Decisions, decisions: O's final roster cutdown is challenging to say the least

Kyle Stowers 2024 spring training

We hear big league managers and front office types say something similar early each spring training. They hope there are a lot of tough decisions to make at the end of their camp. They hope a lot of players play well.

It doesn’t always happen. It probably doesn’t often happen.

For the Orioles, this year, it did happen.

Kyle Stowers is batting .297 with an OPS of 1.181 and seven spring homers. Colton Cowser is batting .364/1.246 with four long balls. Coby Mayo is batting .366/1.068. Even a more veteran player like Errol Robinson has gone 6-for-16 this spring. Tyler Nevin has hit .302 and Connor Norby is 6-for-20.

On the mound, the Orioles have nine pitchers with ERAs of 0.00 that have thrown at least three innings.

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Cedric Mullins is motivated and confident he can have another big year

Cedric Mullins

For a player who had a year where he dealt with multiple groin injuries and finished the year struggling so badly, O’s center fielder Cedric Mullins still had his moments in the 2023 season.

He hit for the cycle May 12, had a five-hit game and also hit two grand slams. On Sept. 18 at Houston, he hit a 425-foot, go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning. And he became the first player to both rob and hit a home run in the ninth inning or later of the same game over the last 10 seasons on Aug. 13 at Seattle. That was according to ESPN Stats & Info and marked his first career go-ahead homer in extra innings.

He sure had some big moments and games but still hit for him what was a less than expected .233/.305/.416/.721 for an OPS+ of 101.

He’s now 30 and two years removed from the first 30-30 season (homers and steals) in O’s history in 2021. He produced an .878 OPS then and was ninth in the MVP voting.

But his last two years were not close to that, and he was 0-for-12 in the American League Division Series last October and just 2-for-45 his last 14 games, counting the postseason.

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MLB's Spring Breakout series is nice showcase for young talent

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The Orioles' Spring Breakout game has come and gone. They lost the seven-inning contest 3-1 on Thursday night in Bradenton to the Pittsburgh Pirates' prospects.

Who expected the O’s pitching prospects to outshine the hitters? But the O’s batters in that game got just one hit in 20 at-bats. And that was a bunt hit by Enrique Bradfield Jr. He blazed his way down the first-base line, showing off his 80-grade speed. Luis Valdez also showed off his speed in stealing two bases, leading to Jud Fabian’s deep sac fly in the Baltimore second.

But Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo, Samuel Basallo and Connor Norby went a combined 0-for-7.

The O’s chose to use just two pitchers, and lefty Cade Povich and right-hander Trace Bright each gave up one earned run. Each fanned four batters, and Bright in particular showed some swing-and-miss secondaries, including a big breaking curveball, to go with a lively fastball that he could elevate at 95 mph.

The game allowed the O’s to show off 15 of their top 30 prospects, seven from their top 10 and three from the top 100, including the No. 1 prospect in the game, Holliday.

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Burnes dominant in four frames, Kimbrel stays scoreless, O's reassign Basallo and bring back Burdick (O's win 5-4)

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SARASOTA, Fla. – Corbin Burnes coasted through the first inning today, retiring the Red Sox in order on nine pitches and throwing seven for strikes. Cedric Mullins made a nice running catch in left-center to deny Pablo Reyes.

The second inning couldn’t have gone much worse. Couldn’t have been more dramatically different than the rest of Burnes’ outing.

A crazy day for the veteran right-hander, who was outstanding in four of his five frames. But also important in being able to solve the issue and do good work with the new people in his baseball life.

Bobby Dalbec and Wilyer Abreu hit back-to- back home runs, the former on a two-strike fastball. Burnes committed throwing errors while attempting pickoffs at first and second base, and the Red Sox took advantage with an RBI single by Tyler Heineman and sacrifice fly by Dalton Guthrie to deep center field.

A 2-0 lead for the Orioles became a 4-2 deficit, and Burnes threw 20 pitches in the inning. On the plus side, 17 were strikes.

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Will the Gerrit Cole injury change balance of power in AL East?

Gerrit Cole

While the Orioles know they will begin their season without either right-hander Kyle Bradish or lefty John Means in their pitching rotation, they now also know that the New York Yankees will begin the year without 2023 American League Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole.

Cole and the Yankees got some good news this week, in that his elbow ailment seems limited to inflammation and no surgery or procedures will be needed. But reports say he will miss one-to-two months or as one report put it, as many as 10-to-12 weeks.

If it’s on the long side of things, he could be out until around mid-June give or take a week or so. The Orioles play the Yankees four times from April 29-May 2 and three times from June 18-20. But more than the potential seven games he could miss between the teams, it’s the nearly half-season of games he might miss.

