SARASOTA, Fla. - Does anyone want to be the Orioles’ fifth starter?
I’d do it, but it might interfere with my blogging.
I considered Mike Wright to have the edge before last night, and it still could hold true, but he allowed five runs and seven hits in two innings against the Twins in Fort Myers.
It’s important to remember that the competition doesn’t have to be decided when the Orioles break camp. They don’t need a fifth starter until April 15. Perhaps it comes down to whichever pitcher gets off to a hot start at Triple-A Norfolk - if the club still intends to stay in-house, of course.
Logan Schafer didn’t hit while he was here, going 3-for-31 in 18 games before the Orioles reassigned him to minor league camp, but he is more than capable of helping with the glove.
“Schafer can play center field, boys. He’s a good center fielder,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We’ve got a lot of good center fielders in camp. A lot of guys who play well defensively.”
I’m asked whether Aneury Tavárez can make the team as a Rule 5 pick. The Orioles could use a guy with his speed, and he leads them with seven stolen bases. But he’s a left-handed hitter on a team with Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith in the outfield corners and Rickard and Craig Gentry needed to platoon. There just doesn’t seem to be room on a four-man bench.
This is a club that also wonders how it can bring Mancini north. And it likes the other Rule 5 pick, outfielder Anthony Santander, a candidate for the disabled list.
Tavárez would have a much better shot at making the team if Smith went on the DL with a sore hamstring.
The Orioles gave Álvarez a May opt-out in his contract, but otherwise, they resisted including these clauses in their minor league signings. They want to be able to hold onto these players as pieces during the season.
Improving their infield and outfield depth was a priority.
The Orioles optioned reliever Parker Bridwell to Norfolk and they want him to lengthen his stride while he’s at minor league camp. Pitching coach Roger McDowell studied video of Bridwell and made the observation.
Caleb Joseph, who famously went an entire season without an RBI - though he played in only 49 games - has two of them this spring. Both came on home runs. But there’s an element of luck involved here.
Joseph was denied an RBI in a March 21 game against the Blue Jays when he hit a ball into left-center field that hopped the fence for a ground rule double and forced Kim to stop at third base. The ball stays in play and Kim scores.
Paul Janish is a plus defender at shortstop as everyone knows. He’s not bad at second base, either, one example coming in the same game when he made a sliding stop and throw up the middle to rob J.B. Woodman.
The Orioles like their infield depth, as well, with Janish and Robert Andino capable of moving around the infield and replacing Ryan Flaherty in the event of an injury. Flaherty’s been dealing with a sore shoulder for much of the spring, though he returned to the lineup last night.
Flaherty has felt much better, but the training staff didn’t want the shoulder to start barking again as it did earlier in camp. Flaherty had recovered, and then the discomfort returned when he threw.
Austin Wynns wasn’t in camp for long, but the Orioles really like his work behind the plate. Manager Buck Showalter has praised him on multiple occasions.
“Yeah, he’s good,” said Wright. “I threw to him a couple times last year, too. Good receiver.”
Welington Castillo is winning over his new teammates, as I wrote earlier this week. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss the catcher who used to occupy his locker.
Matt Wieters is gone, but not forgotten.
“Every year I’ve been here, he’s been here,” said reliever Darren O’Day. “You usually walk by the locker over there and get a sarcastic remark. Maybe a little grumpiness. It’s not there now, but I’m happy for Matt, where he landed. He’s in a good organization, a great team, so I wish him all the best.”
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said left-hander Jayson Aquino reminds him of former Brewers southpaw Mike Caldwell because of his delivery and assortment of pitches.
Caldwell was 137-130 with a 3.81 ERA in 14 major league seasons. He finished second in Cy Young voting in the American League in 1978.
The Orioles are deciding whether to assign center fielder Cedric Mullins to Single-A Frederick or let him make the jump to Double-A Bowie. He played collegiately at Campbell University, he’s 22 and there are people in the organization who want to challenge him at a higher level while envisioning him serving one day as the club’s leadoff hitter.
Mullins appeared in 124 games last summer at low Single-A Delmarva and batted .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. The Orioles have used him in 10 Grapefruit League games despite his assignment to minor league camp, and he also hit the batters eye in center field in a B game on the Camden Yards replica field.
When the Orioles hired Mark Hendrickson as their pitching coach at short-season Single-A Aberdeen, they chose him over former closers Gregg Olson and Bobby Thigpen. I previously reported that Olson was a candidate, but Thigpen also was in the mix, from what I’ve heard.
Just thought you’d like to know.