Orioles spring training notes on Means, Wells, Vavra, Mayo and O'Hearn (O's claim Castillo and DFA Soto)

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SARASOTA, Fla. – John Means joined teammates in spring training warmups this morning, but his throwing distance looked more like a football practice. Deep bombs to his intended target.

Long, long tossing to get his arm loose before heading to the row of mounds.

Means didn’t have his first offseason bullpen session until Jan. 30, with the club slow-playing him back from October elbow soreness. He’s set to begin the season on the injured list, but with the chance for a quick return.

“The way he didn’t finish the season, was unable to pitch in the postseason and then shutting him down for a little while, he’s just a little bit late with his normal throwing program progression. And so, he’s about a month behind,” manager Brandon Hyde said during his daily media scrum.

“If all things work out, sometime in April. I think that’s what we’re planning on. It’s a rough draft right now because it’s a long way away, but we expect him to be ready sometime at the beginning of the season.”

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Health updates on Bradish, Means, Henderson and Basallo

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SARASOTA, Fla. – Kyle Bradish said he’s “very confident” that he can recover from his elbow injury and be a major contributor to the 2024 Orioles.

Bradish was diagnosed in January with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain.

“I’m feeling really good right now,” he said this morning. “I’m going to take it day by day, trust the process and the schedule and everything.”

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias confirmed yesterday that Bradish will begin the season on the injured list. Bradish was expected to be the No. 2 starter behind Corbin Burnes.

“Obviously, I was bummed, based on the year we had last year and coming into this year feeling really confident,” Bradish said of the diagnosis. “It’s a little bit of a setback, but like I said, I feel confident that I’ll be able to pitch and help this team out this year.”

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Now the scramble to sort out O's rotation after Thursday's developments

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For now, we have to put on hold any talk that this might be among the best O’s rotations ever. They added a stud pitcher in 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, but on the first day of spring training we saw that injuries subtracted, at least for some period of time, two starters.

We’ve seen better days in Birdland.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish, who was fourth in American League Cy Young voting last year when he had a 2.83 ERA, is expected to start the new season on the injured list with a UCL sprain in his right elbow. He had a PRP injection. Now Birdland waits nervously with hope that eradicates the problem and it doesn’t get more serious later.

That news comes alongside the information that left-hander John Means is about a month behind the other pitchers. His winter of throwing moved slower than expected due to his elbow soreness that caused him to miss the playoffs. That followed his Tommy John surgery of April 2022. He has thrown just 31 2/3 big league innings the last two seasons. He was confident of pitching a full load of innings when interviewed during Birdland Caravan, but now he is likely to miss Opening Day.

The 2023 AL Rookie of the Year, Gunnar Henderson, experienced some mild oblique aggravation about two weeks ago while working out at home. At least he is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

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Players in Orioles camp excited to have Burnes on the club

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SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles infielder Jordan Westburg was sitting on his couch with wife Anna Claire when she suddenly went from spouse to source.

“I didn’t have my phone on me,” Westburg said this morning. “We were watching a movie and she’s like, ‘Hey, who is Corbin Burnes?’ It was just a random question for her to ask. I was like, ‘Why do you ask?’ And she shows me her phone and there’s the Oriole Bird logo and ESPN notification.”

That was the precise moment when Westburg found out that the Orioles acquired Burnes, the No. 1 starter they sought throughout the winter, from the Brewers for pitcher DL Hall and infielder Joey Ortiz.

“I was fired up about it. It was exciting,” Westburg said.

“I’m trying to think of what my initial reaction was. I think it was just pure excitement for the organization really. I think a lot of people on the outside have been wanting that ace and we went and got him. Just really exciting.

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With new deal done, Ryan O'Hearn heads into second season with the Orioles

Ryan O'Hearn

During a season where he turned 30, the Orioles Ryan O’Hearn became a middle-of-the-order hitter on a 101-win Orioles club that finished atop the American League East.

Not bad for a player who was in the big leagues part-time between 2018 and 2022 with Kansas City. His career line with the Royals was .219/.293/.390/.683. He elevated his game with Baltimore and now has a new contract to show for it.

When the Orioles acquired him from Kansas City on Jan. 3, 2023, for cash considerations, there was no guarantee he would even see one day on the big league roster, much less become a key cog in the lineup and in the clubhouse.

But it comes later for some players, and it sure did for O’Hearn, who batted .289/.322/.480/.801 with 22 doubles, a triple, 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 368 plate appearances. His OPS+ of 122 ranked third on the team, behind only Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson.

