Reviewing Orioles roster and rotation after road trip

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The roster churn slowed yesterday for the Orioles, who stuck with the same 26 players to close out their road trip. They made it through nine innings without an injury. The flu-like symptoms that have swept through the clubhouse apparently didn’t claim a new victim.

A win achieved on a day that they lost.

At least four players were impacted – Austin Hays, Gunnar Henderson, Danny Coulombe and Keegan Akin – and others might have been ill. The Orioles don’t invite media into the trainers’ room or share dehydration data.

Seven players remain on the injured list, but Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle began their injury rehab assignments last night with Triple-A Norfolk after Tuesday’s rainout in Nashville. Reliever Mychal Givens and Dillon Tate pitched.

Mullins started in center field went 1-for-5 with a two-run homer, and Mountcastle played first base and went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Mountcastle also committed a fielding error.

Tate allowed one run and two hits with a strikeout in the sixth inning. Givens retired the side in order with a strikeout in the eighth, and Norfolk defeated Nashville 8-3 to win the International League first half championship.

Josh Lester is trying to hold onto his spot with Mountcastle nearing a return. Ryan O’Hearn is safe, extending his career-high hitting streak to nine games yesterday to match Anthony Santander for longest by an Orioles player this season.

O’Hearn is batting .469/.500/.813 (15-for-32) with five extra-base hits during that stretch.

Catcher James McCann was in the clubhouse at Tropicana Field and walking with only a small trace of a limp. The sprained left ankle must be feeling better. Reinstatement after his 10-day period seems plausible.

Perhaps the Orioles choose to option rookie infielder Joey Ortiz when Mullins is ready. They aren’t touching Aaron Hicks, who had a rare quiet afternoon by going 0-for-3.

“He’s given us a huge spark since he’s been here,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s gotten big hits, played great defense for us, kind of a veteran presence for us in our clubhouse and in meetings. A guy that’s been around for nine years and really performed well. Got really lucky when he was available, and so happy with how he’s playing so far.”

The Orioles have put six catchers on the active roster this season, though Luis Torrens and José Godoy didn’t get into a game. Godoy was on the taxi squad this week after the Orioles optioned him and selected Anthony Bemboom’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk.

Making room for McCann isn’t complicated. Bemboom is out of minor league options and vulnerable to another DFA.

Logan Gillaspie appeared on the roster for a third time when the Orioles recalled him this week. He faced three batters yesterday, the first two reached on a double and walk, and Keegan Akin stranded them with a pair of strikeouts.

Gillaspie was on the Opening Day roster, returned for a day, and was recalled Tuesday when the Orioles designated Spenser Watkins for assignment. His stay could be brief again if the Orioles need a spot for Givens or someone else.

The shuttling is the same whether the Orioles are contenders or bottom dwellers.

Players handle the movement “as well as you possibly can,” Hyde said.

“It’s definitely not easy and I give them a lot of credit. When they go back down, it’s with a great attitude and a good mindset. They try to get back up here and perform well so they can come back up here. But to be on that shuttle a little bit, they want to be here and it’s a tough pill to swallow when you have to go back down. But I give them a lot of credit for how they’ve taken it.

“Logan’s done it for a couple years, where he’s able to ride the bus a little bit back and forth. It’s never easy, but I think they’re handling it extremely well.”

Gillaspie is viewed as a more natural middle reliever than Watkins, who’s worked as a starter for most of his professional career. Watkins can refuse an outright assignment if he clears waivers and might do it if he isn’t traded.

A deal would keep him on the 40-man roster.

There’s outside interest in Watkins, but the Orioles have held onto him to increase their Triple-A pitching depth and provide an innings eater during some rough periods for the staff.

Watkins made 20 starts last summer and limited the Blue Jays to one run and two hits in 3 1/3 innings in his final appearance on Oct. 5. He came off the injured list June 25 and allowed one run or fewer in his first four starts and five of six.

The Orioles failed to sweep the Rays this week, but Tuesday’s win kept them clean from being swept since May 13-15, 2022.

“Well, we’re a better team,” Hyde said, “I think our guys do a good job of staying as consistent as possible and in a rollercoaster six-month season where they don’t ride the waves too high, too low. They know every day is a new day and whether you’ve lost a couple in a row or won a couple in a row, things can happen and can change quickly. It’s always about next day’s starter, too, and I think that we’ve just done a good job of staying consistent."

The rotation isn't staying the same.

Kyle Gibson and Dean Kremer are starting the first two games of the Mariners series at Camden Yards. Cole Irvin could pitch Sunday after tossing an inning in relief yesterday, or the Orioles might have someone else in mind, like Kyle Bradish on normal rest.

Hyde said that Irvin will get another start "at some point in the next few days." Until then, he's a fourth left-hander in the bullpen. 

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