Make opening day roster plans and duck the wrenches thrown at them.
Hunter Harvey was a candidate to serve as closer, or at least a high-leverage reliever, but he’s on the 60-day injured list with a left oblique strain.
Félix Hernández was signed to a minor league deal and penciled into the rotation, the Orioles banking on his impressive spring training in 2020 and bounceback potential, but he’s undergoing tests on his right elbow after exiting yesterday’s game.
Is it ever a non-worry when there’s discomfort in a pitcher’s elbow?
“I hope Félix is all right,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He’s had one heck of a career. I don’t know what the issue is, but obviously he was scheduled to go a little bit farther.”
Rio Ruiz was the anticipated third baseman because that’s what he’s done the past two seasons, but the Orioles signed Maikel Franco to a one-year, $800,000 contract yesterday - with incentives that could add $200,000 - and now he’s the leading candidate to handle the hot corner.
Except for this caveat: The contract allows the Orioles to option Franco for the first couple of weeks because of his late arrival, which could foul up a roster projection.
Think replacing Harvey is as simple as substituting another one-inning reliever?
The Orioles could insert a bulk guy. The camp is crawling with them.
“I think possibly,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said yesterday in a Zoom call that covered a lot of ground. “We’re still assessing that and Brandon (Hyde) and I will talk through it as we go, but he was one of the shorter stint right-handed relievers that we have in camp and now obviously he’s not going to be an opening day option, so that’s one fewer short reliever that has a chance to make the team.”
Harvey’s injury can create an opportunity for a failed starter candidate. It can improve the odds for Thomas Eshelman, Conner Greene (one run, no walks, six strikeouts in five innings) or a Rule 5 pitcher. Or the Orioles could stay in the shorter category, which aids left-hander Fernando Abad, another non-roster invite.
The Orioles could veer in so many directions. Bruce Zimmermann and Jorge López should be locks to make the club - the latter is out of minor league options - and it’s just a question of whether they start or work in relief. But the Orioles also are going to keep checking on pitchers who are late cuts in camp or opt out.
Try making that prediction.
I’ll repeat that we don’t know how many pitchers the Orioles are going to carry and whether they go with five or six starters. They aren’t hiding anything. It’s March 17 and opening day is April 1.
“I don’t know it’s dependent on any one guy,” Elias said. “I think we’re going to see what we’ve got and look at things in the context of the 40-man roster, guys that are on it, guys that aren’t, and who are the best length options, whether that’s a six-man rotation or even just to start the year or whether we take some of those length options and put them in the bullpen. I don’t know.
“I think we’re going to just break with the best pitchers that we can. We’ve still got a ways to go, we’re still evaluating some guys frankly and it’s going to depend on the personnel that gets chosen for this team.”
I didn’t like the chances of Rule 5s Mac Sceroler and/or Tyler Wells making it to Fenway Park on April 1, but Hernández’s bad body language and confession about his elbow at least widen the crack in the open door.
Sceroler has allowed five runs and four hits with five walks, one strikeout and two home runs in 2 1/3 innings. Wells has surrendered one run and five hits with two walks, three strikeouts and a hit batter in four innings.
“They’re still competing and they’re both very interesting,” Elias said, understandably refusing to publicly eliminating anyone. “Their stuff has been very good. Obviously, the results have been a little uneven, but that’s to be expected for some of these guys in general, but also coming off the layoff that they both had. So we’re using as much time and opportunity as we can to evaluate those guys. But the stuff and velocity thus far have been as good as advertised and we were hoping to get.”
If you’re projecting catchers, it still seems guaranteed that Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco make the club. That certainly was the indication recently. But Austin Wynns has been good behind the plate - taking a throw up the first base line and spinning to make the tag being one of the spring’s top defensive plays - and he’s 4-for-12 after yesterday’s RBI single.
Sisco is 3-for-15 with six strikeouts. Severino 1-for-22 with five strikeouts and no minor league options.
Anyone bold enough to change that prediction?