O’Hearn set career bests in most categories including games, hits, doubles, runs, RBIs, extra-base hits (37), multi-hit games (26), and multi-RBI games (13). He was 3-for-5 with five RBIs in his first three games with his new team, becoming the 10th Oriole in team history with at least five RBIs his first three games for the club and the first since Manny Machado (also five RBIs) in 2012.

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Sampling of questions as Orioles' first spring training workout approaches

Ed Smith Stadium

SARASOTA, Fla. – Temperatures at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota are expected to reach the 70s again today. Sunscreen is readily available in the baseball operations building and the athletic trainers’ carts during workouts, and also in the dugout once exhibition games begin.

Can’t block out the excitement that comes with the first official day of pitchers and catchers spreading out on the back fields and in the bullpen area.

Optimism also is running high for a club that posted the best record in the American League last year. It’s time to defend the division title.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will meet the press later this morning, which presents another opportunity for a health check.

Not Elias’, since we’re assuming that he’s fine.

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Orioles acquire outfielder Burdick

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The Orioles today announced that they have acquired outfielder PEYTON BURDICK from the Miami Marlins in exchange for cash considerations.

Burdick, 26, slashed .182/.270/.333 (6-for-33) with two doubles, one home run, four runs scored, two RBI, three walks, and one stolen base in 14 games for the Marlins last season, appearing at all three outfield positions. He began the year at Triple-A Jacksonville, where he slashed .293/.381/.636 (29-for-99) with four doubles, 10 home runs, 24 runs scored, 24 RBI, 13 walks, five stolen bases, and a 1.017 OPS in 25 games prior to being recalled by Miami on May 3. At the time of his promotion, he ranked tied for second in the International League in home runs. He was optioned back to Jacksonville on May 23, where he spent the remainder of the season. In 114 total games with the Jumbo Shrimp, he hit .219/.327/.448 (92-for-420) with 20 doubles, two triples, 24 home runs, 63 runs scored, 74 RBI, 57 walks, 12 stolen bases, and a .775 OPS. He ranked 11th in the International League in homers. Burdick did not appear on Miami’s NL Wild Card roster.

Burdick was originally selected by the Marlins in the third round (No. 82 overall) of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Wright State University (OH). In his debut season in 2019, he was named an MiLB.com Organization All-Star and Midwest League Player of the Month for August. In his first full season in 2021, he was named Marlins Minor League Player of the Year, Double-A Pensacola Most Valuable Player, and MLB.com’s Marlins Prospect of the Year. He made his Major League debut on August 5, 2022, and has appeared in 46 career games for Miami.

To make room on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher FÉLIX BAUTISTA was placed on the 60-day Injured List with a right UCL injury. The Orioles’ 40-man roster currently has 40 players.

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Orioles, O'Hearn reach agreement

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The Orioles have made the following roster move:

  • Agreed to terms withINF/OF Ryan O’Hearn on a one-year contract for the 2024 season with a club option for 2025, avoiding arbitration.
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A few power arms plus more catchers as international prospect rankings list concludes

Juan Nunez

It’s not necessarily the trade that keeps giving, but a deal where the Orioles seemingly did very well and that might be getting even better.

On Aug. 2, 2022, the O’s dealt righty Jorge López, their closer having a big year, to Minnesota for four pitchers. So far right-hander Yennier Cano has become a late-inning bullpen weapon while lefty Cade Povich is one of their top pitching prospects. Lefty Juan Rojas pitched in the lower minors last year and right-hander Juan Nuñez has a big fastball and leads the third day of the MASNSports.com O’s top 20 international prospect rankings.

He checks in at No. 11 after throwing in 13 games each in 2023 for Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen.

While he did not win a game – going 0-6 with a 3.96 ERA – Nuñez has shown a good strikeout rate and enough potential to rank 14th on this list and to currently rank No. 22 by Baseball America on the O’s team top 30 list.

Nuñez pitched a combined 104 2/3 innings in 2023 with 58 walks, 125 strikeouts, a .220 average against and 1.36 WHIP. He posted a 10.75 K rate last year and that number is 11.18 for his career, spanning 201 innings.

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A lefty pitcher emerges at No. 2 as O's international prospect rankings list continues

Luis De Leon courtesy of the Delmarva Shorebirds

Today, as we continue to rollout the MASNSports.com top 20 O’s international prospects, we find out yet again that teams can get big talents sometimes out of modest signing bonuses.

Some players sign late in the process as late bloomers and beyond that, it is just hard to project what someone at age 16 will look like and play like three, four, and six years down the road.

It is also quite exciting to see a pitcher ranked so highly now on this list as left-hander Luis De León, age 20, is the No. 2 prospect on the list for 2024.

He was signed by the club for just $30,000 in December of 2021 out of Barahona, Dominican Republic. He had an ERA of 5.14 in 28 innings in 2022 in the Dominican Summer League.