Since 2020 with the Yankees, Cole has gone 51-23 with a 3.08 ERA and 1.011 WHIP and is consistently among the best pitchers in the game. He has twice finished second for the Cy Young award and been in the top five six times.

Last season he was 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 0.981 WHIP with 222 strikeouts. He was a unanimous winner of the Cy Young award with the O’s Bradish finishing fourth in the voting.

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French recalls early days coaching Pérez

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SARASOTA, Fla. – The reunion between Orioles reliever Cionel Pérez and pitching coach Drew French was much easier to arrange than their first meeting.

The Astros signed Pérez, a native of Matanzas, Cuba, to a $5.15 million bonus in 2016 as an international free agent, but they voided the deal a month later due to an issue with his physical that led to concerns from the medical staff that he’d eventually need elbow surgery. The agreement was restructured in December at $2 million.

Perez made his professional debut in 2017 with the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits, the eventual Midwest League champions. His pitching coach was French, who saw potential inside a raw prospect.

French, hired by the Orioles in November to serve in the same role, introduced Pérez to the organization’s standards and methods, while also trying to ease his transition to life in a new country.

“I remember the onboarding process of, this is kind of our North Star, this is how we grade you, this is how we look at your delivery and your arsenal, and this is how we expect things to go, and throwing the ball in certain places,” French said earlier this week.

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Checking on Kremer, O'Hearn and more in today's exhibition game against the Rays (O's lose 7-2)

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Dean Kremer jogged from the dugout to the mound today for the bottom of the fifth inning. He got another up. And he got the chance because he was cruising.

Kremer retired nine batters in a row and he wasn’t done. With Albert Suárez ready in the bullpen, Kremer threw all three of his pitches for strikes and Francisco Mejía flied to center field.

Now, he could sit down after registering his longest outing of the spring.

Ten in a row were retired since Kremer hit his second batter of the day. He allowed one run and two hits in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk and three strikeouts.

In four exhibition starts, Kremer has surrendered six runs and 12 hits and struck out 11 in 12 1/3 innings.

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Vespi keeps impressing in bid for Orioles bullpen spot

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Nick Vespi will get a few days off following his two-inning stint yesterday in Bradenton, where he struck out five batters and received some playful compliments from a teammate this morning for being in beast mode.

Vespi has allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings over his six spring appearances, and he’s struck out nine batters. He hasn’t issued a walk. Opponents are batting .160.

“I know that he’s been working on his two-seamer that goes the other way,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “His four-seamer, cutter, slider kind of go one direction and he’s working on a fastball that goes the other way to keep lefties honest. And that’s been much improved. But his strike-throwing ability, the way he can go multiple innings, able to get both sides out … really loved how he threw the ball yesterday and we’re going to keep giving him a look.”

The Pirates’ Matt Fraizer singled with one out in the eighth yesterday and Vespi got a called third strike on the next two hitters. The inning began with a swinging strikeout against Grant Koch, who was fed fastballs, sinkers, a curveball and a slider.

Sergio Alcántara grounded out to end the game and give Vespi the save after the left-hander struck out Jake Lamb looking and Dustin Peterson swinging.

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Orioles and Rays lineups in Port Charlotte

Colton Cowser gray

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Colton Cowser is playing left field and leading off this afternoon against Rays right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa.

Jordan Westburg is playing third base. Heston Kjerstad is in right.

Jackson Holliday is starting at shortstop after playing in last night’s “Spring Breakout” game in Bradenton. Connor Norby, who also played last night, is the designated hitter today.

Dean Kremer is making is fourth start, with Albert Suárez on the trip to pitch in relief. Kremer has allowed five runs and 10 hits in eight innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Coby Mayo is listed among the reserves. Among players coming over from the minor league side are outfielder Dontá Williams and infielders Anthony Servideo and TT Bowens.

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Rehab now over, O's look to see what they have in prospect RHP Seth Johnson

Seth Johnson 2024 picture day

Right-hander Seth Johnson was a promising young pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. In college he converted from shortstop to the mound at Campbell University and then Tampa Bay drafted him 40th overall in the 2019 season.

He had a breakout 2021 season on the Rays' watch at Low-A ball, pitching to an ERA of 2.88 over 23 games but his next season was cut short by an elbow issue and Tommy John surgery was going to be needed.

That was a major setback but not all the big news he was going to have to deal with. Set for surgery that would happen on Aug. 3, 2022, he flew into Arlington, Tex. two days earlier ahead of the procedure and then his phone rang. He was traded to the Orioles in a three-team deal that sent Trey Mancini to Houston.

Time to get a new and improved elbow and a new team.  

“The day I got traded I was in Arlington for the surgery, and I was planning on going to the Rangers game that night and they were playing the Orioles. So, I got to see the team I was traded to about three hours after the trade,” Johnson recalled with a laugh in Sarasota, Fla. recently.

