Orioles release Escobar, Núñez still out and other notes (tied 1-1)

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles have granted infielder Alcides Escobar his outright release this afternoon, a move coinciding with the opt-out date on the veteran infielder’s minor league deal.

Escobar, 32, is free to sign with another team and drops out of the competition for a utility infield job in camp.

The Orioles reached agreement with Escobar on Feb. 16 and he would have earned $700,000 if placed on the 25-man roster.

Appearing in 13 exhibition games, Escobar went 7-for-32 with two doubles and seven RBIs and slashed .219/.316/.281. He had four walks and struck out four times.

“It’s just unfortunate,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Escie’s a pro and we just felt like we have a lot of infield depth here and just wasn’t going to fit, but I’m going to recommend him to as many people as I possibly can.

“He was unbelievable in camp, from a professionalism standpoint to helping younger guys. I really liked the time we spent together.”

Rule 5 pick Richie Martin is expected to be the starting shortstop on opening day, though Hyde said “that’s yet to be determined,” and Escobar could have provided veteran insurance behind him. Drew Jackson, also a Rule 5 player, is likely to be kept in a super-utility role.

“I think rookies break through all the time,” Hyde said.

Jackson-AB-White-Back-sidebar.jpg“In our situation this is a development-type deal. We’re going to try to go out and compete every single night, but we want to get as much talent as we can on our team. We feel like both Richie and Jackson have high upside, so we want to continue to keep looking at them and give them an opportunity.”

Jonathan Villar can slide over from second base to shortstop and the camp roster still includes Hanser Alberto (.217/.208/.261), Jack Reinheimer (.407/.429/.593) and Jace Peterson. (.355/.459/.452).

“We feel good about how both of those guys (Martin and Jackson) have played,” Hyde said. “Alberto’s played multiple positions in the big leagues, as well, so we have some guys who can move around and can play multiple spots. Villar can play both spots in the middle. So there’s movable pieces, there’s a lot of depth there, and so we feel good about what we have right now.”

Asked whether he’d prefer having a veteran in a utility role, Hyde said, “Yes and no. We’re going to put together the best roster we can and if that’s going to be some veteran guys, it is. If not, it’s not, you know?

“Ideally you’d like to have some veteran leadership, but in our situation we’re just trying to acquire and accumulate as much talent as we can in the system.”

Hyde said he hasn’t decided whether to carry a three- or four-man bench and releasing Escobar didn’t factor into it.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is checking the waiver wire and knows that more players will become available, including later this week via the opt-out dates in contracts.

Today’s move leaves the Orioles with 37 players in camp.

* Renato Núñez remains day-to-day with a sore right biceps.

“I’m hoping he can be in there tomorrow or the next day,” Hyde said. “Sounds like it progressed quite a bit yesterday, so hopefully he’s in there the next couple of days.”

A quick return is needed as Núñez tries to beat out Rio Ruiz for the third base job. Rio has put up better numbers and been more reliable in the field.

“We’d like to see (Núñez) play a little more, to be honest with you,” Hyde said. “He swung the bat well when he was here last year toward the end of the year. That definitely plays a huge factor in the decision making, but yeah, I’d love to see him get on the field a little more before we break.”

* Hyde explained why yesterday’s rainout led to having Dylan Bundy’s start pushed to tonight, followed by David Hess on Thursday in Bradenton.

“Because we had built in an off-day in there for some starters,” Hyde said. “It was already built in for Dylan anyway, so it just worked out to move him back a day.”

* Mark Trumbo is the designated hitter again tonight and a decision is pending on whether he’s going to be ready for opening day. He seems to be trending in that direction, but the Orioles aren’t committing to it.

“We’re still talking about it and monitoring with him day-to-day and still seeing how he recovers,” Hyde said. “It sounds like he recovered well after those back-to-back days so that was a positive, but just another tricky thing that’s going to be a couple days before we break decision on if it’s the right thing to do or not for him. We’re still going to continue to play him this week and see what happens.”

* Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, concluded his visit to Orioles camp by again taking questions from the media, including one pertaining to Adam Jones’ extended stay on the free agent market. Jones settled for a $3 million contract with the Diamondbacks on March 11.

“I think a number of players should have had opportunities that they have not appeared to have had, and Adam was obviously one of them,” Clark replied.

“We have a number of guys who can undoubtedly help teams win ballgames that are still at home, and it was I believe unfortunate that Adam was on the market as long as he was and that there weren’t more teams interested in what he brings to the ballpark both as a leader on the field and an ambassador off it.

“Whether it’s Adam or whether it’s other players that have recently signed or players that are sitting at home, the concern is still the same.”

Chris Davis has become the Orioles’ union rep, a responsibility handled for many years by reliever Darren O’Day.

“CD’s been through, seen and done a lot in our game, and so with him in his current position, there’s the ability to draw on experience and expertise that very few have had,” Clark said. “We’re glad that he’s taken on that role. There’s always been a quality person, a veteran player, in that leadership role here and we know CD will continue that trend.”

* The Orioles have added three more promotional giveaways for the 2019 season and a new week-long Theme Night ticket package.

The first 20,000 fans 21 and over attending the Memorial Day game on May 27 will receive a set of two Orioles Outdoor Pint Glasses. The first 20,000 fans 15 and over on June 1 will receive a pair of Orioles Retro Sunglasses. And all fans attending the 21 game get an Exclusive Baseball Card Pack.

“Nurses Appreciation Week” will be held from May 6-10. Fans who buy the Theme Night ticket package receive a game ticket and a limited-edition Orioles scrub top.

Update: Cedric Mullins led off the bottom of the first inning with his third home run and the Orioles lead 1-0.

Update II: The Red Sox loaded the bases against Bundy with no outs in the third and settled for one run on Eduardo Núñez’s double play grounder.

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