Notes on the rotation, catching situation and lineup possibilities

NEW YORK - A rotation that already is going to be slower to evolve than the standard models became more unpredictable with Alex Cobb’s groin injury and subsequent trip to the 10-day injured list.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has given Andrew Cashner the opening day assignment this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Cashner and Dylan Bundy were supposed to vie for Saturday’s start, but it goes to Nate Karns as the season’s first “opener.”

Bundy takes the mound for Sunday’s series finale and David Hess is lined up to pitch Monday night in Toronto.

Does this make Hess the third or fourth starter?

Guess it depends on how you view it.

Hess slots third if Karns isn’t an actual starter. Karns could be one-and-done in this role or remain the opener further down the rotation, his placement on Saturday based on the off-day.

andrew-cashner-side-gray.jpgCashner could return Tuesday night on regular rest, but who starts Wednesday?

Mike Wright is a possibility, of course, depending on whether he’s used earlier and for how long. Karns could come back if he’s put on a short leash Saturday, but the Orioles will be careful with his elbow. They need to learn his exact recovery time, a process that began in Sarasota.

Hess said he’s available out of the bullpen leading into the Toronto series - all hands and arms on deck - but remains lined up to start against the Blue Jays.

“Regardless if that’s the first outing or not, just getting to be a part of the opening day roster with this group of guys is really special,” said Hess, who made his major league debut in the first game of a May 12 doubleheader.

“There’s a lot of guys that I came up with and a lot of guys who have earned this this spring and in previous years, so there’s a lot of excitement. Not just for me, but to be a part of this with everybody else.”

* The Orioles have four catchers on their 40-man roster, doubling their total when they opened camp. Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns have been joined by Jesús Sucre and Pedro “Stop calling me Luis or I’m gonna throat-punch you” Severino.

(He didn’t actually say that, but it’s a reminder for me to get it right.)

Severino stopped by for a cup of coffee and won a roster spot. It might have chafed a few folks who spent the entire camp competing for a job, but no one said life is fair.

Sports can be downright cruel. Well, life as well. And the Severino move had to be a jagged little pill to swallow.

Carlos Pérez, Andrew Susac, Martin Cervenka and Cael Brockmeyer also remain in the organization. Brockmeyer filled in for Sucre at major league camp while the veteran tried to untangle his visa issues.

Wynns is on the 10-day injured list with a strained oblique, but he’s already taking batting practice and it won’t be long before he’s playing in games. So let’s do the math.

Assuming that Cervenka returns to Double-A Bowie and is joined by Brockmeyer, the Orioles potentially have four catchers for Triple-A Norfolk in Wynns, Sisco, Pérez and Susac. That’s probably two more than necessary.

Would the Orioles assign three to Norfolk and Bowie? If that’s the plan, and I’m skeptical, who drops down to the Eastern League?

What’s more likely is a trade or the release of a veteran. None of the four mentioned above belongs at the Double-A level. Paring the group down to three still seems like it’s too many. Four is impossible.

So who needs a catcher?

I know the Marlins were checking around earlier in spring training in an attempt to improve their depth below the majors.

* Should we take a shot at the opening day lineup?

The Orioles are facing Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who gets the start while LUIS Severino is sidelined until at least May with a shoulder injury. He has a 3.72 ERA and 1.190 WHIP in 12 career starts against the Orioles and averages 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Cue the annoying Yankee Stadium whistle.

Chris Davis (31) and Trey Mancini (14) are the only players on the current roster with more than seven career at-bats against Tanaka. Davis is 7-for-31 (.226) with a double, home run and seven strikeouts. Mancini is 3-for-14 (.214) with a home run.

Joey Rickard is 2-for-7 with a double and home run.

Sisco and Sucre are each 2-for-5 with a double. The latter has an RBI and he’s on the club, so let’s put him behind the plate.

Wynns and Severino are each 1-for-2. The latter is on the club, but these sample sizes are getting ridiculously small.

Here’s my lineup, which is ridiculously unofficial:

Cedric Mullins CF
Dwight Smith Jr. RF
Jonathan Villar 2B
Chris Davis 1B
Trey Mancini LF
Rio Ruiz 3B
Renato Núñez DH
Jesús Sucre C
Richie Martin SS

Davis batting cleanup? Heck, I don’t know. I had him sixth in my first draft, but I’m putting a left-handed hitter between Villar and Mancini. And sorry, but I’m not slotting Ruiz fourth.

I feel pretty good about Mullins first and Martin ninth, so I’ve got that going for me.

We can’t dismiss the possibility that Hyde puts more emphasis on outfield defense and starts Smith and Rickard, with Núñez nudged from the designated hitter role, but I’m not anticipating it.

Cashner also is getting an opening day start due to a teammate’s injury. But he isn’t an “opener.”

Don’t get the two confused.

Cashner has registered a 3.18 ERA and 1.147 WHIP in seven career starts against the Yankees. He’s pitched once in the Bronx, on April 5, 2018 with the Orioles, and allowed one run and two hits in six innings.

Giancarlo Stanton is 2-for-19 (.105) with six strikeouts against Cashner. Aaron Judge is 2-for-11 (.182) with a home run.

D.J. LeMahieu is 6-for-19 (.316), Aaron Hicks is 6-for-13 (.462) with two doubles and Greg Bird is 3-for-10 (.300) with a triple and home run. But Hicks has a back injury.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters that Bird is starting at first base and Luke Voit is the designated hitter.

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