson and John Means threw in the bullpen. The team performed infield drills before rolling the cage to home plate for standard batting practice.
The dugout wall had “2023 ALDS” stamped on it. The ballpark is in playoff mode.
The Orioles are, too, and won't let their bye weaken the momentum or create rust.
“Hyder (Brandon Hyde) was talking to the guys earlier today about not coming out flat and really taking these reps seriously,” McKenna said. “The days off that we get, make sure we get our rest but also stay ready for the first game on Saturday. I think the guys that have been here and are here are going to do just that and be ready for everything to come.”
Hyde will speak to the media later today and perhaps reveal his Game 1 starter. Anyone other than Kyle Bradish will be breaking news.
Other details might be on hold until Hyde knows whether the Orioles are facing the Rays or Rangers. Texas won yesterday 4-0 to put Tampa Bay on the brink of elimination in the wild card round.
The Orioles seem to know whether they’re carrying 13 pitchers and 13 position players or going with an extra reserve on the bench, but that information isn’t for public consumption. Doesn’t matter how much the media hungers for it.
Here’s my breakdown of a 13/13 split.
The sure things
On the bubble
Irvin was recalled for Sunday’s finale, costing Bruce Zimmermann a chance to pitch in the Division Series. There isn’t a playoff reset. Zimmermann is down 15 days unless replacing an injured player.
The Orioles won’t use more than four starters, which puts one in the bullpen. Flaherty already is there, with only two appearances since his last start on Sept. 15. He could provide length if needed, and the Orioles like his stuff. But does that give him a seat at the playoff table?
It comes down to trust with Fujinami. Whether he can command that 100-plus mph fastball and set up his secondary pitches, throw strikes, avoid walks that can destroy championship aspirations. He’s been a mixed bag, and that’s risky.
Irvin could benefit from one of the two dropping off the roster. His status also could hinge on how many left-handers the Orioles want in their bullpen.
Baumann appeared in 60 games and went 10-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 64 2/3 innings. He might be the top seed if the Orioles recall a reliever. He’s eligible because his 15 days passed, and those 60 appearances. But Baker’s presence last night also puts him in the mix.
I was prepared to include Nick Vespi and Joey Krehbiel in the honorable mention category, but they weren’t at the workout. Don’t know if that’s concrete elimination but it doesn’t get them on the list.
Teams can’t carry more than 13 pitches. If the Orioles go with 12 and the “sure thing” count is accurate, only one pitcher gets selected among Flaherty, Fujinami, Irvin, Baumann and Baker. Irvin is the only lefty, if that matters.
The sure things
On the bubble
Kjerstad stays active only if the Orioles decide that his left-handed bat is useful against a specific opponent. The Rays carried only 11 pitchers in the wild card round, and Jake Diekman and Colin Poche were the lone southpaws. But teams can reset their rosters if they advance.
Getting back down to 13 position players could be as simple as dropping Kjerstad, the prospect on the bubble.
A scout from outside the organization said, “I know Brandon (Hyde) loves McKenna.” To carry McKenna's defense and speed would require two players stepping aside from the current crop of 14 position players who ended the regular season with the club.
Staying at 14 could pit Kjerstad versus McKenna.