SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles set their 28-man roster today, with the caveat that 24 hours remained before the deadline. The waiver wire could create a late change.
The club decided to split its roster among 14 pitchers and 14 position players after an earlier indication that they’d limit the bench to four reserves. The expansion allowed them to carry outfielders DJ Stewart and Ryan McKenna.
None of the pitchers needed to be added to the 40-man roster, which is full with the Orioles selecting the contracts of backup catcher Anthony Bemboom and infielder Chris Owings. Bemboom made his first opening day roster after beating out Jacob Nottingham and Beau Taylor, who could remain in the organization.
Owings and Jorge Mateo can start or be used as utility players. Richie Martin didn’t make the club after going 9-for-22 this spring with five doubles, one home run, nine RBIs and three walks.
Third baseman Kelvin Gutiérrez and second baseman Rougned Odor are on the roster, as expected. Ramón Urias could start at shortstop.
Mateo took batting practice today and is “a lot better,” said manager Brandon Hyde, after being hit on the right hand by a pitch yesterday in Dunedin. Dillon Tate threw a light bullpen session and is recovered from the illness that produced a sore throat and kept him out of games since March 26.
The opening day lineup is expected to include Mateo at second base or shortstop against Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan, with Odor on the bench.
Infielder/outfielder Tyler Nevin has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Relievers on the team who were competing for jobs include Félix Bautista, Joey Krehbiel, Bryan Baker and left-hander Cionel Pérez. Spenser Watkins, Chris Ellis and Travis Lakins Sr. are reassigned.
Also newsworthy is Hyde’s decision to start Tyler Wells in Game 3 at Tropicana Field, with Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann handling the April 11 home opener against the Brewers.
Hyde will let the game dictate which pitcher follows Wells to complete the tandem.
The fifth starter is undecided, with in-house candidates including Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Mike Baumann. The roster could undergo some changes back in Baltimore, with a non-roster pitcher who’s been reassigned perhaps getting called up.
“There’s a lot of guys in play for that fifth spot,” Hyde said.
The 14/14 split could be temporary, and it exists due to a vacancy at the back end of the rotation.
“We’re going to play this Tampa series, kind of see how it goes,” Hyde said. “We really have no idea, length-wise, with a lot of our guys, and we’ll make some decisions, but as of right now, we’ve got Wellsy three, Zimmermann four and fifth is open.”
Zimmermann’s assignment at Camden Yards, maybe in a tandem setup until he’s stretched out, “worked out that way, but it’s more baseball reasons and, he’ll be in the rotation and make that start,” Hyde said.
Hyde added that Zimmermann, who graduated from Loyola Blakefield, was “real excited” to make the first home start on the 30th anniversary of the ballpark.
“Obviously, it adds a little something extra special, being from the area. He’s going to have a lot of friends and family there. It was cool to give him the news that he’s going to make the home opener. That’s a special moment.”
Here’s the 28-man roster as the Orioles approach Thursday’s noon deadline:
Informing players that they were cut is one of the worst parts of a manager’s job, but it’s countered by the opportunity to inform others that they are breaking camp with the team.
“I thought one thing that was cool is we have a lot of guys who have never been on an opening day roster,” Hyde said, “so for guys to see their first opening day - Baker, Bautista, Baumann - to give those guys the news and the smile on their face ... Bemboom’s been in this game a long time, and for him to be told that he made the team, that was emotional for him. So, cool moment. Those conversations are fun.”
Bemboom gained an edge as a left-handed hitter who can provide a contrast to the right-handed Chirinos. Hyde referred to it as “a big factor.”
“Also, we just like the way Bemboom handles a pitching staff, and he receives the ball so well, great blocker,” Hyde said. “He’s great with game-planning, he’s got a great relationship with pitchers. I think it helped him being here early, also. He was kind of ready to go, kind of got to know us early. That was helpful.
“I’ve just been impressed with what he’s done, not just in the game, but the work on the side, as well. Throws well. So, we’re happy to have him with Robby.”
The meeting with Martin had a much different tone, with Hyde knowing the middle infielder earned a job statistically.
“It was a very tough conversation because he had such a good spring,” Hyde said.
“We just feel like Richie needs Triple-A at-bats and a Triple-A sample size. He has (96) at-bats in Triple-A, he’s had kind of a weird last few years. Rule 5 out of Double-A, kept him all year, and then he gets hurt and the whole thing. We feel like he’s making progress offensively, I feel like he’s making progress defensively, as well. But being non-roster, we’d just like to have him start at Triple-A, and you never know. We’ll see what happens.”
* The Orioles released seven minor leaguers this morning to create room on the farm: Pitchers Buddy Baumann and Garrett Farmer, infielders JC Escarra, Yorkislandy Álvarez and Willy Yahn, and outfielders Zach Jarrett and Mason Janvrin.
Infielder Andrew Martinez and outfielder Lamar Sparks were released Saturday.
Baumann, 34, is the only player in the group with past major league experience, posting a 5.58 ERA and 1.467 WHIP in 38 relief appearances with the Padres and Mets from 2016-18. He retired in 2019 and was serving as a pitching coach for the Angels in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League.
Jarrett, a 28th-round pick in 2017, is the son of NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett.
Yahn, a 25th-round selection in 2017, made a couple of dazzling plays in the field in recent days and had his own cheering section Monday at Ed Smith Stadium. He played with four affiliates last summer and was a Carolina League All-Star in 2019.