How Orioles will handle first base in 2024 (Orioles claim Davidson)

Ryan O'Hearn white jersey

The Orioles set up a competition at first base in spring training that became one of the more interesting follows for media and fans. About as engrossing as possible for a backup job. The tallying of stats and ranking perceived leaders, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

Ryan Mountcastle was the undisputed starter, of course, but the non-roster invites included Ryan O’Hearn, Franchy Cordero, Lewin Díaz, Josh Lester and Curtis Terry. Quite a crowd.

Díaz was the first to go, with the Orioles reassigning him on March 20 while he dealt with right shoulder soreness. He didn’t make it back to the majors despite batting .268/.362/.442 with 21 doubles, 17 home runs and 64 RBIs in 118 games with Triple-A Norfolk.

Terry was released March 26 and spent the summer playing for the independent Gastonia Honey Hunters of the Atlantic League and Lake Country DockHounds of the American Association. Cordero exercised the opt-out clause in his contract the following day, signed with the Yankees, had four home runs and 11 RBIs in his first seven games, returned to earth and batted .188/.211/.478 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games.

O’Hearn and Lester were reassigned March 27.

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Orioles acquire pitcher Shintaro Fujinami from Athletics


The Orioles made a move tonight aimed at improving their bullpen.

The team announce that it has acquired right-hander Shintaro Fujinami from the Athletics for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas.

Triple-A Norfolk infielder Josh Lester was designated for assignment to create room for Fujinami on the 40-man roster.

Fujinami, a 29-year-old native of Sakai, Japan, made 34 appearances in his first major league season and posted an 8.57 ERA and 1.662 WHIP in 49 1/3 innings. He walked 30 batters and struck out 51.

Seven of those outings were starts, but the Orioles plan on using him in a relief role.

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Mullins, Zimmermann return to Orioles

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The Orioles reinstated center fielder Cedric Mullins from the injured list this afternoon. They also recalled left-hander Bruce Zimmermann and optioned reliever Logan Gillaspie and infielder Josh Lester to Triple-A Norfolk.

Mullins finished his rehab assignment with Norfolk after Thursday’s doubleheader and returned to Baltimore. He’s leading off today.

First baseman Ryan Mountcastle stayed with the Tides last night. He isn’t included to today’s transactions.

Lester tossed a scoreless ninth inning last night in his professional pitching debut and reached on an error in the bottom half.

Ryan O’Hearn is playing first base again and batting cleanup. Gunnar Henderson is the shortstop. Aaron Hicks moves to right fielid.

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Orioles suffer worst loss of season, Gibson turns in shortest start (updated)


Orioles manager Brandon Hyde would need his bullpen earlier than he wanted. A 35-pitch second inning from Kyle Gibson wasn’t conducive to a lengthy start. A 34-pitch third finally brought the hook.

Gibson registered his shortest start with the Orioles tonight while allowing five runs, and they dropped the series opener to the Mariners 13-1 before an announced crowd of 16,234 at Camden Yards that waited through a one hour, 40 minute rain delay.

The Rays lead the Orioles by 5 ½ games after their win tonight. The Yankees and Blue Jays lost.

Anthony Santander homered off Logan Gilbert in the seventh inning to break up the shutout bid and give the Orioles their second hit. The Mariners answered with seven runs in the eighth, all charged to Keegan Akin, to make the blowout official.

The margin freed Hyde to send Josh Lester to the mound in the ninth for the infielder’s professional pitching debut. He didn’t allow a run after Tom Murphy’s leadoff double, striking out Jarred Kelenic looking at a 62.3 mph “slider.” A walk was mixed in with two popups.

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A few notes and quotes on the winning Orioles weekend


Every year it seems like some of the biggest winning clubs in baseball have players succeed throughout their roster. Not only the roster of 26 players but many more that contribute in a myriad ways over the long season of 162 games.

The Orioles are getting that right now and it was on display in Sunday’s 11-3 victory that completed a three-game sweep of Kansas City by a 20-6 score. The Orioles earlier had three game sweeps at home April 21-23 versus Detroit and May 19-21 at Toronto. This was their first three-game sweep of Kansas City since the 2017 season.