But last year, over six games in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and 10 for Single-A Delmarva, he went a combined 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 53 2/3 innings. It was a nice breakout performance by the lefty. Even after he moved up, he allowed just a .177 batting average and 2.39 ERA in his first go-around in full-season ball with the Shorebirds. De León walked 30 with 67 strikeouts (11.2 K per 9) and had a 1.30 WHIP. Among all O’s farm pitchers with 50 or more innings last season, his ERA was second-best.

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It was an easy call: Catcher Samuel Basallo is O's top international prospect

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It was not a tough call. There was no protracted debate. There was no brief debate. There was no debating at all. 

Catcher Samuel Basallo, signed to a $1.3 million bonus, the largest bonus in the Orioles' 2021 international class, is once again the club’s No. 1 ranked international prospect. He tops our third annual MASNSports.com ratings of the top 20 O’s international prospects.

Basallo was No. 2 on this list in 2022 and was No. 1 last year before he had even played one game of full season minor league ball. Before he went out and had a sensational season on the farm, one that took him as far as Double-A Bowie and also took him toward the top of several national top 100 prospect rankings.

He is the shining star of the O's international program, but far from the only top talent.

The wave of O's international prospects is now closer to crashing the shore than ever. To be a top team for an extended period, an organization has to be good in international scouting and signing players. The Orioles now are.

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Orioles hold first-ever graduation ceremony at new DR academy

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Yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles hosted their first-ever high school graduation as part of their International High School Program. The graduation took place at the Orioles’ brand new state-of-the-art Dominican Republic Baseball Academy, which opened its doors earlier this year.  

Five players graduated from the program, including right-handed pitcher Bryan Bautista, right-handed pitcher Randy Berigüete, outfielder Wilmer Feliciano, right-handed pitcher Miguel Mesa, and right-handed pitcher Anthony Morillo.  

The program, which began in 2020, has graduated 12 players with 25 more currently enrolled. Nine players are on track to graduate this summer, including top prospect catcher Samuel Basallo. Of the 12 players who have graduated, seven are still in the Orioles organization, three pursued higher education, and two are seeking employment within Major League Baseball. 

The Orioles International High School Program is set up to adapt to the demands of each player’s schedule, allowing them to graduate on time while balancing the work that comes with both school and baseball. The program focuses on developing players for life in and after baseball.  

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A few questions for O's fans

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We are now just days away from the start of spring training and the first workout for Orioles pitchers and catchers is set for next Thursday in Sarasota, Fla. We are less than two weeks away from the first spring game on Feb. 24, when the Orioles will host the Boston Red Sox.

So it's time to survey the fan base and check in with Birdland on a few things. Time for a pre-spring edition of "A few questions for O's fans."

1) Here are some projected American League East starting pitching rotations. Rank them from best to worst.

Orioles: Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer.

New York: Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt.

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O's front office needed to show patience in the ongoing pursuit of Corbin Burnes

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During the Hot Stove radio show this week on WBAL Radio in Baltimore, Orioles assistant general manager Eve Rosenbaum discussed the club’s trade for ace pitcher Corbin Burnes.

While some media stories were focused on a possible addition of Dylan Cease this offseason, the Orioles were working for months behind the scenes to try and add Burnes, the 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Rosenbaum said during her radio interview that Mike Elias and the O’s front office staff had to show some real patience during this process. Continuing to work on the deal and to keep the discussions ongoing even when there were times when it looked like such a trade would not happen.

“For something like a trade, so often what happens is you talk to teams for months,” Rosenbaum said on WBAL. “You send them a message, they text you back. You get with your group, you huddle up and craft a response and send a text message back. They get back to you two days later and it goes on and on like this.

“You try so many different ideas and so many different angles. At various points the past couple of months we thought, ‘the deal is alive, the deal is dead, the deal is alive, the deal is dead’ and finally we were able to get it across the finish line. You have to be in for the long haul when you are working on trades.”

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Bar raised for Orioles as they approach spring training

Dean Kremer throw orange spring away

Whatever speech that Orioles manager Brandon Hyde chooses for his team prior to the first full-squad workout at spring training, he won’t be armed with the same motivational tools that he wielded in the past.

Nobody believed in the Orioles during those 100-loss seasons. They had no reason.

Seemed like everyone was expecting a regression after 83 wins in 2022. They had no faith.

Matching or exceeding the 101 victories last summer that led to a division title and top seeding in the American League playoffs is a tall order. Players don’t seem concerned about trying to reach it.

A few of them dropped 102 into the conversations at the Birdland Caravan, before the Corbin Burnes trade, but more in a joking manner than stated or necessary goals.

