Vespi's surprise inclusion on Orioles Opening Day roster

Five Orioles made their first Opening Day roster Thursday. Four of them were easy calls, anticipated over the winter or definitely late in camp.

Grayson Rodriguez was in the rotation after last spring’s surprise demotion, with the only question whether he’d be the No. 2 or 3 starter. He gets the ball this afternoon.

Yennier Cano made his 2023 debut on April 14 in Chicago, with the Orioles desperate for bullpen help, and became an All-Star setup man and backup closer. He was a lock this spring to repeat those responsibilities after the Craig Kimbrel signing.

Infielder Jordan Westburg made his major league debut on June 26 and was set for 2024, with most of his work done at second and third base but also with a chance to play a little shortstop. Outfielder Colton Cowser really had to win a job after reaching the majors on July 5 at Yankee Stadium and going 7-for-61, and he responded by batting .304 with six home runs and a 1.135 OPS in 18 exhibition games.

Cowser broke the news to the beat crew on the final day that he made the club.

Reliever Nick Vespi sneaked through the back door when no one was looking.

Jacob Webb was supposed to make his first Opening Day roster but went on the paternity list yesterday after attending Tuesday’s workout at Camden Yards. A shocking development would be an apt description.

Vespi was the beneficiary after striking out 12 batters and walking only one in 8 1/3 innings. He was optioned March 20 after allowing three runs in 1 1/3 innings in Dunedin in his final appearance, results that weren’t typical of his spring.

The Orioles needed another reliever to begin the regular season and Vespi was chosen, with his stay probably lasting a maximum of three days, when Webb is required to return.

The smile on Vespi’s face after Thursday’s game showed that he didn’t care how long he’d be with the club. He got to jog down the orange carpet. He got to watch from the bullpen as the Orioles began defense of their division title with an 11-3 trouncing of the Angels.

He got to be on a major league roster for the opener.

Assistant general manager Eve Rosenbaum phoned Vespi late Wednesday night with the news and he drove from Norfolk the next morning. The Orioles waited for his arrival to announce their roster, keeping his nameplate off his locker and the media clueless about a pending transaction.

“My reaction was excitement, a lot of excitement,” he said. “This has definitely been a goal of mine since I’ve been with the Orioles, so I’ll take it any way I can, right?

“I got the call and my family’s super excited and I am, as well.”

It came out of the blue and unexpectedly put him in orange and black.

“You don’t really expect a call-up the day before Opening Day,” he said, “so it caught me by surprise, for sure.”

* The Orioles made the following minor league roster moves yesterday:

Placed pitchers Tyler Burch and Peter Van Loon on Double-A Bowie's 60-day injured list.
Placed pitchers Cooper Chandler and Daniel Lloyd and infielder Luis Valdez on High-A Aberdeen's 60-day IL.
Placed pitcher Pablo Falconett and infielder Maikol Hernández on Single-A Delmarva's 60-day IL.
Placed pitcher Pedro Figueroa on FCL Orioles full-season IL.
Placed pitchers Anthony Morillo and Yonatan Pineda and outfielder Raylin Ramos on FCL 60-day IL.

Also, infielder Terrin Vavra and outfielder Hudson Haskin were added to Norfolk's seven-day injured list.

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