The Orioles won’t know whether they’ll be able to open their spring training camp in February until the world gives its approval.
Or Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association if they choose to ignore the world.
First comes the fall instructional league, which so far has gone uninterrupted for two weeks.
If we’re lucky, the Orioles will reach the point where they can extend spring training invites and avoid another shutdown of the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
It’s interesting to check how many players on last year’s list seemed to disappear without a trace. Of course, losing a minor league season was an obvious contributor.
Right-hander Cristian Alvarado was counted among the cuts on March 6, though he barely drew notice because the Orioles also reassigned catcher Adley Rutschman to minor league camp, optioned pitcher Dean Kremer and returned Rule 5 pitchers Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker to their respective organizations after they cleared waivers.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias explained afterward why the Orioles couldn’t keep Bailey and Rucker on the 40-man roster.
“These were tough decisions, especially with the Rule 5 guys because both are impressive,” Elias said. “That’s why we drafted them and they have big league stuff and they’re big league pitchers and will be pitching in the big leagues in the future. But with our roster construction, with our starting rotation and the way that we feel it’s shaping up, we expect to be adding some pitchers to the 40-man roster here before the end of camp.
“And we feel it’s going to be difficult with the new rules in 2020 with respect to having only 13 pitchers on your roster at any given time, the lengthened option period from 10 to 15 days and then the three-batter minimum (for relievers), that carrying Rule 5 pitchers from Double-A is going to hamper us. So it was really tough because both guys came in and impressed really well. The stuff really showed. But just in terms of getting down to decision time here in camp, we wanted to boil it down to the pitchers that we think we’re going to be able to carry all year.”
We’ll always wonder whether prior knowledge of the pandemic and other rule changes would have influenced that decision. But the Orioles needed open spots for left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone.
As for Alvarado, he wasn’t given a chance to follow up on an impressive 2019 campaign, when he made 40 relief appearances with Double-A Bowie and posted a 2.66 ERA and 0.928 WHIP with 13 saves in 74 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .189 as he made the transition to reliever.
Alvarado wasn’t placed in the 60-man player pool or the fall instructional league.
Malquin Canelo signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent in November after playing at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was tossed into the utility mix and reassigned to minor league camp on March 1.
I’ll totally understand if this is the first time you’ve thought about Canelo since that day.
Infielder Richard Ureña also was a utility candidate and higher on the list than Canelo. He remained on the spring roster as the Orioles returned home, but he wasn’t invited to the summer training camp.
Ureña was outrighted on Feb. 23 but placed back on the spring roster.
They didn’t give us reason to remember Ureña.
Catcher Taylor Davis attracted lots of camp attention because of his habit of staring into the camera during games. He always managed to find it, whether on the field or in the dugout, and became a YouTube sensation.
I’m sure he would have preferred to become known as the guy who made it to the majors for a fourth consecutive season - the last three with the Cubs totaling 20 games - but he never left the alternate camp site in Bowie. Bryan Holaday was promoted as a third catcher before he could opt out of his contract and Austin Wynns kept landing on the taxi squad for road trips.
The fall instructional league roster includes six catchers. Davis isn’t among them and could be joining another organization over the winter.
The Orioles signed Brady Rodgers as a minor league free agent in January. He had connections to Elias, assistant Sig Mejdal and director of pitching Chris Holt from their days in Houston.
The last article I wrote that referenced Rodgers was posted back on March 17, while I was recapping what we learned about the team prior to the spring training shutdown. A reminder that Rodgers didn’t throw a single pitch before the Orioles reassigned him to minor league camp on March 6.
Arm soreness kept Rodgers in the trainers’ room and out of the rotation competition.
Remember when he was a starter candidate?
Rodgers and Kohl Stewart were linked in just about every spring article as they both tried to get back on a mound. Stewart also had a sore arm, but made the opening day roster before opting out on July 31 due to concerns about COVID-19.
Stewart remains on the 60-day injured list.