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Orioles to hold job fair Feb. 13

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The Orioles invite fans and prospective employees to attend the Orioles Job Fair on Tuesday, February 13, from 3-6 p.m. at Oriole Park. The team is searching for passionate individuals interested in joining the Orioles gameday staff for the 2024 season in one of many customer service positions, including the Event Staff and Guest Experience.

The job fair, which includes on-site interviews and on-the-spot hiring, will take place on the Oriole Park Club Level with access through Home Plate Plaza, located between Gates D and E. Free parking is available for all participants in Lot A.

If hired, all Orioles gameday staff will be eligible to win an all-inclusive trip for two to the 2024 All-Star Game in Arlington, Texas, and will have an opportunity to access exclusive employee-only meet and greets with Orioles players and coaches during the season. All members of the Orioles gameday staff receive attendance bonuses, schedule flexibility, free game tickets, free uniforms, free meals, and free parking.  

Pre-registration for the event is encouraged, but not required. To register for the job fair, visit Orioles.com/JobFair. To apply for open positions with the Orioles, visit Orioles.com/Jobs. 

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A bit about the process of developing Jackson Holliday's bat

Jackson Holliday futures game

Even when you are the No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick and rise to become the No. 1 prospect in baseball, the process to improve is still important, even with a driven player with massive talent.

And so, this is true for the Orioles’ Jackson Holliday, who begins a bid next week to make the club’s Opening Day roster.

On July 17, 2022, the Orioles made Holliday the draft’s No. 1 overall pick. Then the kid from Oklahoma went out and put up a .911 OPS in his first 20 pro games between the Florida Complex League and Single-A Delmarva. He walked twice as many times as he struck out. But for a young man still growing into his body and growing into what his future power will produce, he hit one homer in 64 at-bats.

So, in that quest to make even the best better, the Orioles sent coaches Cody Asche and Anthony Villa to his home that winter for some work on improving exit velocity and launch angles that would later in his career turn some deep fly balls into hits and doubles into balls that could go over the fence.

Last season, this impressive young man that turned 20 on Dec. 4, played at four levels, hit 12 homers over 477 at-bats and rose to become the top prospect in the sport.

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O's claim Livan Soto, 40-man roster now full

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With spring training starting next week and the club’s first pitchers and catchers workout set for a week from today in Sarasota, the Orioles added another infielder to fill their 40-man roster.

Venezuelan-born Livan Soto, recently designated for assignment by the Angels, was claimed on waivers today by the Orioles to fill their 40-man.

Soto, 23, has hit better in the majors in limited time than he has during a six-year career in the minors. He also has two options remaining.

The lefty batter went just 2-for-9 (.222) with the Angels last year but hit .400 (22-for-55) during the 2022 season over 18 games. He got a call-up in mid-September 2022 to make his major league debut. 

So over 22 major league games in parts of the last two seasons, he has hit .375/.414/.531/.946. On the farm last season between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .237/.342/.358/.700 in 110 games.

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Orioles claim Livan Soto from Angels

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The Orioles have claimed INF Livan Soto off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.
 
The Orioles’ 40-man roster currently has 40 players.
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Orioles acquire Nick Maton from Tigers

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The Orioles today announced that they have acquired infielder/outfielder NICK MATON from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for cash considerations.

Maton (pronounced MAY-tahn), 26, slashed .173/.288/.305 (43-for-249) with nine doubles, eight home runs, 29 runs scored, 32 RBI, 38 walks, and one stolen base in 93 games for the Tigers last season. He made the Opening Day roster for the first time in his career and had two stints with Detroit. Maton hit his first career walk-off home run in the 11th inning on April 14 vs. San Francsico, a three-run blast off Camilo Doval with the Tigers trailing by a run. He’s played in 180 MLB games between the Phillies and Tigers over parts of three seasons since 2021 and made Philadelphia’s World Series roster in 2022 against Houston. 

During his time with Triple-A Toledo in 2023, Maton batted .293/.414/.457 (41-for-140) with 12 doubles, one triple, three homers, 32 runs scored, 27 RBI, 27 walks, and three stolen bases in 38 games, including hitting for the cycle with the Mud Hens on September 6 at Indianapolis (5-for-5, 2-2B, 3B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI).

He was traded to Detroit along with catcher Donny Sands and infielder/outfielder Matt Vierling from Philadelphia for infielder/outfielder Kody Clemens and left-handed pitcher Gregory Soto on January 7, 2023. Maton was originally selected by the Phillies in the seventh round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Lincoln Land Community College (IL). His brother, Phil, is a right-handed pitcher and seven-year big leaguer, most recently with the Houston Astros from 2021-23.

The Orioles’ 40-man roster currently has 39 players.

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