At 41-24, the Orioles are playing .631 ball which translates to 102 wins for a full year. They are 17 games over the .500 mark for the first time since June 26, 2016.

But on a day Gunnar Henderson grabbed some headlines with his long home run in the eighth, Ryan O’Hearn reached base five times for the first time in his career. And he did it versus a Kansas City team he has played 342 games with. O’Hearn went 3-for-3 with two walks, four runs and he hit a changeup with a 107.9 mph exit velocity in the home eighth for his fourth O’s home run.

In 24 games with Baltimore, O’Hearn is batting .328 with a .989 OPS. Among all Orioles this year, that OPS is second on the team to outfielder Aaron Hicks, who is batting .345 with a 1.058 OPS, going 10-for-29 with eight runs and seven walks in 10 games.

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Orioles lineup includes Henderson

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MILWAUKEE – Gunnar Henderson has returned to the Orioles lineup tonight for the first time since Saturday.

Henderson was day-to-day with discomfort in his lower back.

Josh Lester is the designated hitter and Ryan O’Hearn gets the start at first base.

Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías are on the bench.

Adam Frazier is leading off again.

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Good news for Lester, crunching some Orioles numbers

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MILWAUKEE – Josh Lester hadn’t heard from the Orioles on Tuesday and took it as a positive sign.

They needed to make a corresponding move while reinstating left-hander Danny Coulombe from the bereavement list. Lester’s contract was selected over the weekend with Coulombe leaving the club, giving the Orioles 14 position players.

Sending Lester back down seemed like the predictable move. That’s often how it works. However, the club decided to option another left-handed hitter, Terrin Vavra, and keep Lester on the bench for the Milwaukee series.

“Obviously, I knew who I came up for and kind of the situation, the timetable of that,” Lester said, “but I didn’t know what would happen.”

So, how did Lester find out that he was staying in the majors after collecting his first hit and RBIs on Sunday?

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Orioles option Vavra to make room for Coulombe

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MILWAUKEE - Left-hander Danny Coulombe is back in the Orioles bullpen tonight after his reinstatement from the bereavement list. Infielder Terrin Vavera was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk as the corresponding move.

The roster has returned to the usual alignment of 13 pitchers and 13 position players for the series opener against the Brewers.

Coulombe missed two games in San Francisco. Vavra is batting .245/.315/.245 (12-for-49) with no extra-base hits in 27 games.

The Orioles chose to hold onto Josh Lester, who collected his first major league hit and two RBIs Sunday. They selected his contract to replace Coulombe.

Lester can play the corner infield and outfield positions, offering versatility similar to Vavra's.

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In San Francisco, a series win, pitching order restored and Lester arrived with huge hit


SAN FRANCISCO – When the series began on Friday the Orioles had lost back-to-back series for the first time all year. Their pitching staff had gotten torched for 12 runs on Wednesday versus Cleveland with the bullpen giving up 11 runs.

But during a weekend where they faced a San Francisco Giants team that had won four of its last five series and was 11-5 over the previous 16 games, the Orioles took two of three from the Giants.

Their pitching staff restored some order even as they played three more games without Cedric Mullins and the last 15 innings of the series without Gunnar Henderson, who left Saturday’s game with lower back discomfort. The good news there is that manager Brandon Hyde said Sunday he was doing better and he seemed confident Henderson could play in the Milwaukee series that begins tomorrow night.

O’s pitching gave up two, four and three runs in the series at Oracle Park, allowing nine runs on 21 hits in the games with 10 walks to 34 strikeouts.

Right-hander Tyler Wells set a career high with nine strikeouts Sunday, but all the Ks also helped escalate his pitch count and he left the game after 5 1/3 innings throwing 102 pitches. Mike Baumann, Yennier Cano and Austin Voth covered the last 3 2/3 allowing a hit and a run.

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O's use early big inning to break out, win series against Giants (updated, plus Kjerstad promoted)


SAN FRANCISCO – In the first two games of this series at Oracle Park – where they had gone 1-1 – the Orioles scored just three runs on nine hits versus the San Francisco Giants. They scored in just two of their 18 innings at bat in those games and were scoreless going into the third inning today.

