Talking about the draft, Kjerstad, G-Rod, Watkins and the 'pen

Going back to what I wrote yesterday, the Orioles’ draft board is down to five players they could choose with the first-overall selection.

Of course, no one is going to pass around the names, but prep infielder Termarr Johnson obviously is on it. He worked out yesterday morning, his audience including executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde, co-hitting coaches Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel.

Catcher Adley Rutschman walked over to the batting cage and watched part of the session.

Baseball America’s 4.0 mock draft has the Orioles selecting Oklahoma prep shortstop Jackson Holliday. Previous versions have tied the Orioles to Georgia prep outfielder Druw Jones, son of former major league outfielder Andruw Jones.

Probably safe to assume those two also are on the Orioles’ board. But they also are scouting IMG Academy outfielder Elijah Green, son of former NFL tight end Eric Green, and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee is viewed as a top five talent by many evaluators.

Here’s one definite: It won’t be a pitcher. No one is viewed as worthy of the first selection.

The Orioles might not make a final decision until shortly before they’re on the clock. They tend to go down to the wire. And they don’t tip their hand.

Elias has been skilled at keeping his choice under wraps.  

* Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, 23, hasn’t experienced any setbacks while playing in extended spring training games.

Kjerstad’s hamstring is fine and he’s getting plenty of at-bats. Everything looks promising while an entire organization crosses its collective fingers.

The plan is for Kjerstad to report to Single-A Delmarva later this month. He’ll skip the Florida Complex League unless there’s an unexpected change.

Finally, the second-overall pick of 2020 will be able to enjoy his professional debut.

* The Orioles don’t have an update on Grayson Rodriguez’s strained right lat muscle.

Rodriguez is seeking other opinions after undergoing an MRI in Baltimore.

The club can’t specify whether the strain is Grade 1 or 2 until the examinations are complete.

* Spenser Watkins threw off a mound yesterday for the third time during his recovery from a bruised right elbow.

These are more like touch and feel sessions, with 15-20 pitches.

Watkins said he’s feeling good and right on schedule. He’s eligible to come off the injured list Tuesday.

* Just wondering how many fans knew that the June 5 bullpen would include Marcos Diplán, Logan Gillaspie, Denyi Reyes and Nick Vespi.

There’s bound to be bullpen churn on a team with so many unproven starters and following a shortened spring training. With injuries seemingly on the rise. With one extended appearance likely to get you replaced with a fresh arm.

Gillaspie and Vespi impressed in their major league debuts and were gone. They’re reunited inside the Camden Yards clubhouse – for how long a subject they’d rather ignore.

Focus on today. Be ready when the phone rings.

For Hyde, the challenge is trying to limit consecutive calls to the same reliever. He apologized to Cionel Pérez for a recent stretch in which the left-hander got up more than two straight days because the pool of available pitchers became too shallow, promising to stay away from him the next game, no matter the circumstances.

“I think we’re pretty careful with our guys, and I want to believe that,” Hyde said. “I think we put a lot of thought process into resting our players. I think that you haven’t seen a bullpen pitcher throw three days in a row, knowing that we have four months to go. And also the situation we’re in a little bit.

“We carefully plan every day about who’s available in our bullpen and who’s not. There’s a lot of conversation that goes into that. There’s some nights this year where I may have wanted to push a guy out there that I didn’t because of health reasons, and because of big picture a lot of times. So, I think that we’re careful in our process of how we use our bullpen guys.

“I’d love to have our starters go deeper and I think we’ve done a pretty good job this year. I’m really happy with what our rotation has done. I know it hasn’t been great in May, but they’ve been competitive and they’ve kept us in almost every single night. They’ve gotten us to the middle part of the game, when in years past there’s been a lot of early-game exits. That really taxes your ‘pen and really makes it tough to get through games. So, we’ve done a better job of that this year. Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”

The chore is much more difficult with ace John Means on the shelf until 2023. But Hyde isn’t searching for excuses.

“I’m going to continue to try to keep guys as healthy as I possibly can throughout the season,” he said.

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