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Holliday can't get revenge on Skenes in "Spring Breakout," Bradfield flashes blazing speed (O's lose 3-1)

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BRADENTON, Fla. – The much-anticipated and aggressively hyped rematch between Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday and Pirates ace-to-be Paul Skenes lasted six pitches tonight. Holiday struck out with the count full and Skenes didn’t return for the second inning.

He’ll never be accused of wearing out his welcome. Just the batters who have to face him. And maybe a few catcher’s mitts.

Skenes’ fastball in the Orioles' 3-1 loss was clocked at 100.6, 101.7 and 101.1 mph during the at-bat. He began the game by striking out Enrique Bradfield Jr. on three pitches – at 100.6, 101.1 and 101.7 mph.

Last year’s first-overall draft pick out of LSU put his stamp on the inaugural “Spring Breakout,” retiring the side in order by breaking Connor Norby’s bat – it sure sounded like it, anyway - with a 96.6 mph sinker that produced a ground ball to third baseman Jack Brannigan.

Statcast identified the pitch that fanned Holliday as a 91.6 mph four-seam fastball. That’s wrong. Skenes hasn’t thrown a four-seamer in the low-90s since he was in preschool.

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Rodriguez works into fifth, Mullins returns, Stowers wins latest left-on-left battle (O's win 5-2)

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BRADENTON, Fla. – The third inning today began to bring out the better spring side of Grayson Rodriguez.

Rodriguez retired the Pirates in order, getting the first two outs on four pitches. Jack Suwinski battled through 11 before flying out. Thirteen of those 15 pitches were strikes.

Making his fourth exhibition start, Rodriguez ventured into the fifth inning in his longest outing. He was removed after a one-out double by Alika Williams.

The Orioles stretched Rodriguez to 76 pitches (51 strikes), 14 more than his previous start against the Tigers. He was charged with two runs and four hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts.

Before today, Rodriguez had totaled 7 1/3 innings and allowed three runs and 10 hits with five walks and five strikeouts.

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Orioles lineup for "Spring Breakout," plus more notes

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BRADENTON, Fla. – The Orioles announced their lineup for tonight’s “Spring Breakout” game against the Pirates in Bradenton, the second half of a unique doubleheader.

The top two spots are occupied by the last two first-round draft picks – center fielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. and shortstop Jackson Holliday.

Samuel Basallo, who collected his first hit yesterday with a ninth inning single, is batting fifth as the designated hitter. He probably won’t be cleared to catch until late April due to a stress fracture in his right elbow.

Silas Ardoin is catching left-hander Cade Povich.

The first seven spots in the order are occupied by Top 30 prospects. Povich also counts at No. 10 per MLB Pipeline.

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Orioles lineup for today's game vs. Pirates, update on Bradish (plus Pirates lineup)

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BRADENTON, Fla. – Cedric Mullins is in the lineup today for the first time since March 4, when he exited in the first inning with right hamstring discomfort.

Mullins is leading off. Gunnar Henderson is starting at shortstop and batting third.

Jorge Mateo is the second baseman. Kyle Stowers is in right field.

Tyler Nevin gets the start at first base.

Grayson Rodriguez is making his fourth start after allowing three runs and 10 hits in 7 1/3 innings. He’s walked five batters and struck out five.

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Holliday on Basallo: "He is the real thing"

Samuel Basallo 2024 photo day

This time last year, the Orioles Jackson Holliday and Samuel Basallo – now the club’s top two rated prospects – were a couple of weeks away from reporting to Low-A Delmarva to start the 2023 season.

A year later both have continued to impress and progress as prospects and now they are two of the best in the sport. While Holliday is everyone’s No. 1 prospect, Basallo is ranked No. 10 by Baseball America, No. 17 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 27 by ESPN.com.

Two studs to help lead the best farm system in the sport and both could be in the lineup tonight at 7:05 p.m. when the O’s prospects play the Pittsburgh Pirates prospects in Bradenton in the Spring Breakout game that will be televised live by MLB Network.

Basallo played in his first spring game Monday and went 0-for-3 combined Monday and Tuesday. He has a stress fracture in his throwing elbow and is not ready to catch yet but can take at-bats in games as the DH.

If Holliday and Basallo are in the lineup together it will be the first time for that duo since they played for Delmarva late last April, before Holliday was moved to High-A Aberdeen. By the time Basallo later got to Aberdeen, Holliday had moved to Double-A Bowie and by the time Basallo played four games to end his 2023 season at Bowie, Holliday had moved to Triple-A Norfolk.