But suddenly the runs came in a bunch. The Orioles scored six times on four hits, three walks and an error in the top of the third as they beat the Giants 8-3 to record another series victory and get their two-city road trip off to a winning start.

Now 37-22 overall and 20-10 on the road, the Orioles improved to 6-4 in rubber-match games. They also improved to 13-5-1 in 19 series. They didn’t secure their 13th series win last year until their 28th series, on July 13.

The O’s big third inning began with catcher James McCann drawing a six-pitch walk off the Giants' starter, right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who had walked nine over 67 1/3 innings coming into this outing. McCann advanced to third on Jorge Mateo’s double, just his second extra-base hit (both doubles) his last 24 games. Adam Frazier’s sac fly to center made it a 1-0 lead.

Adley Rutschman kept the rally going with an infield hit, his 11th infield hit of the year. Anthony Santander popped out, but Austin Hays flared a single into right field for a 2-0 lead. An Aaron Hicks walk loaded the bases and when Ryan Mountcastle walked on four pitches, the O’s lead was 3-0.

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O's pregame notes on today's roster move as Josh Lester arrives


SAN FRANCISCO – The Orioles added infielder/outfielder Josh Lester to their roster today as bullpen lefty Danny Coulombe went on the bereavement list. O’s manager Brandon Hyde expects Coulombe, who has 2.08 ERA in 26 games, to miss only the final two games of this series with the San Francisco Giants. He should return for the Orioles' series at Milwaukee, which begins Tuesday.

As for adding Lester, Hyde said the schedule of upcoming starters the O’s will be facing helped lead them in his direction to fill that roster spot.

“I'm excited for Josh,” Hyde said today in the visitors' dugout at Oracle Park. “He swung the bat so well in spring training for us, off to a good start in Triple-A. We're running into a string of right-handed starters these next handful of games. With the off-day here in a couple of days, we feel like we're in good shape, bullpen-wise, to be able to add another left-handed bat, and the guy is really swinging the bat well in Triple-A, and we're excited to have him.

“We had a lot of options going into the game yesterday knowing we were going to lose Danny. We had three of four scenarios and we had to see how the game played out last night,” he said of his roster, which for now carries 14 position players and 12 pitchers. 

The team moved bullpen right-hander Dillon Tate to the 60-day injured list with a right elbow flexor strain to create room for Lester on the 40-man roster.

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Lester replaces Coulombe on Orioles' roster


The Orioles placed left-handed reliever Danny Coulombe on the bereavement list today and selected infielder Josh Lester’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk.

Reliever Dillon Tate was moved to the 60-day injured list with a right elbow flexor strain to create room for Lester on the 40-man roster.

Coulombe struck out the side last night in the seventh inning to lower his ERA to 2.08.

An off-day on Monday could limit Coulombe’s absence from the Orioles to two games. They’re carrying 12 pitchers tonight and 14 position players.

Lester, signed to a minor league deal on Dec. 6, was batting .282/.339/.549 with nine doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 52 games with Norfolk. His second and last major league game was Sept. 6, 2022 with the Tigers in Anaheim.

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Cordero, Lester and O'Hearn keep the competition cranked


SARASOTA, Fla. – Anthony Santander received his second exhibition start at first base last night. With the club undecided on a primary backup, it makes sense to check whether he can be trusted to do more than field ground balls in pregame drills.

Santander has shown that he’s comfortable, running down a foul popup last night and handling every throw, but the Orioles have other options. For instance, non-roster invites Franchy Cordero, Josh Lester and Ryan O’Hearn remain in camp, surviving cuts that whittled the roster to 44 players.

“We definitely have more depth this year, and we still have a huge number in camp because we still want to take a look at a lot of people,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Still have roster spots open that we haven’t finalized. We’re just starting to have those conversations. We have them throughout the spring but narrowing down to how our roster is going to look when he break. Still questionable right now.”

