This, that and the other

With the Orioles working out the final details on a deal with free agent third baseman Maikel Franco, their pursuit intensifying late last night, according to an industry source, there are dominos set up to fall upon his arrival.

The 40-man roster is full and a major league deal, pending a physical, would require a corresponding move.

Rio Ruiz’s future in the organization is in question. He could share the position with Franco, which limits the number of super-utility players able to travel north for opening day. He could be optioned. He could be designated for assignment.

Both players are third basemen with the ability to move across the diamond. Ruiz has played two innings at second base in the majors. He has no experience at shortstop.

A utility label won’t stick to him.

A four-man bench with a backup catcher and spare outfielder also could hold two utility players, with the expectation that Chris Davis goes on the injured list. Or Ruiz is marked as a reserve and the final spot comes down to Pat Valaika, Ramón Urías or Stevie Wilkerson.

Wilkerson faces the longest odds because he isn’t playing shortstop. Someone has to back up Freddy Galvis.

This is why making projections on opening day rosters is a fun activity that usually has to be revisited. And the Orioles are known for their late-spring activity.

Never write them in ink.

Anyway, I’d expect an announcement on Franco within the next few days.

Thumbnail image for Zimmermann-Delivers-Debut-Orange-Sidebar.jpg* How many rotation predictions included left-hander Bruce Zimmermann?

The idea of optioning him to Triple-A Norfolk seems preposterous, though a few weeks remain in spring training. Rotation, bulk relief, whatever. He’s out-pitching his competitors.

Doesn’t really matter if he’s doing it in relief. He’s entering games with a clean inning and is stretched out to four.

Zimmermann could beat out one of the veterans for a spot in the rotation. He could piggyback, as he’s done with Dean Kremer.

The salary-dump trade of Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves is the reason why Zimmermann - he’s a local product, if you didn’t know - has been perhaps the most impressive Oriole in spring training.

Had to get him here first.

* Reliever Eric Hanhold hasn’t pitched in a major league game since making three appearances as a rookie with the Mets in 2018. Conner Greene hasn’t made it past the minors and, due to the shutdown, didn’t pitch in 2020.

They’re tabbed as longshots in camp this spring, surrounded by relievers with track records of varying lengths or spots pretty much waiting for them. An exception being Hunter Harvey, of course, after his oblique injury.

The Orioles designated Hanhold for assignment in January 2020 to create a spot for shortstop José Iglesias on the 40-man roster. He cleared waivers, was outrighted and spent the summer at the alternate camp site. The Orioles placed him on their camp reserves list this spring.

Greene received a camp invite after signing a minor league deal in December. He was the Blue Jays’ seventh-round draft pick in 2013 out of Santa Monica (Calif.) High School and also pitched in the Cardinals and Royals systems. He was part of the Randal Grichuk trade.

The lack of offense was the main storyline of Saturday’s loss to the Jays, but Hanhold and Greene each tossed a scoreless and hitless inning with one strikeout. Hanhold has allowed one earned run in five innings, and Greene has allowed one in three innings with no walks and five strikeouts.

“That was electric stuff from both of them,” Hyde said after the game.

“It’s about command with Eric. He’s got a really live fastball that darts all over the place. He threw a great changeup for a punchout and he’s got a really good slider. So it’s all about command because it’s an upper-90s fastball that moves, sinks. It’s a really tough at-bat.

“And Greenie’s fun to watch, too. Greenie is super-aggressive. I like his stuff a lot. He’s got a great personality on the mound. He’s in attack mode from the first pitch of the inning.”

* The Orioles haven’t provided an update on Harvey’s oblique injury, but there probably isn’t much else to say about it.

Oblique strains are serious. Players don’t rush back from them. Harvey isn’t expected to be ready for opening day.

The only decision appears to be whether to place him on the 10-day or 60-day injured list.

“I mean, it’s definitely tough to see a teammate and a friend,” said reliever Tanner Scott. “He’s got unbelievable stuff. He’s a great person. He’s a really good person and I’m hoping he’s back as soon as possible. Everybody does.”

* Getting everyone to agree on a topic is a fruitless endeavor. Less energy is wasted on herding cats. But run the improvement in overall talent in the organization past people from within and outside of it, and they arrive at the same conclusion.

It does exist. It’s noticeable.

It also won’t make the Orioles a contender in 2021. That isn’t the point.

Wilkerson was asked Sunday if he viewed the organization as being deeper in talent than a year or two ago. He smiled, as he’s wont to do, and playfully gave a one-word response.

“Yes,” he said, pausing to maximize the humor.

Waiting ... waiting ... and now the rest.

“I think, you guys know that, there’s a lot of young talent,” he continued, “and even guys that got opportunities last year after having opportunities before that maybe they didn’t take advantage of, they certainly did last year. So I think overall the level of talent around here has taken strides in the right direction and then we’ll just see how everyone performs under the big lights.”

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