Turning in a perfect NCAA basketball tournament bracket is easier than figuring out the Orioles’ opening day roster.
Not knowing whether the Orioles carry 13 or 14 pitches is a complication, but there are others. The confusion isn’t subsiding. It’s actually increasing daily.
The growing possibility of DJ Stewart going on the 10-day injured list has created more roster turmoil.
It’s March madness.
If the Orioles carry 13 position players, they can hold onto outfielders Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, infielders Trey Mancini, Yolmer Sánchez, Freddy Galvis, Rio Ruiz and Maikel Franco, catchers Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco, and utility players Pat Valaika and Rámon Urías/Stevie Wilkerson/Jahmai Jones.
Choose one out of the final three.
But Franco might not be ready for opening day unless he can ramp up in a hurry. In that case, I guess you can choose two.
More slicing is done if the Orioles go with 14 pitchers and a three-man bench. And if they do that and Franco is or isn’t ready to head north ...
Pass the aspirin.
These names seem to be in play in some combination. Richie Martin was in yesterday’s lineup, but he’s probably going to the alternate camp site unless he ramps up quickly.
Pass the vodka.
Early plans to focus more on development can be tweaked if injuries strike hard in camp. The Orioles want Martin playing shortstop at Triple-A Norfolk, with Jones forming the other half of the double play combination. That’s the likely scenario in May, but honestly, who can tell anymore?
* The order of disappointing outcomes in camp is subject to personal opinion, but Alexander Wells’ oblique injury has to be at or near the top.
The Orioles placed Wells on the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft, exposing reliever Zach Pop because you can only make room for so many. They protected six players, an unusually high amount.
Wells wasn’t included in the 60-man pool over the summer, in part due to travel restrictions. The native of Australia was 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.070 WHIP in 24 starts last year with Bowie.
The real kicker is he’s averaged 1.4 walks per nine innings in four minor league seasons and the Orioles believe he can be an eventual fit in their rotation behind the big arms.
“This is a guy that flies a little bit under the radar in our system, but his minor league success has been crazy so far,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said in November. “He’s dominated. He has elite command and he’s got a pretty good curveball and a nice cutter/slider that he’s been working on. I think that the reason we were determined to protect him this time around is we view him as a potential starting pitcher. That’s a valuable asset. And once again, this is a guy that’s knocking on the door right now, so if called upon this year he could potentially come up and help the team. But ultimately we just didn’t want to risk losing him.
“Again, this is a strange year to make these decisions because he didn’t pitch in the United States all year and a team would be selecting him knowing that they’d have to keep him on the major league team all year, but we weren’t confident enough thinking that would be a deterrent, and we want to keep developing Alex and we want him to sink or swim as a big leaguer here with the Orioles.”
All of it sounds good, except Wells was shelved again this spring with an oblique injury and never got on the mound before the Orioles optioned him to Twin Lakes Park.
At last check, he still hasn’t been cleared to pitch. He’s on a throwing program and there’s obviously no rush with Wells eventually going to the alternate camp site in Bowie while waiting for Norfolk’s season to begin in May.
Still, it would have been nice to actually see him pitch, especially with the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020. But he ran into some bad luck again.
* The order of weird developments in camp is incomplete without mention of Chris Davis, who disappeared after the Feb. 28 exhibition opener due to lower back soreness.
Lots of fuss made over his latest attempts to fix himself and the changes at the plate that were advertised as noticeable, though shrouded in mystery.
Two at-bats and he’s gone.
We know only that he’s receiving daily treatments at the complex. Hyde said Davis remains with the team. No media access prevents us from staking out his locker in the mornings.
There’s zero chance that he’s on the opening day roster, but is he headed to the 60-day injured list? Is the ailment that serious? And if so, how the heck did this happen?
It’s just ... weird.