The Orioles have reached a point now where each roster move seems to bring about a very difficult decision. They are getting contributions from just about everyone on their current 25-man active roster and removing any player now would mean subtracting a player that has helped the team during its current 15-5 run.
The roster crush has arrived. Not only will upcoming roster decisions be very difficult ones, but players who might help the Orioles and are playing well in the minors - players like Tyler Wilson and Dariel Alvarez to name just two - can’t get on the roster right now.
Earl Weaver called it deep depth and the Orioles have it. The Orioles have proven time and again they see six months of baseball and the 162-game regular season as one, which means you better really have a roster available of about 40 or 50 players or more between the majors and higher minors.
Already, 15 players have been on the rosters of both Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk. A few have been at Norfolk on major league rehab assignments but others like Wilson, Mike Wright, Oliver Drake, Eddie Gamboa, Cesar Cabral, Steve Clevenger and Rey Navarro have helped the Orioles and may do so again, some of them real soon.
Here are four Triple-A pitchers thriving, but yet to see any time in Baltimore this season:
* Pedro Beato is 3-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 1.11 WHIP out of the Tides bullpen.
* Michael Bowden is 5-2 with a 2.15 ERA. He has pitched more recently as a starter with an ERA of 1.82 in six starts.
* Chris Jones is 4-4 with a 2.38 ERA that ranks third-best in the International League. Jones has been in the Tides rotation since early May.
* Zach Davies is 3-4 with a 2.94 ERA that ranks eighth-best in the IL. Ranked as the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect by Baseball America, Davies was named to the Team USA roster for the Futures Game yesterday.
That Norfolk club has a team ERA that is 2.87, the best of any Triple-A team.
What does all this depth mean? It means the Orioles are positioned well for the long haul. They have players ready to help if they need a callup, and they have depth if they want to make a trade and/or guard against any possible future injuries.
All of this depth and we haven’t mentioned two injured pitchers in Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, who might have helped the big league club this year and are expected to do so in the future. Last night, the Orioles added another Triple-A pitcher when they acquired right-hander Richard Rodriguez from Houston for cash considerations.
When the front office acquired players like Jimmy Paredes, Chris Parmelee and Chaz Roe, they added players who had been in the majors with other teams but had not yet had a chance to shine. They’ve gotten it this year in Baltimore, and they seized their chance. They added to the depth that was already there with homegrown players.
In the short-term, this depth is making for tough decisions while fans and reporters speculate on the next roster move. In the long-term, it might provide the Orioles with what they need to outlast the other four teams and win another American League East championship.
Minors matters: Speaking of roster movement, there was a lot of it on the O’s farm yesterday between Single-A Delmarva, Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie:
* Outfielder Tucker Nathans moved from Frederick to Bowie.
* Pitcher Mitch Horacek moved from Frederick to Bowie.
* Outfielder Conor Bierfeldt moved from Delmarva to Frederick.
* Pitcher Mikey O’Brien moved from Bowie to Frederick.
* Infielder Tanner Witt was signed to a Frederick contract.
* Infielder Logan Uxa moved from Frederick to Delmarva.
Nathans became a Bowie hero in his first game and second Double-A plate appearance last night. This came after two seasons where he played independent ball and 196 games since 2013 with Frederick. Bowie scored three in the last of the 11th last night to beat New Britain 5-4, and Nathans singled in the run that produced the walkoff win. Nice debut.
Bowie is 41-31 after that win and moved to 10 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012 season.
Witt joins the Keys from the Rockford Aviators of the Frontier League after having his contract purchased by the Orioles. In 29 games, he batted .355 with a home run and 22 RBIs. The Frontier League’s Rookie of the Year in 2014, Witt hit .305 with four home runs and 39 RBIs.
Bierfeldt, the O’s 29th-round pick in 2013, moves to Frederick as the South Atlantic League leader with 56 RBIs. Bierfeldt went 1-for-4 with an RBI double in his Keys debut.
The team Bierfeldt left, Delmarva, fell behind 7-0 in the top of the third last night at home against Hagerstown. Then the Shorebirds scored six runs in the last of the third and added three more in the sixth to win that game, 9-7, and start the second half with its biggest comeback of the year.
Connaughton drafted: Orioles minor league pitcher Pat Connaughton was selected in the second round of the NBA draft last night, taken 41st overall by the Brooklyn Nets. He was then traded to Portland. Connaughton was drafted in the fourth round out of Notre Dame by the Orioles in June of 2014 and signed to a bonus of $428,100.
Connaughton showed a fastball that touched 96 mph during a 14 2/3-innings stint last summer with short-season, Single-A Aberdeen. At the end of last year, Connaughton was ranked as the O’s No. 11 prospect by Baseball America.
My guess is that Connaughton will pursue the NBA for the rest of this summer, perhaps playing summer league ball. At some point, if and/or when Connaughton cannot make it in the NBA, he would then likely return to the Orioles. That could be not before the 2016 season.