Cordero was inserted at first base in the seventh inning last night, and Lester went to third. O’Hearn batted for designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle in the eighth. They were stacked back-to-back-to-back in the order, which seemed appropriate. Lined up like actors auditioning for a role.

O’Hearn walked in the eighth, Cordero singled into right field and Lester walked. They all scored, as the Orioles battled back to tie the game.

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Checking more Orioles' spring stats and questions surrounding the pitching staff

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SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles are playing under the lights again tonight, which allows the team to report to the clubhouse later than usual. Temperatures are supposed to dip into the 50s. Also a good way to prepare for a March 30th Opening Day in Boston.

Left-hander Cole Irvin gets the start against the Blue Jays and Kyle Bradish could find his innings on the Camden Yards field. Two starters who are in the Opening Day rotation. No need to proceed with caution regarding Bradish. He’s done everything required to hold onto his spot.

We’ve gotten clarity on some topics and remain in the dark on others.

The last bench spot is an example of the latter, with me saying again that I’m sticking with my original and follow-up mocks but also am intrigued by the performances from backup first base candidates Ryan O’Hearn, Franchy Cordero and Josh Lester. And especially how Lester went from disappearing to dominating.

The Undertaker being flat on his back and then sitting up in the middle of the ring comes to mind.

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First base competition stays intense, Wells talks about his start, and more (plus roster update)


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spring stats don’t appear to carry much weight with Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. He’s only checked the number of plate appearances. Otherwise, he has no interest.

It’s more about the quality of the at-bats and a pitcher’s control in the strike zone, he says.

“Put very little stock in what their numbers are like.”

Some of the competitors for the backup job at first base probably wish the figures counted for more in the final evaluations.

Josh Lester was 1-for-12 before stepping off the bus Wednesday in Fort Myers. Better to turn away. But he went 3-for-3 with two RBIs against the Twins, and he singled twice today in his first two at-bats.

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Flipping through the pages of the Orioles spring training notepad

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SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles are traveling to Tropicana Field this morning to play the Rays, who can't use their spring facility in Port Charlotte due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ian.

The place will seem empty. As if that's an oddity. But it's still 72 degrees and dry inside and a great setup for visiting teams and the media. Don't be a hater.

I spent some time yesterday making sure that I didn't forget to share anything important, as the days meld together and the brain begins to fry. Or anything stupid. Let's not be elitist.

* Outfielder Kyle Stowers isn’t working out at first base.

I felt like I had to confirm it after speculating in Friday’s mailbag.

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Revisiting roll call of Orioles' non-roster invites to spring training


The Orioles sent out their list of non-roster invites to spring training yesterday with the understanding that other names could appear later. Thirty wasn’t a set number. There’s always room for Jell-O and more lockers at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Within hours, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez cleared outright waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. He, too, will be in Sarasota, giving the Orioles 38 pitchers in camp, including 12 of the non-roster variety.

The possibility still exists that the Orioles make a waiver claim, sign a free agent or consummate another trade. They aren’t shutting down.

“We’re still working on stuff,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said yesterday during a Q&A with fans at Wilde Lake High School.

Could be pitching, an infielder or an outfielder. And it could be a major league contract.

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Checking on some competitions while waiting for camp information


“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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Orioles pick 17th in draft, Elias trying to strike another deal before leaving San Diego


SAN DIEGO – The new draft lottery couldn’t budge the Orioles from the 17th spot.

Their 0.4 percent odds of receiving the first-overall pick proved to be accurate, with no amount of ping pong balls able to influence it. The Brewers remained 18th, also where they started the day.

The Orioles haven’t drafted outside the top five since taking high school pitcher Grayson Rodriguez 11th overall in 2018. They haven’t been pushed back this far since choosing prep left-hander DL Hall 21st overall in 2017.

The lottery system was approved in the new collective bargaining agreement for the 18 teams that missed the playoffs.

The Pirates were the big winners tonight – a rare distinction for the franchise - by receiving the first pick, followed by the Nationals, Tigers, Rangers, Twins, Athletics, Reds, Royals, Rockies, Marlins, Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Red Sox, White Sox, Giants, Orioles and Brewers.

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