Could a Rule 5 pick impact a former Rule 5 pick next season?
I’m not assuming that Joey Rickard has a spot waiting for him on the 25-man roster. I’ll say that he’s got a decent chance of making it, but there’s no way that he’s guaranteed to break camp with the team.
Rickard can be optioned next year after shedding his Rule 5 status in 2016. He made it far enough despite not playing after July 20 due to a torn ligament in his right thumb.
The Orioles figure to carry another Rule 5 guy after selecting outfielders Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander. Executive vice president Dan Duquette continues his search for a right fielder, and he’s indicated that he could bring in a second outfielder, perhaps a right-handed bat to platoon with Hyun Soo Kim in left field.
Two outsiders and a Rule 5 pick could push Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk on opening day. Kim and center fielder Adam Jones would bring the total number of outfielders to five, and Ryan Flaherty is capable of moving beyond the infield in an emergency.
It’s probably more realistic that the Orioles add a left-handed hitter for right field and keep Rickard as a backup at all three positions. He could platoon with Kim. He could move atop the order, the original plan this year before the thumb injury. There are a lot of balls in the air and Rickard could be camped under some of them. It’s just too early to know.
My point here is that Rickard isn’t automatically on the opening day roster.
Did the Orioles find out everything they needed to know about him in 85 games?
“You know, I’d like to say yes, and I should and I probably will,” manager Buck Showalter said during the Winter Meetings, “but there’s also a part that I found that all of a sudden they show back up and there’s a whole different mindset. ‘Now I’ve got options. Now is my thumb right?’ I don’t really know.
“We’re going to bring him to mini-camp if the union allows us. We have to get permission. But I can’t say for sure who we’re getting, but he was in a great ... he had nothing to lose. Tampa didn’t protect him. He came in letting it rip, firing on all levels.
“I don’t know what this spring is going to bring. It might be a week into it and I go, ‘Yep, same guy, we’re in good shape.’ I’m hoping and I’m thinking that’s what we’re going to see, but I’m cautious that, let’s just hold down before we make him the third or fourth outfielder.
“He was our best leadoff guy and we lost him for three-fourths of the season. (Darren) O’Day had 30 outings. I could go on. There’s three or four that people very conveniently forgot about.”
This is all true. And yet, the Orioles earned the second wild card while posting their fifth consecutive non-losing season.
Chris Davis recently brought up the Orioles’ expectations of being a “postseason team and not just saying, ‘Well, we hope to have a winning record.’ Or, ‘We hope to finish over .500.’”
“We expect to be in the postseason every year and that’s really a tribute to the people in the front office, Buck, our coaching staff, the guys I play with,” Davis said during his appearances on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “We’ve raised the bar here and that’s what we expect now.”
There’s still room for the bar to be nudged a little higher.
The Orioles have played in the wild card game in 2012, advancing to the American League Division Series, and again in 2016, losing in 11 innings to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. They won the division in 2014 and made it to the Championship Series before the Royals swept them.
They haven’t played in the World Series since winning it in 1983. They hadn’t won the division since 1997. The wild card game beats sitting home, but the one-and-done format can be a kick below the belt.
“There’s no doubt you want to be in position to control your own destiny,” Davis said. “The wild card is great for so many reasons. It allows a better chance for a team to get in, but it also makes things really difficult because you might wind up having to fly across the country to play one game and basically your whole season comes down to a one-game playoff.”
It doesn’t get any easier when you have to leave the country.
“That’s our goal every year is to win the division,” Davis continued. “I don’t think we really say, ‘If we can just win the wild card.’ That’s not really where our focus is. We want to win the division and kind of control what we’re doing.”
The Orioles won 89 games and extended their season despite two losing months. They went 12-14 in July and 13-16 in August. A 16-11 record in September got them back on track.
“There’s so much competition in our division, not to mention the entire American League,” Davis said. “If you struggle on a road trip or any struggle even at home against a non-division opponent, it doesn’t make it any easier when you start playing the divisional teams. I think we do a pretty good job of staying even keel and not getting too high or too low and really kind of pacing itself.”
Fans would prefer not pacing the floor during a one-and-done wild card game.