Reviewing recent roster and player pool reconstruction

The trade that brought right-hander Conner Loeprich to the Orioles organization was announced in the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon's game against the Rays. In the middle of the filing frenzy, when most of the beat crew is rushing to get its stories ready to post after the final out - and hoping that the score and stats don't require a late adjustment.

César Valdez was in the process of retiring the side in order for his second save. Leadoff hitter Willy Adames smoked a ball to the warning track in left field and visions of a massive rewrite danced in my head, but Austin Hays broke back and made the catch.

I thought the ball was clearing the fence from the moment that it left Adames' bat.

Anyway, Loeprich didn't get much attention due to the timing of the announcement and a frantic Google search with two outs didn't produce much information.

I found out, as Valdez was facing his last batter, that Loeprich is a 23-year-old right-hander and California native selected by the Pirates in the 20th round in 2018 out of St. Mary's College. He's 6-8 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.356 WHIP in two minor league seasons and 55 appearances, including only eight starts.

Did I mention that he's right-handed?

Loeprich pitched at the low and high Single-A levels in 2019. He averages 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings. I'm assuming that he also enjoys long walks on the beach.

The Orioles normally would assign him to Single-A Frederick, but we don't know whether the Keys will be in operation in 2021 with teams losing affiliates.

The cost of Loeprich was international signing bonus slots, which the Orioles usually horde.

Elias-Stands-with-Radar-Gun-Sidebar.jpgThe trade is the latest step in funneling more talent into the lower levels of the farm system. The Orioles received shortstop Isaac De León from the Marlins as the player to be named later in the Richard Bleier deal, outfielder Mishael Deson from the Rockies as the PTBNL in the Mychal Givens deal and shortstop Victor González from the Mets as the PTBNL in the Miguel Castro deal. They're headed to the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.

To create more room in the 60-man player pool, the Orioles released outfielder Mason Williams and pitchers Rob Zastryzny and Chandler Shepherd.

Shepherd has a baby due any minute and gets to be home for the birth, so there's a positive aspect to his release. And he could find a better financial situation in Korea, where teams in the past have expressed interest in him.

(Speaking of babies, my granddaughter arrived Sunday during the ninth inning. New life on deadline. That's so 2020.)

Williams became expendable with Hays healthy, Cedric Mullins playing at an exceptional level in center field, Ryan Mountcastle becoming the team's best player since his promotion and DJ Stewart going on a home run binge that's been on hold for the last seven games.

Zastryzny never made it to Camden Yards. And I never learned how to spell his name without checking.


Asher Wojciechowski cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk, which doesn't ensure his return in 2021. He can become a free agent and the Orioles have other options for the rotation and in long relief. And Wojciechowski should be able to find a better situation, even if it's just a more favorable competition.

There are six starters in the rotation as the Orioles approach the final week of the season - Alex Cobb, John Means, Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Jorge López and Bruce Zimmermann. The Ellicott City resident might piggyback in order to give him more work before Sunday's finale.

Other starters are hovering below, waiting for a minor league season in 2021 and the chance to make their debuts. And there's another wave behind them, led by first-rounder Grayson Rodriguez.

Wojciechowski always will be appreciated for his work in 2019, when starters routinely made early exits, the bullpen was fried and he gave the club much-needed innings and effort - along with some absolutely dominant performances against the Red Sox. But the rebuild has reached the point where he's expendable based on his struggles this summer, both in the rotation and bullpen.

A business decision that shouldn't give people short memories regarding past contributions from the guy with the long last name.

The Pirates claimed pitcher Carson Fulmer off waivers yesterday after losing him to the Orioles earlier this month.

The exposure of Fulmer to waivers again comes as a surprise, considering that he didn't surrender a run in three relief appearances - though his delivery got out of whack in one of them - and the Orioles seemed to be committed to the reclamation project.

Fulmer is out of minor league options. The Orioles wanted him removed from the 40-man roster. And now he's gone.

Asked about Fulmer on Sept. 8, manager Brandon Hyde said, "Carson threw yesterday and our pitching guys are ecstatic about the kind of stuff and what they saw from him in his bullpen session yesterday. It's a top of the first round college guy that got to the big leagues really fast. I saw that early in Chicago. They used him in a variety of roles, never really got comfortable at the big league level. So it's a big arm that we want to take a look at and hope we can find some opportunities to get him in and show what he can do."

Three opportunities later, Fulmer packed his bags again and headed back to the Pirates.

The corresponding roster move for Fulmer will be announced later today and it can involve a player who isn't on the 40-man roster. There are three open spots.

Reliever Shawn Armstrong is the only Oriole on the 10-day injured list who hasn't been shut down - Chris Davis (knee) and Anthony Santander (oblique) are done for 2020 - but he has just started to pitch at the alternate camp site. He threw an inning over the weekend. Is that enough to activate him?

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