I’m counting 23 days until Orioles pitchers and catchers must report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota. However, the number of early arrivals seems to increase every year.
Many of the position players also arrive before their date. Great complex, great weather, and an eagerness to start a new season.
I’ve shared some early predictions over the past few weeks that I’ll gladly walk back if I must do it. You learn to admit that you’re wrong if it happens enough times.
There's no substitute for experience.
Me: The Orioles won’t tender contracts to all 17 of their arbitration-eligible players.
Orioles: Oh, this should be fun.
Me: The Orioles won’t sign shortstop José Iglesias because they passed in the past.
Orioles: Hey José, how does $3 million sound to you?
Me: The Orioles are more likely to sign Kendrys Morales than Nelson Cruz.
Former Orioles official: Roch, it’s the other way around.
Me: The Orioles aren’t trading for Sammy Sosa.
Orioles: Let’s corkscrew media that believes we aren’t trading for Sammy Sosa.
Me: The Orioles are signing Dexter Fowler.
Orioles: Yeah, we thought so, too.
I’ve made some predictions over the past few weeks: The Orioles will acquire a starting pitcher but he won’t be on the mound for Opening Day, the rotation consists of the newcomer, Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer, Colton Cowser begins the season in Triple-A, Gunnar Henderson will lead the team in home runs, Henderson won’t win a Gold Glove, Henderson will reach double digits in triples, Adley Rutschman won't go 5-for-5 with a home run on Opening Day, Coby Mayo will create a huge buzz in camp, Cedric Mullins will be healthier and better, the Orioles will experience some regression but they’re making the playoffs, they won’t get swept in the first round, they will exceed the 87.5 wins set as odds by BetOnline, they will go to an arbitration hearing with at least one unsigned player, the Orioles and Jacob Webb will find a midpoint and avoid a hearing, the Orioles will get swept during the regular season, Henderson will repeat as Most Valuable Oriole.
I’ve got a few more in my holster.
Craig Kimbrel will exceed his 23-saves total from 2023.
Kimbrel’s career high is 50 with the Braves in 2013. He ain’t going there.
However, I can see Kimbrel topping the 30 mark. He should have plenty of leads to protect. The Orioles tend to play close games.
I think there’s enough left in the tank for Kimbrel to do the job, but he won’t have to act alone.
Six Orioles registered saves last season: Félix Bautista (33), Yennier Cano (eight), Cionel Pérez (three), Danny Coulombe (two), Shintaro Fujinami (two) and Tyler Wells (one). Bautista is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Fujinami is a free agent. Wells could break camp as a starter, depending on how the rest of the offseason plays out.
The others are back, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias could bring in another reliever.
The Orioles don't view the closer job as a shared responsibility. It's Kimbrel's to lose.
DL Hall will record at least one save.
As long as we’re talking about closers.
Hall’s only career major league save came on Sept. 30, 2022 at Yankee Stadium in a 2-1 victory. He made one more appearance, notching his first career victory in Game 1 of an Oct. 5 doubleheader against the Blue Jays.
Hall had two holds and one blown save last summer. I’m expecting him to be a reliever breaking camp, and he does intrigue as a closing option because his stuff is filthy, but his role hasn’t been defined.
He might start. He might do both.
We don’t know. But I say he’s gonna get a save.
Dillon Tate will make a dramatic comeback.
As long as we’re talking about relievers.
Tate has two minor league options remaining and might not break camp with the team. I’m not ready to make that prediction. But he’s going to show value in multiple ways.
Providing flexibility will be important with so many other relievers out of options. But the Orioles could just hold onto Tate because I think he’s going to at least come close to the 2022 version of himself.
Tate, as you might know, didn’t pitch last year due to forearm and elbow injuries. He’s healthy now and capable of giving manager Brandon Hyde another impact arm for the middle and late innings.
Managers love strikeout pitchers, but they also covet the ground ball guys. Keep it out of the air. Induce the big double play.
How Tate looks in camp will be one of the more interesting storylines in spring training. My guess is he’s going to impress.