Random thoughts and observations on an off-day

SARASOTA, Fla. - If the season started today for the Orioles, they would incur a fine for having too many players on their roster. There are rules against carrying 51 guys.

But seriously, if it started today, they most likely would have 11 pitchers and 14 position players at Camden Yards for their opener against the Blue Jays. Manager Buck Showalter hinted at it again on Tuesday.

Off-days on April 4, 6 and 10 permit a shorter call to arms and may allow the Orioles to break camp with Trey Mancini. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be a spot for him if they’re committed to outfielders Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry.

Every team needs a backup catcher and a utility infielder. Mancini isn’t equipped for either role.

I’ve been asked a lot about Mancini, who’s 7-for-21 with three doubles and still riding the high of hitting three home runs in his five major league games. He deserves the chance to leave Triple-A in his rearview mirror, but there are worse circumstances for the Orioles than returning one of their top prospects to their top affiliate.

If it’s good enough for Bobby Grich and Don Baylor in the early ’70s, it’s good enough for Trey Mancini.

Trey-Mancini-swing-orange-sidebar.jpgYou want guys beating down the door. Mancini will get through it, and that includes the period when the Orioles go back to 12 pitchers. He’s going to be on the major league roster this summer if he’s healthy. Bank on it.

The Orioles traditionally carry a Rule 5 pick, a Baltimore tradition ranking right up there with crab cakes and stifling humidity, but it may not happen in 2017. There just doesn’t appear to be room unless Rickard or Gentry is injured. Rickard could be optioned, but he’s a right-handed hitter with speed who plays all three outfield spots.

Aneury Tavárez bats from the left side and hasn’t dazzled with his defense, though the Orioles are in the relatively early stages of evaluating him. They’re trying to wrap their arms around him, and not just to hold him still during parts of the physical.

But seriously, he’s doesn’t come across yet as a polished fielder and defense really matters when the Orioles decide which outfielders to keep. Meanwhile, Anthony Santander hasn’t been cleared to play in the outfield following shoulder surgery, so we have no idea how he’s going to fare.

I was impressed yesterday with Tavárez’s speed going up the line after a dropped third strike. He was out by a step. The guy was flying.

Tavárez and Santander are exactly the type of prospects that the Orioles want in their farm system. To make it happen, they’d have to pass through waivers and executive vice president Dan Duquette would have to work out trades with the Red Sox and Indians, respectively.

This isn’t an outrageous plan. Wait long enough to expose Rule 5 picks to waivers and fewer teams are likely to put in claims as roster are set.

One memorable exception is 2003 spring training in Fort Lauderdale when the Orioles claimed infielder José Morban from the Twins, who selected him from the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft, on the final day of camp. They released infielder Jeff Reboulet, who already was told that he made the team and had to be called off the field. It was brutal to watch.

Morban appeared in only 61 games with the Orioles, batting .141, because manager Mike Hargrove preferred to guzzle bleach. They basically had a 24-man roster and another losing season. Morban spent 2014 in Double-A and Triple-A, bounced around to three more organizations, including the Rangers, and never again played in the majors.

But I digress ...

What else have we learned as we approach today’s break, with the complex closed to the media and the idea of sleeping past 6 a.m. no longer as ridiculous as Morban playing shortstop?

Showalter is still inclined to lower Adam Jones in the order unless he’s left with no other choice. He just hasn’t settled on a replacement. Seth Smith and Hyun Soo Kim have batted leadoff this spring, but they may not be in the lineup against left-handers. Same goes for Rickard and Gentry against right-handers.

Jones batted second last night for Team USA and he’s been doing it with the Orioles this spring, but we can’t read too much into WBC or exhibition lineups.

I’m going to predict that Jones is batting second on opening day. As I’ve said, if he’s not leading off, I can’t imagine that he’ll be lowered to sixth.

Chris Davis is 3-for-13 in six games and still searching for his first home run. He’s drawn five walks, including one yesterday against the Blue Jays.

Showalter is interested only in how Davis’ thumb no longer is hurting or causing any restrictions.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Showalter said, noting that Davis has been working hard to eliminate any doubts.

Davis has posted monster seasons in 2013 and 2015, not so much in 2014 and 2016. The pattern is obvious to everyone.

Bring on 2017.

“Hey, I’m like everybody else,” Showalter said. “I’m curious about it. I see it sometimes. You can say, ‘Well, maybe this is the year,’ so I’m not going to worry about it until after the year is over. We’ll see.

“I hope it follows that this year. He led our team in a lot of categories even though the level he’s spoiled us with in the past might not have been there.”

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