This, that and the other

Life comes with few certainties beyond death, taxes and long lines for the men’s room at football games. But you will be 100 percent correct if you predict that the Orioles will make at least one selection in the Rule 5 draft at next month’s Winter Meetings.

The final day is more predictable than the ending of a romantic comedy. Team meets minor leaguer, team falls in love and they wind up together.

Roll the credits.

The Orioles could try to stash a reliever in their bullpen, as they did with T.J. McFarland in 2012 and Jason Garcia in 2014. They could pick a cheaper alternative at utility infielder with Ryan Flaherty, a 2011 pick, approaching arbitration again. They could choose another outfielder, as they did with Joey Rickard last year. Maybe they’ll use the draft to add a left-handed bat, which is on their shopping list with Matt Wieters and Pedro Alvarez free agents.

Whatever direction they go, they’ll leave the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center with a player or two who must stay on the roster all season or pass through waivers and be offered back. They kept Garcia in 2014 after acquiring him in a trade with the Astros and lost pitcher Logan Verrett to the Rangers on a waiver claim. Verrett eventually returned to the Mets.

Rickard-Swings-White-Sidebar.jpgRickard is expected to be full-go in spring training after tearing a ligament in his right thumb on July 20. He hasn’t needed surgery, but there’s a lot of offseason to go before position players report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota.

The Orioles never came close to exposing Rickard to waivers in camp. He earned a spot on the opening day roster by leading American League Grapefruit League hitters with 25 hits, a .397 average and .472 on-base percentage.

* Reliever Darren O’Day completed the first year of his four-year, $31 million deal with the Orioles, but I’m inclined to think of him as a key addition in 2017.

O’Day has been oh so dependable since joining the organization in November 2011, but he went on the disabled list twice this year and appeared in only 34 games. That’s quite a drop from his first four seasons with the Orioles, when he appeared in 69, 68, 68 and 68.

O’Day wasn’t his usual self this year and I’m not referring only to his injuries. Anyone who’s covered him as an Oriole noticed the changes. The inability to contribute took a toll on him and no one should be more excited to get a fresh start than O’Day.

I’d expect the old O’Day personality to shine through in Sarasota. And I’d expect the bullpen to be rejuvenated, however it’s constructed. O’Day’s absence also took a toll on some of the other relievers.

I’ll be reminded of him while checking into my hotel for the Winter Meetings. It will mark the one-year anniversary of reporters tweeting his agreement with the Orioles on a new contract, and O’Day responding with his own tweet shooting down the reports as premature.

* Left-hander Jayson Aquino remains on the 40-man roster and I wonder if he’s going to get another look in spring training or if he remains a candidate to be designated for assignment if the Orioles eventually need a spot.

Aquino, who turned 24 on Tuesday, was supposed to leave the team in September and join the workouts in Sarasota. He would have driven from St. Petersburg, where the Orioles were playing the Rays. But the Orioles changed those plans and Aquino finished out the season.

No offense to Aquino, but he’s an easy guy to overlook. Did anyone on this blog forget that he’s still on the 40-man?

Aquino appeared in only three games with the Orioles as a rookie, allowing one hit and striking out three in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He worked two-thirds of an inning in his major league debut on July 4 at Dodger Stadium and didn’t pitch again for the Orioles until Sept. 12 at Fenway Park.

* Do the Orioles have a philosophy regarding the “proper age” to bring a player to the majors?

“I don’t think it’s an age issue,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “I think it’s a skill issue.”

Manny Machado, for example, had the skills at age 20 to make the jump from Double-A Bowie to the majors in August 2012. The Orioles needed his glove at third base, confident that he could make the transition from shortstop, as they attempted to hold onto the lead in the wild card standings.

Machado became the latest member of the 2010 draft class, which included Bryce Harper and Chris Sale, to reach the majors. Dylan Bundy was 19 when he joined the Orioles’ expanded roster in September 2012. Catcher Chance Sisco will attempt to break camp with the team or receive a promotion over the summer at 22.

Machado and Bundy never played in Triple-A. Sisco made four appearances in September.

“This is a young man’s game,” Duquette said. “If you have the skills like Manny had when he came up when he was young, you’ll get the opportunity right away. Dylan Bundy came up when he was young, Jonathan Schoop came up when he was young, but Manny’s probably the most gifted of all those players and he was able to show his skills. I mean, that guy’s a natural and he played a role in our resurgence and trek back to the playoffs in 2012. When he came up, he really solidified the team and he’s become the best player on the team. And he’s still a young ballplayer.

“I remember reading about when Paul Richards took over the Orioles he brought in a youth movement. If you bring in youth and they have some ability, it gives you hope for the future, but you can also build your roster for a little bit longer term. So I’m always in favor of giving young players the opportunity.

“It’s all about their talent level, and when you have players like Manny, you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen or if they’re going to be scarred because they can play and they’ll show their talent right away.”

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