More spring training curiosities in Orioles camp

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How the rotation and bullpens are constructed, with the first influencing the second, are the biggest spring training curiosities for me and many others. The final bench spot must be monitored, with a non-roster, left-handed hitting first baseman hoping to crash the opening day party in Boston.

I’ve already filled this space with some spring training storylines. Here’s a recent story.

What else is worthy of our attention besides the exhilarating pitchers fielding practice and bunt drills?

I’ll take a swing at it with some quick hits.

Every Kyle Gibson side session and appearance is noteworthy because the Orioles gave him $10 million guaranteed, their largest deal since hiring Mike Elias, and he could move near or at the top of the rotation. They expect more out of him than just innings, though they'll gladly take those, as well. He's bound to draw comparisons to Jordan Lyles, the pitcher he basically is replacing.

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Checking on some competitions while waiting for camp information

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“When do you head down to spring training?”

I was asked again this week during dinner with some friends. I smiled, shrugged and offered the usual time frame.

Major League Baseball hasn’t shared the report date for pitchers and catchers, which coincides with my report date. We usually know months ago.

The Rays arrive on Feb. 14, with their first workout held the following day. But they’re in upheaval after Hurricane Ian hit Port Charlotte hard in late September.

Every March home game will be played at Tropicana Field. The Orioles visit on the 5th.

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Needing more answers about the Orioles

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Tyler Nevin was designated for assignment on Wednesday and we still don’t know whether he’s staying in the organization as an outright or joining another team via a trade or waiver claim.

I have a few more questions before 2022 turns into 2023.

How will a new double play combination impact the proficiency in turning them?
Adam Frazier could get most of the starts at second base or he might be busy switching between the infield and outfield. He’s signed for one season and could get bumped over the summer for one of the prospects. But he’s here right now and his main position is second base.

Gunnar Henderson is expected be the third baseman despite Ramón Urías winning a Gold Glove in 2022. Henderson also will be used at shortstop. Urías will move around the infield, with his primary landing spot to be determined.

Rougned Odor is gone after contributing to a defense that turned 150 double plays, the second-most in the American League and fifth-most in the majors. Odor had his deficiencies, but this was one area where he seemed to excel.

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More on Mychal Givens returning to Orioles

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The Orioles’ bingo card is beginning to fill up.

A veteran starting pitcher, a left-handed hitter for second base and the corner outfield, left-handed bats on minor league deals, and now a veteran reliever with last night’s news of the agreement with Mychal Givens.

Another starter and a backup catcher must be found. I can confirm the reported interest in left-hander Rich Hill. I was told about a meeting with the Orioles. But I haven’t heard a word about any catchers.

A left-handed hitting first baseman/designated hitter also could be added, unless the club is satisfied with Lewin Díaz and Franchy Cordero. Díaz is on the 40-man roster and Cordero signed a split contract.

The bullpen wasn’t billed as a priority during the Winter Meetings, but the Orioles intended to sign a veteran. I didn’t think a reunion with Mychal Givens was in the works, but here we are, writing and reading about him again.

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Baseball America's JJ Cooper on the Orioles' Rule 5 draft selection

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A streak stayed alive recently. The Orioles have made a selection in every Rule 5 draft that was held since 2006. This time they selected right-handed reliever Andrew Politi from the Boston Red Sox. 

Now Politi, coming off a good 2022 season when he spent time at both Double-A and Triple-A, will try to first make the O’s Opening Day roster and then stick with the club all season next year, per the Rule 5 rules. A 15th-round draft pick out of Seton Hall in 2018, Politi pitched in 50 games last year, going 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA.

Over 69 1/3 innings he allowed 45 hits and just six homers, recording 22 walks to 83 strikeouts. He posted a 2.9 walk rate and 10.8 strikeout rate with a .186 batting average against and 0.97 WHIP. Some strong stats that included a 28.3 strikeout percentage in his time at Triple-A.

I recently talked with Baseball America’s editor-in-chief, JJ Cooper about this O's addition. Few know the Rule 5 draft or cover it better than Cooper. He sees this pick as a different type of Rule 5 selection for the O's. Not a pitcher that a losing team might select for future help but a major league-ready pickup that a team chasing the playoffs might take a look at.

“The Orioles were looking for a player that could fit into their 2023 bullpen, and if I were looking for a player in this year’s Rule 5 draft, Politi is one of the ones that most stands out for that," said Cooper. "He had success last year. He had upper-level success, he spent most of the year at Triple-A. It’s not a high-upside play. He’s got solid stuff. A mid-90’s fastball that plays well with a hard slider.

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Politi: "It was a great team to be picked by"

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Andrew Politi didn’t want to think about the Rule 5 draft.

Being in San Diego, near the Winter Meetings, was merely a coincidence. A way to escape the cold back East. He decided to go on a hike with his girlfriend, Molly, for the exercise and the distraction. Fresh air and clear mind.

“Nothing crazy,” he said yesterday. “Just didn’t really want to sit there and watch it, because I know how unpredictable it is.”

The Tigers and Reds passed when their turns came, two teams believed to be interested in him. Politi stuffed his phone back in his pocket. He was done tracking the event. Just concentrate on his steps.

And then came the call from Eve Rosenbaum, the Orioles’ assistant general manager of baseball operations.

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Orioles select Politi in Rule 5 draft (updated)

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SAN DIEGO – The Orioles maintained their streak of being active in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, selecting right-hander Andrew Politi from the Red Sox organization.

Politi, 26, was a 15th-round draft pick in 2018 out of Seton Hall. He made 50 appearances this year between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, including two starts, and registered a 2.34 ERA and 0.966 WHIP with eight saves. He struck out 83 batters in 69 1/3 innings.

In four minor league seasons, Politi has posted a 4.14 ERA and 1.250 WHIP with 16 saves in 125 games. He’s averaged 7.4 hits, 3.8 walks, 11.1 strikeouts and 0.8 home runs per nine innings.

Politi struck out 132 batters in 94 2/3 innings at Seton Hall. Baseball America ranked him as Boston’s No. 23 prospect in 2020 and No. 30 last year.

Baseball America’s 5.0 Rule 5 preview included the following about Politi:

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