SEATTLE - Put away the hammer and nails if you’re trying to construct an opening day roster in 2019. Build a shelf. Or, if you’re really ambitious and own the lumber, a gazebo is a nice touch and comes in handy for backyard entertaining.
The Orioles don’t know who’s playing right field with Adam Jones a pending free agent and perhaps too expensive for a team slashing payroll and rebuilding without power tools. I’ve written about the wisdom of keeping him until someone is ready to play the position on a regular basis, but no one can predict the free agent market.
Jones is the only player on the Orioles’ active roster who’s a pending free agent following the non-deadline trades and the decisions to release Danny Valencia and Craig Gentry.
Is Renato Núñez the starting third baseman in April? Is Tim Beckham the shortstop and double play partner for second baseman Jonathan Villar? Do the Orioles give arbitration-eligible Caleb Joseph another raise and keep him as the starting catcher?
Stick with the shelf. It’s much easier.
The wild card for a team that’s not expected to contend for one is veteran Mark Trumbo, who’s scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Friday. He’s projected to be out for six months. His availability for opening day isn’t sunk in concrete.
By keeping the spot more flexible, the Orioles could move Trey Mancini out of left field and create an opportunity for another outfielder in the system if someone is deemed worthy and ready. Maybe they adjust their offseason shopping list, however it’s penned in a rebuild.
Trumbo started last season on the disabled list with a quad injury and the Orioles signed Valencia and Pedro Álvarez to minor league deals. Valencia no longer is in the organization and Álvarez was placed on the minor league disabled list last month with an Achilles injury.
You could sell me on using Ryan Mountcastle as the designated hitter, though he hasn’t played above the Double-A level. It could be temporary. I don’t care.
You won’t sell me on bringing back Colby Rasmus in any role, but no one is trying, so it’s a hollow challenge.
Nelson Cruz is a pending free agent, but he doesn’t fit any longer and he should have been with the Orioles for the past four seasons. But I digress ...
The Triple-A outfield next season could include Austin Hays, Yusniel Díaz and Anthony Santander. Ryan McKenna might need to repeat Double-A Bowie. The spring training competitions naturally could alter the scheme.
The Orioles really wanted to plug Hays into right field, but an ankle injury and .242/.271/.432 slash line in 66 games at Bowie set him back. It might take a little longer.
Hays went 4-for-11 with two home runs and five RBIs in his last two games, and he also had a five-game stretch in August when he was 8-for-24 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs. He went 3-for-3 with a double and home run on Aug. 14 and 4-for-4 with two doubles and a home run on Aug. 17.
Plans to send Hays to the Arizona Fall League suddenly are on hold because the ankle apparently has flared up again. He’s on the Glendale Desert Dogs roster.
As for the weekend rotation, I wrote yesterday the Orioles are listing Dylan Bundy, David Hess and Alex Cobb at Tropicana Field. Rookie left-hander Josh Rogers would pitch against the Athletics next week at Camden Yards. However, the Orioles will check on Cobb’s blister before fully committing to him in the Rays series.
If Cobb needs an extra day, Rogers would start Sunday and the veteran right-hander would face the A’s.
The Orioles lost their 99th game last night, largely due to going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10 runners.
“There’s some opportunities there,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It just seemed like every mistake we make is magnified because of our inability to score runs. Andrew (Cashner) had a lot of counts in his favor and just couldn’t finish off some guys. He had a chance even at 100 pitches to get through five with the lead and that was a grind for him, but he just couldn’t get one of those last two guys out.”
Cruz and Denard Span hit back-to-back home runs with two outs in the fifth to end Cashner’s night and give Seattle a 3-2 lead.
“He had Cruz in a good place,” Showalter said. “But the hitting, what opportunities we had, we didn’t take advantage of them.”
The Mariners committed three errors in the top of the fifth and the Orioles scored two unearned runs to briefly hold a lead.
“They gave us plenty of chances,” Joseph said. “Three errors, made quite a few baserunners and really trying to create some space there. They jumped out to an early lead and when they give you opportunities like that you’ve got to pounce on them. Especially a team that’s in contention, playing for the playoffs, you’ve got to take advantage of that.
“Nine times out of 10 when you do take advantage of it you usually win those games when you’re given that many extra outs. Couldn’t push it across today. Before you know it, a matter of four pitches we’re down by one, so it’s tough.”
Here are more leftovers from the visiting clubhouse:
Showalter on Cashner: “It’s been a challenge for a lot of our pitchers is getting outs in three or four pitches. It seems like we’re so deep in every count. Even the counts we have in our favor, the next thing you know, we turn around and we’re in a position where the hitter is taking out of doubt what’s coming. It’s forcing us to make pitches you don’t want to make.
“We’re just not getting any strike to ball, some weak contact. But all that being said, he’s one pitch away from coming out of the game after five with the lead.”
Joseph on Cashner: “A lot of pitches in a short amount of time. Kind of a similar outing as Kansas City, not being able to throw his pitches in the zone. He had good movement, good stuff. I thought he had a really good changeup. Threw a few really nice sliders. The heater has life on it, touching (93 and 95 mph). Just couldn’t get in the zone and couldn’t get it done in the zone.
“I thought he did a really good job of navigating around some of the walks and some of the hits, a mistake to Nelson, and then Span jumps on a 2-0 changeup and before you know it, he goes from potentially getting the W to in line for a loss, but it probably shouldn’t got to that. We could have pushed across a few runs there and maybe it’s 6-3 there and he has a little more cushion to get in the zone more.
“Dangerous lineup, there’s power potential all over that lineup, so you understand what he’s doing, but his stuff is too good to be out of the zone as much as it was tonight.”
Joseph on squandering chances: “Yeah, it was, what, the fifth inning and we probably had eight of those runners from the fifth inning and before. We had plenty of opportunities early in the game to really bust it out. And I mean, they were trying to give it to us and we just didn’t take advantage.
“Their guy, (Mike) Leake, he’s become a crafty guy and he will just keep you off-balance. He’ll pitch at 86 and then out of nowhere bust an 89 in there and jam you and then throws a cutter and everything. He bent but he didn’t break and we need to make him break next time.”
Cashner on outing: “I was frustrated. I really didn’t do a lot well. I’ve just really got to start locating my fastball. I felt like my off-speed stuff was good. I hung that one curveball (to Mitch Haniger), but other than that, I thought I made some good pitches in some big spots, but just got to find a way.”