SARASOTA, Fla. - Brandon Bailey didn’t see it coming.
In Orioles camp as a Rule 5 selection, Bailey thought he might be heading north with the club instead of making the drive to West Palm Beach. That he’d be on a major league team’s opening day roster instead of returning to the Astros complex and awaiting his minor league assignment.
The Orioles included Bailey and Rule 5 reliever Michael Rucker in Friday afternoon’s camp cuts. Bailey goes back to the Astros after allowing one run in four innings and Rucker to the Cubs after tossing five scoreless innings.
“I would say shocked, surprised, really sad,” Bailey said yesterday.
“I really can’t describe how you go from really feeling like you’ve got a chance to be a big leaguer and competing for a rotation spot, let alone just trying to make the team, and then all of a sudden I’m told that you’re going right back to the situation that you were in. It’s tough.
“I truly felt like I have the talent and I’ve got the skill set to try to help any team in the big leagues, let alone just Baltimore. I felt like ... I believe I’m a big leaguer. I have the confidence that I can compete with the best in the world.
“Obviously, I was thankful for my time that Mike (Elias) and Brandon (Hyde) and Sig (Mejdal) and the rest of the organization gave me and I wish them nothing but the best, but now I have to kind of hit the reset button and just play with the hand that I’ve been dealt. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”
He won’t fold. That much was made clear in our brief conversation.
Bailey made one start and one relief appearance. Rucker was used out of the bullpen on three occasions.
The upside was evident.
Meeting with the media outside the baseball operations building, Elias cited the increased challenges of carrying Rule 5 picks and the desire to clear space on a packed 40-man roster. He also knew that surrendering the two young pitchers worked against the stated goal of infusing more talent into the organization.
Bailey, meanwhile, will use the camp experience as a learning tool. The exposure can’t hurt him.
“Just to simply have the opportunity to pitch in a couple of big league games,” he said. “Any time that you can pitch at the highest level and see how your stuff plays out and try to work the nerves out, it’s always a good thing. I think I was able to just jump right back into that relationship with Chris Holt and really enjoyed my time getting to know Broc (Doug Brocail) and Darren Holmes. I learned some things and I was able to get better and that’s all you can ask for.
“Now I have to keep finding ways to get better, just with a different team.”
The one he left and came back to unexpectedly.
“It was a pleasure just to have the opportunity,” he said. “It didn’t work out, but that’s baseball.”
By returning Bailey and Rucker, the Orioles will go into a season without a Rule 5 player on their roster for the first time since 2013.
It’s been an impressive streak.
Shortstop Richie Martin kept it going last season after pitchers Néstor Cortés Jr. and Pedro Araujo in 2017, outfielder Anthony Santander in 2016, outfielder Joey Rickard in 2015 and reliever Jason García in 2014.
Third baseman Michael Almanzar was selected in 2013, but stayed on the 60-day disabled list until the Orioles designated him for assignment on June 30. They returned him to the Red Sox and later acquired him in a trade.
The Orioles kept reliever T.J. McFarland in 2012 and infielder Ryan Flaherty in 2011. They returned pitcher Adrian Rosario to the Brewers in 2010.
Rucker tweeted the following after clearing waivers and going back to the Cubs:
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but at the end of the day, I know I gave it my all and can sleep easier knowing that. Thank you @Orioles for taking a shot on me in the Rule 5, and for an unforgettable first big league camp! Experiences and relationships that will not be forgotten!”