The roster cuts announced on Friday night seemed to make it easier to come up with the 26 players going north for opening day, and then pandemonium struck again.
The Orioles designated second baseman Yolmer Sánchez for assignment yesterday and traded for pitcher Adam Plutko. The projected lineup was destroyed. There no longer appeared to be a decision pending between utility players Pat Valaika and Ramón Urías, who potentially could share second base and bench duties.
Plutko is out of minor league options and poses a threat to a pitcher who otherwise might have stayed.
Anthony Santander’s sudden disappearance led to injury and trade speculation that intensified yesterday before manager Brandon Hyde said the outfielder had some soreness in the oblique area and could return to the lineup this afternoon or Monday. Santander hasn’t played in the last four games, but worked out on the back fields.
Anything COVID-19 related gets the “I can’t discuss it” treatment, so it had to be something else. Ryan Mountcastle was scratched last week due to a “non-physical injury.”
Santander’s extended absence took a little longer to be explained.
The Santander guessing game was child’s play compared to the news that followed it.
Spring training stats don’t always matter, especially for a veteran player, but perhaps Sánchez going 8-for-39 and being owed $1 million if placed on the opening day roster led to the DFA.
I thought it was supposed to be about defense first.
It’s also about having desirable options and the possibility of finding another infielder over the next few days. Always fish for upgrades.
There are 36 players on the camp roster. Six non-roster invites could be reassigned - pitchers Thomas Eshelman, Conner Greene and Eric Hanhold, catchers Austin Wynns and Nick Ciuffo, and infielder/outfielder Stevie Wilkerson.
Wilkerson has more outfield experience than Valaika and Urías, but it might not save him. And a 14-man pitching staff leaves room for only three bench players.
DJ Stewart’s transfer to the injured list would leave 29 players on the camp roster if the six invites are reassigned. Put a Rule 5 pitcher on waivers and it’s 28, and also creates an opening on the 40-man roster. Don’t take Félix Hernández to Boston while he’s recovering from elbow soreness and it’s 27.
Then, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will sign or claim a player over the final days and scatter the pieces again. Don’t get too comfortable.
Asked about Plutko’s impact on the rest of the bullpen, Elias said, “I think we’re concerned about pitching innings. I think every organization in baseball is concerned about pitching innings. These guys are coming off a shortened season and going into a full season, nobody knows what to make of that. Adding to that, we have considerations about our young pitchers. Some of these guys are unproven, they may not perform, their pitch counts may run up early, others may pitch well but need spells during the year to keep their innings total down. We’re going into an unknown season, we want to put ourselves in a position to protect our young starters, to not overtax our bullpen and our young relievers. So it’s going to be all hands on deck.
“We’re going to have guys who are on the 40-man roster now, every one of those is going to get pitching action, there are players that are not on the 40-man roster now but are in the organization and I guarantee you they’re going to come up and pitch when they’re called on. We saw guys in the game (last night) who are on minor league deals that I fully expect to contribute at various points this year. So I think bringing in as many options as possible, as many as we can fit, and seeing how this plays out is the best that we can do scripting out where those innings are coming from right now.
“We may have some young starters that stumble. Even in a season where everything is going great, guys are going to get hurt. Even if it’s a two-week injury, we’re going to need spot starts, so I think Plutko can help with that. The Rule 5 picks are still in consideration, still being evaluated and both of them could break with the team, as well, and are capable of providing length, as well.
“It’s TBD what the roster looks like. I think it’s possible with the flexibility that some of our position players have in the infield that we could break, start the season with 14 pitchers. It’s something that we’ve been discussing, so we’ll see.”
Here’s the updated camp roster:
Travis Lakins Sr.
Harvey is starting the second game and making his Fenway Park debut. He’s faced the Red Sox once and tossed six scoreless innings with two hits allowed and eight strikeouts.
He was really good in 2015.
* The Tigers informed Renato Núñez yesterday that he didn’t make the club. Núñez can opt out of his minor league contract and hit free agency again.
The former Orioles infielder didn’t do enough hitting in camp, slashing .192/.222/.385 with two doubles, one home run, no walks and 10 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances.
The Orioles didn’t want to risk going to arbitration with Núñez and released him after failing to find a trade partner.
MLBTradeRumors.com projected Núñez’s salary at $2.1 million. The Orioles didn’t want to spend that much money on a one-dimensional designated hitter. He no longer fit the roster, a fact lost on some people who slammed the decision.
The DH spot is fluid, exactly how the Orioles wanted it. They can rotate guys into it. And Núñez didn’t have a position on the team.
He might not have a team if he goes back into free agency.