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Orioles reassign eight to minor league camp

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The Orioles have made the following roster moves:

  • ReassignedINF/OF Diego Castillo, RHP Wandisson Charles, LHP Tucker Davidson, LHP Luis González, OF Daniel Johnson, RHP Chayce McDermott, LHP Cade Povich, and INF Errol Robinson to minor league camp.

The Orioles’ Spring Training roster currently has 50 players (38+11 NRI+1 IL).

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Modeling his game after greats, Enrique Bradfield Jr. knows his style well

Enrique Bradfield Jr.

There may be few players that know their game and understand the strengths they need to play to during a baseball game more than O’s outfield prospect Enrique Bradfield Jr.

He has blazing speed – scouts say it's a top-of-scale 80 scouting grade – but little power to this point. He knows the style of game he needs to play and it’s similar to what we might call an old-school leadoff hitter. One that needs to make a lot of contact, often keep the ball out of the air and use his legs to make things happen.

Bradfield was the Orioles' top draft pick last summer, taken No. 17 overall out of Vanderbilt, where he stole 130 bases with a 91 percent success rate in three seasons.

For quite a while now, Bradfield has known he’s the fastest player on most baseball fields. He has elite speed.

“I would say it was about when I was 10 or 11 that I started to really recognize that,” he said in a recent interview in Sarasota at Twin Lakes Park. “It’s always been a part of who I am, but I wouldn’t say it’s everything to what I do. I was gifted a beautiful gift from God and at the same time too I have worked very hard to get to where I am at. And also, there are other factors like a support system with my family, my parents, my sister and countless coaches I could name that all have impacted me.”

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Fubo expands position as home for local sports with MASN carriage agreement

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Fubo to Stream Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals Ahead of 2024 Major League Baseball Season

NEW YORK – MARCH 12, 2024 – FuboTV Inc. (d/b/a/ Fubo) (NYSE: FUBO), and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) announced today a carriage agreement that will expand streaming coverage of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals to the leading sports-first live TV streaming platform.

Ahead of Major League Baseball Opening Day (March 28, 2024), MASN will be available to Fubo subscribers across a seven-state region, from Harrisburg, Pa., to Charlotte, N.C. Fubo will stream MASN’s coverage of every available game of both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, pre- and postgame shows, and NCAA Division I men's and women's sports, totaling more than 500 live events annually.

The addition of MASN further solidifies Fubo’s position as the home for local sports. Fubo’s leading sports offering includes more than 55,000 live sporting events annually, with many streaming in 4K, and over 35 regional sports networks in its base package at the lowest cost compared to other streaming options. Fubo is also the streaming leader in Major League Baseball coverage carrying MLB.TV, MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, regional sports networks (RSNs), local broadcast networks and national sports networks ESPN and FS1. In addition to its leading sports coverage, Fubo also streams popular live entertainment and news programming and features more than 40,000 TV shows and movies on-demand each month.

“Fubo is proud to be the home for local sports and the addition of MASN will bring Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals fans even more access to their favorite teams for the 2024 MLB season,” said Todd Mathers, senior vice president, content strategy and acquisition, Fubo. “We look forward to expanding baseball coverage across the mid-Atlantic region with Fubo’s leading MLB offering.”

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Wells gets tighter grip on starter spot, Orioles offense erupts early and often (O's win 12-8)

Tyler Wells pitching

SARASOTA, Fla. – Tyler Wells appears to be in first-half season form.

Wells was dealing again today against the Rays, allowing only a solo home run by Orioles tormentor Randy Arozarena over four innings. Coupled with his outing on March 1 in North Port, the right-hander has surrendered one run and three hits in six innings.

Nothing has happened to change the perception that Wells is a favorite to nab one of the open rotation spots.

“I think one thing that me and Frenchy (Drew French) talk about a lot is just execution,” Wells said, “and that’s one of my big things today is focus on the good, continue to execute and the results will take care of themselves.”

Wells retired the side in order in the first inning on eight pitches, seven for strikes. He walked Isaac Paredes leading off the second and got the next three outs on a fly ball, strikeout and grounder. René Pinto singled to lead off the third and was erased on a double play.

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Wells finally gets second start, Norby gets noticed, Holliday just seems to get it

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SARASOTA, Fla. – Tyler Wells has done most of his work on back fields and away from media fixated on Grapefruit League games. His only start before today was March 1 in North Port, when he shut out the Braves for two innings and faced only six batters after a single and double play.

Twenty-three pitches, 17 strikes and 11 days until his next appearance.

Manager Brandon Hyde said earlier today that Wells remains in the starter competition and should be accumulating the rest of his innings on main stadium fields.

“Try to go four innings today, 60-ish pitches,” Hyde said. “We’re definitely building him up. … It’s important he gets these next few starts in.

“I think he’s thrown the ball really well this spring. Looks like he did in the first half this year.”

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