SARASOTA, Fla. - The first day of Orioles minicamp begins this morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, with pitchers scheduled to head outdoors at 10 a.m. A small group of beat writers will have clubhouse access for an hour.
Temperatures climb into the 70s this week, but rain is in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, which could move some of the bullpen sessions to the covered cages. Or, because it’s Florida, the sun could come out two minutes after a downpour.
In case you need a refresher on the invitees, here’s the list provided by the Orioles:
LHP Keegan Akin
RHP Dariel Álvarez
LHP Richard Bleier
RHP Miguel Castro
LHP Nestor Cortes Jr.
LHP Andrew Faulkner
RHP Mychal Givens
LHP Luis González
RHP Hunter Harvey
RHP David Hess
LHP Chris Lee
RHP Lucas Long
RHP Yefry Ramírez
LHP Joely Rodríguez
LHP Tanner Scott
RHP Jimmy Yacabonis
In addition to those names, left-hander Ryan O’Rourke made the trip to Sarasota last week and will be at the minicamp after missing the 2017 season following ligament-reconstructive surgery on his elbow. And right-hander Perci Garner also could make an appearance after undergoing a procedure on his knee.
Manager Buck Showalter, pitching coach Roger McDowell and bullpen coach Alan Mills also will check on Álvarez, the outfielder-turned-pitcher who underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in April. He’s been performing conditioning drills and exercises designed to get him back on the mound and I’ve been told he should be close to ready after spring training.
The Orioles would like to go back to their initial plan of having Álvarez work out of the bullpen at low Single-A Delmarva and also serve as the designated hitter on the days he isn’t supposed to pitch. Part of the reason why Álvarez agreed to the switch was because he’d still get to swing the bat.
Throwing the ball is the clearer path back to the majors.
Rodríguez figures to throw this week while the Orioles attempt to learn more about him beyond the stats. He registered a 5.40 ERA and 1.745 WHIP in 38 relief appearances with the Phillies, but those numbers are inflated by his 6.33 ERA and 1.926 WHIP in 26 games this summer. It was a disappointing regression, but he’s got a mid-90s fastball and a heavy sinker and slider.
He’s an intriguing guy and the Orioles were smart to get him into the organization on a minor league deal.
Cortes also is expected to throw off a mound after the Orioles made him the first of their three selections in the Rule 5 draft. He’s going to compete for a spot in the back of the rotation, but he also could be plugged into the bullpen as the early favorite to break camp with the team over right-handers Pedro Araujo and José Mesa.
The former 36th-round pick of the Yankees won’t impress with his velocity, so he better be able to locate his pitches. He’s earned praise for his breaking stuff and his control. Just don’t put him next to the hard throwers during bullpen sessions.
Showalter will be asked for his opinion on every pitcher. Also, where does he envision Harvey beginning the season? Is Castro still reporting to spring training as a starter? Is Scott a starter or reliever? Is Lee a starter or reliever? Why isn’t (insert name) here?
No harm in asking about Manny Machado’s position on opening day, assuming he’s still with the Orioles. And how’s that rotation looking these days?
(Prepare to duck)
Always be ready for an unexpected signing during the three-day minicamp. You just never know.
I’ll always remember cutting through the home clubhouse on my way to Showalter’s office and spotting a locker with Delmon Young’s name above it. Safe to assume that was the first question asked.
Catcher Shawn Riggins also had a locker, but he was there only to accompany Young. That might have been the second question asked.
Volatile reliever Alfredo Aceves signed in the same week, the news breaking as I was driving out of the complex. This is why God made U-turns.
Aceves exercised his opt-out clause late in camp after learning that he wouldn’t make the team. In one of the biggest upsets of the year, he left peacefully.