The Orioles will hold their annual three-day minicamp in Sarasota beginning on Jan. 8 and manager Buck Showalter has been compiling his list of invitees and awaiting the responses.
Former outfielder Dariel Álvarez could be summoned to the Ed Smith Stadium complex while rehabbing from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow back in April. The minicamp serves multiple purposes, including the opportunity for the Orioles to check on injured players or the ones who underwent a medical procedure.
Álvarez is converting to pitcher and the Orioles still think he can make it back to the majors. They wanted him to work out of Single-A Delmarva’s bullpen and also serve as the designated hitter on days he wasn’t slated to pitch.
Delayed but maybe not denied.
Álvarez has been doing conditioning drills and exercises designed to get him back on the mound and he should be close to ready after spring training.
The Orioles also are expected to take a look at left-hander Joely Rodriguez, who was included among the 14 minor league free agent signings announced by the club on Nov. 28.
Rodriguez posted a 5.40 ERA and 1.745 WHIP in 38 relief appearances with the Phillies, but his stats are inflated by the 6.33 ERA and 1.926 WHIP in 26 games this summer. The Orioles really like his arm. His four-seam fastball touches the mid-90s and he also has a heavy sinker and slider.
* Now that David Hess has been added to the 40-man roster, which protected him in the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles will decide whether he’s more likely to reach the majors as a starter or reliever.
Hess has made only six relief appearances in his 90 minor league games and the Orioles always place the most emphasis on developing starters. However, they’ve been known to call up guys who were in a rotation at one of their top affiliates and use them out of the bullpen, the 2017 examples including Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Jayson Aquino, Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher and Edwin Jackson.
I’ve heard from people who think Hess’ stuff makes it more likely that he evolves into a reliever. Others say he is a starter. Because it isn’t an exact science.
“He’s a starter,” director of player development Brian Graham told MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski at the Winter Meetings. “He has a four-pitch mix and throws four pitches for strikes. He’s logged 150 innings back-to-back years. Commands the baseball. He does a lot of things that you need a guy to do.
“To have an optionable piece at Triple-A as a starting pitcher that is homegrown out of your own organization, you know that is a huge plus.”
* While we wait to find out whether Tim Beckham is the starting shortstop in 2018, let’s revisit his comments earlier this month on 105.7 The Fan regarding his mindset following the trade to the Orioles.
“I just kind of wanted to come over and keep it as simple as possible,” he said. “Baseball is taxing on you mentally enough as it is and it’s a hard game enough as it is, so I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I wanted to come over and be comfortable and try to slow the game down. And my teammates and the staff made it easier for me as they welcomed me as part of the team just like I been there for nine years.
“It was a blessing the guys brought me in and welcomed me with open arms.”
* Most of the baseball world is handing the American League East to the Yankees while waiting for the Red Sox to counterpunch the Giancarlo Stanton trade by signing free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez.
The rest of the division is painted as helpless spectators.
Showalter was asked at the Winter Meetings how the Orioles are supposed to combat Stanton and American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, who combined for 111 home runs in 2017.
“We pitch better,” he replied.
It’s going to be a challenge for a rotation that posted a franchise-worst 5.70 ERA this year and has three vacancies.
“Pitcher is on top of their game, the pitcher wins,” Showalter said. “You don’t believe me, watch the playoffs. The teams that were playing in October had the best pitching staffs. It isn’t nearly as complicated as everybody makes it. We pitched well until the middle of May. When we had our depth tested and some other things, it got away from us.
“If you make real good pitches to those guys, you get them out. If you make bad pitches, they go a little further than everybody else is hitting them.
“I’m glad they haven’t changed the rule where the further you hit it, you get a run and a half, a run and a quarter. Can you imagine? If they had one of those skeet ball things where the further you hit it, the more points you get. Don’t give them any ideas in the competition committee. Of course, the Yankee stadium, as little as that ballpark is they don’t need any help.”
* Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are the only starters penciled into the rotation with Ubaldo Jiménez, Chris Tillman, Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson on the free agent market. They’ve noticed the oddity of the situation.
“I actually called Kevin the other day and me and him kind of talked about it,” Bundy said last week on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “We were like, ‘We’re the only two starters that are for sure coming back, you know?’ In year’s past we had Ubaldo, Tillman and Wade. This year it’s just kind of me and Gausman going back for sure depending on what we do here in the next few weeks.
“It’s different. I don’t really know how to describe it. But it’s exciting.”
* Bundy’s family has a Christmas tradition that definitely isn’t for the weak or the dieting.
“It’s pretty funny and everybody thinks it’s kind of gross at first, but until you try it, it’s really good. So I don’t know how it started or when the tradition started, but we do Christmas on Christmas morning and then before we can open any presents we have to eat chocolate biscuits and gravy. It’s gravy, but it’s like a chocolate base. I don’t know who started it or when, but all I know is when I was young and the last time I remember is us eating chocolate biscuits and gravy in the morning before we could open any presents.”
Does Brady Anderson know about this?
“No, no, he doesn’t. But he will now,” Bundy said.
“The good thing is you only want to eat it for about two or three biscuits and then you’re done. You’re tired of chocolate for a while.”