The early work on the Orioles’ 40-man roster consisted of one move that probably didn’t require hours of study, deliberation and angst.
The team likes Travis Lakins Sr. Manager Brandon Hyde talked about the reliever’s recovery from elbow surgery and the likelihood that he’d be ready for spring training.
But it made no sense to move Lakins from the 60-day injured list to a 40-man roster that requires heavy cuts. A chain saw rather than a pocket knife.
Teams figured to pass on Lakins after he hit the waiver wire. He underwent a procedure in July to repair a recurrent olecranon stress fracture.
No offense to Lakins, but it was worth the risk to expose him.
The 40-man was full until the Diamondbacks claimed reliever Zack Burdi. His one appearance with the Orioles, though scoreless, wasn’t going to keep him off the waiver wire.
Starter Matt Harvey and left-handed reliever Fernando Abad will enter free agency after the World Series and spots aren’t needed for them on the 40-man. But the 60-man injured list still holds pitchers Keegan Akin, Hunter Harvey and Jorge López, infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder DJ Stewart.
That puts the Orioles two players over the limit.
They protected six players in the Rule 5 draft last November: outfielder Yusniel Diaz, infielder Rylan Bannon, and pitchers Mike Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Isaac Mattson. With only five open spots, they designated Renato Núñez for assignment rather than pay him a big raise in arbitration.
Players eligible to be taken in this year’s Rule 5 draft include pitchers DL Hall, Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith, infielders Terrin Vavra and Adam Hall and outfielder Robert Neustrom. But there’s also infielders Patrick Dorrian and Cadyn Grenier and pitchers Blaine Knight, Cody Sedlock and Ofelky Peralta, the latter two left exposed last winter. The Orioles just re-signed Peralta and reliever Nick Vespi, also available in last year’s Rule 5 draft, to minor league deals.
Grenier and Adam Hall could be left off the 40-man due to the infield depth that’s building in the system. The front office will try to gauge which players are likely to be bypassed and which could be chosen but returned later.
The Orioles probably want the 40-man at 38 going into the Rule 5 in order to provide the freedom to make multiple selections, as they did last year with pitchers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells. And at least one free agent could get a major league deal.
This may keep executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias at his busiest.
Catcher Pedro Severino is a definite non-tender candidate with MLBTradeRumors.com projecting his salary at $3.1 million next season. Infielder Pat Valaika, at $1.3 million, is a DFA candidate after the Orioles designated and outrighted him earlier this summer.
Catcher Nick Ciuffo didn’t have his contract selected until Sept. 24 and the Orioles may not want to use a 40-man spot on him. The season ended with pitchers Marcos Diplán, Thomas Eshelman, Conner Greene, Eric Hanhold, Joey Krehbiel, Brooks Kriske, Konner Wade and Spenser Watkins on it, and none are guaranteed to stay.
Arguments can be made for each one, but you also see the vulnerability.
The Orioles would want to keep many of them in the organization, but tough decisions are coming due to the roster crunch. Blame it on the improvement in talent.
Manager Brandon Hyde liked the throwback feel provided by Hanhold, how he went after hitters and competed. Greene also made a favorable impression, used a lot in tight situations, but he came back to the Orioles after the Dodgers claimed him on waivers in August.
That must keep you a little on edge.
Greene allowed just one home run in 25 1/3 innings, placing him among 13 pitchers in the majors to surrender one or fewer in at least 24 innings.
* Fifty years ago today, in one of the most crushing defeats of my childhood, the Orioles lost to the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series at Memorial Stadium. The only time that the road team was victorious.
Mike Cuellar allowed two runs and four hits with no walks and six strikeouts in eight innings in a 2-1 loss. Pat Dobson and Dave McNally combined for a scoreless ninth.
Roberto Clemente homered in the fourth inning. Steve Blass went the distance, the only run scoring in the eighth on Don Buford’s ground ball following singles by Elrod Hendricks and Mark Belanger, and pinch-hitter Tom Shopay’s sacrifice bunt.
Manager Earl Weaver actually called for a bunt.
The teams would meet again in the ‘79 World Series, of course, and the Orioles squandered a three-games-to-one lead, losing the last two at home. The finale also was played on this date, with Willie Stargell’s two-run homer off Scott McGregor in the sixth inning wiping out the Orioles’ 1-0 lead.
Stargell also doubled twice and singled. Rich Dauer homered off Jim Bibby in the third inning.