The Orioles set their 25-man roster today shortly before the noon deadline and the moves included the removals of pitchers Alec Asher, Stefan Crichton, Michael Kelly and Jesus Liranzo from the 40-man roster to accommodate Colby Rasmus, Danny Valencia, Pedro Álvarez and Craig Gentry.
Four pitchers for four position players.
“Our hope is that they clear and put them back in the system,” said manager Buck Showalter. “If not them, then who? I know there was a lot of discussion back and forth. A lot of different things you’ve got to think about, but it’s more about the people you’ve got to add.
“We knew somebody was going to have to come off at some point, but we felt like we took the best team we could, short-term and long-term, and with that comes a price.”
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said no one in the group has a previous outright and they can be optioned without giving consent.
The potential loss of Liranzo, only 23 and possessing an intriguing arm that had officials excited about him following the 2016 season, illustrates the improved depth in the system.
“I hope so,” Showalter said. “That’s a way I’m going to choose to look at it right now. He’s a good arm, but we’ve got some good homegrown hopefully arms coming.”
Left-hander Chris Lee was a consideration for the 60-day disabled list, which would have removed him from the 40-man, but he’s making a speedy recovery from his oblique injury and has been throwing for about a week. He’s close to getting back on the mound.
Alex Cobb was optioned to Double-A Bowie but he’ll be introduced today during the pregame ceremonies before flying back down to Sarasota.
Chris Davis is batting leadoff for the first time in a regular season game and there are no assurances that the experiment will continue or for how long.
“It’s maybe unconventional, but Nick Markakis wasn’t conventional, Manny (Machado) wasn’t conventional,” Showalter said. “Who else am I missing? Probably two or three other guys.
“(Trey) Mancini tried it a little bit. You could tell Trey was a little uncomfortable with it. Any time a player kind of embraces things and as much his idea as somebody else’s, you usually get a good return. But we’ll see where it takes us. Kind of like the journey of the season. Kind of take it where it goes.”
Asked if it’s a “today thing” or more, Showalter smiled and replied, “It’s definitely a today thing.”
“We’ll see what tomorrow brings. But I’ve talked to Chris and Scott (Coolbaugh) a little bit. Something that everybody felt like was a good way to start. Chris is a very important part of our club potentially and you hope this kind of helps him. Sometimes, you’ve got to give a new toy, something that signifies a new start.”
Davis is only the third first baseman to lead off on opening day in the last 20 years, according to Baseball-Reference.com. John Jaso batted first for the Pirates on April 3, 2016 and Darin Erstad did it for the Angels three times from 1997-2005. Davis is the first Orioles first baseman to bat leadoff going back to 1962.
“Certainly we talked about it a lot,” Showalter said. “We had some time with the elbow/forearm that he had going on. This is something that Chris wants to go with and we’re going to support him in it.”
Davis reminded the media yesterday that he intended to bring a more aggressive approach to the plate. Leading off didn’t spark the idea.
“I think that was going to be the case no matter where I was batting,” he said. “That was something that I wanted to kind to change going into this season no matter where I was hitting in the order.”
Rasmus is on the bench today in large part because he’s 1-for-11 with six strikeouts lifetime against Twins starter Jake Odorizzi. And Odorizzi is a big reverse-splits guy, which also led Showalter to start Gentry in right field.
Showalter chose left-handed hitting Álvarez as his designated hitter after considering Valencia. But Álvarez is 4-for-12 with a home run off Odorizzi.
Rasmus will be in the lineup Saturday night against Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson.
Cobb is able to enhance the Orioles’ scouting report on Odorizzi, since they were teammates with the Rays.
“Alex will help us anyway he can,” Showalter said, “but it’s kind of tough putting those guys in that position. ‘Hey, tell us about this player you played with and help us win.’ But the good pitchers like Odorizzi, you know exactly what they’re going to do and they still do it. That’s why they’re successful. That’s why he’s such a strong reverse-splits guy.”
Showalter said he reminded the new guys to be sure to lift up their feet today while running down the orange carpet.
“Then I remind myself that my knees don’t raise as high as they used to consistently,” he said.
I’ll close this entry with one more from Showalter:
“I had a double-yolk egg today. It’s supposed to be good luck and then I thought, ‘I wonder if that means Twins.’ “