Orioles unresolved camp issues carry into new weekend

SARASOTA, Fla. – We’re a little more than two weeks into Orioles spring training and they haven’t made any roster cuts. There are still 71 players in camp, though Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Dean Kremer and Darwinzon Hernández are leaving for the World Baseball Classic. The same competitions are unresolved through seven games.

Pitchers John Means, Dillon Tate and Seth Johnson will go on the injured list. Closer Félix Bautista sounds confident that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. So does DL Hall, except we don’t know whether a Triple-A assignment remains in the cards or he’s assured of heading north with the club.

Tyler Wells is making his first start this afternoon against the Braves. We don’t know whether he’s in the rotation or bullpen on Opening Day, whether the club could pivot and use him in a piggyback role with Grayson Rodriguez early in the season to control the rookie’s innings.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias sounds hesitant to commit to it because you’re basically reducing the ‘pen to seven relievers with Wells serving as a second starter in those games.

Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin are the locks for the rotation. Rodriguez is as close to one as you get without using the word. My mock still has Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer, knowing that excluding Wells seems ridiculous. I hate to do it. I don’t know how this is going to work.

Kremer, by the way, has done nothing to jeopardize his spot. He retired nine of 10 batters last night, with Cedric Mullins running down a fly ball to the center field track. The fastball velocity was in the mid-90s.  

Hall won’t be a starter with the Orioles when they fly to Boston. We do know that much. Finally, a break in the clouds. But will they pivot here, as well, and put him in the bullpen for a while.

They aren’t quick to do that with young prospects, fearing that it could hurt the development process. They don’t want to sacrifice the future to fill a need in 2023. So, some light shone through those clouds, but we remain in the dark.

Locks in the bullpen have dwindled from five to three – Cionel Pérez, Mychal Givens and Bryan Baker. Tate might not pitch in April. Bautista is making significant progress but there aren’t any guarantees.

Austin Voth is on the club, but could he actually stay in the rotation? If he’s a long man in the ‘pen, who’s joining him from the failed starting candidates? Can Andrew Politi make the club as a Rule 5 pick? Can Joey Krehbiel find his groove and make his second straight Opening Day roster?

Going back to long relief, Spenser Watkins retired all six batters he faced Thursday in Lakeland after replacing Rodriguez. He’s been really good for stretches of his career in Baltimore, for instance, going 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA and a .238 average against in six starts from June 25-Aug. 1. What about him?

I’ve made a prediction that the 26-man roster on Opening Day won’t include any non-roster invites. It’s more of a commentary on the 40-man guys and the number of jobs secured. But Lewin Díaz, Ryan O’Hearn and Franchy Cordero are adding intensity to the backup first baseman competition.

O’Hearn was 2-for-2 with an RBI and walk Thursday in Lakeland and is 4-for-7 in four games. Díaz is 4-for-9 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs, and he’s a plus defender at first. Cordero homered in Bradenton.

Josh Lester struck out in his only at-bat last night and is 1-for-9. He’s got some catching up to do.

The bench remains a riddle beyond backup catcher James McCann and Adam Frazier or Ramón Urías, depending on the lineup. Frazier probably will be on the bench for Opening Day if the Red Sox start a left-hander, and Urías probably sits versus a right-hander. Just making some assumptions here.

Terrin Vavra is 6-for-11 with a double, triple and home run. He’s becoming more of an option at first base, along with the other positions he plays. Don't see how he's sent back to the minors.

Ryan McKenna plays all three outfield spots, brings speed and is a right-handed bat. Kyle Stowers can be plugged into the outfield corners, is a left-handed bat and can rotate into the designated hitter spot.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve read it countless times. I know how much I’ve written it.

The same projections, but with so many of the same questions tagging along.

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