The Orioles’ early minor league camp roster (plus a Tillman take)

While the Orioles’ major league spring training camp is taking place in Sarasota, Fla., at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, a few miles away the Orioles will once again hold an early minor league camp. This camp features 37 players that report on Friday, with the first workout set for Saturday.

This camp consists of 18 pitchers and 19 position players. They will get a jump on those reporting later to the full minor league camp. These players also are available to the Orioles for early spring training exhibition games.

The early minor league camp roster:

Pitchers: Keegan Akin, Garrett Cleavinger, Stefan Crichton, Brian Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Trey Haley, Jefri Hernandez, David Hess, Branden Kline, Lazaro Leyva, John Means, Brian Moran, Tomo Ohka, Cody Satterwhite, Tanner Scott, Cody Sedlock, Alexander Wells, Jimmy Yacabonis

Catchers: Daniel Fajardo, Stuart Levy, Alex Murphy, Austin Wynns

Infielders: Sean Coyle, Juan Francisco, Adrian Marin, Ryan Mountcastle, Preston Palmeiro, Jomar Reyes, Aderlin Rodriguez, Garabez Rosa, Erick Salcedo

Outfielders: Randolph Gassaway, Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna, Cedric Mullins, D.J. Stewart, Mike Yastrzemski

The Orioles are holding this camp at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park. The bulk of the minor league pitchers and catchers will report to that camp on March 3, with position players due to report March 7. The first spring games for the minor league players is set for March 15.

Tillman talk: It doesn’t take much for a team to be concerned about its pitching depth. At one time, the Orioles had six starting pitchers for five spots. Then right-hander Yovani Gallardo was traded and it was a five-for-five outlook. But now right-hander Chris Tillman is possibly going to start the year on the disabled list. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right shoulder in December after a setback with his offseason throwing program.

Tillman-Throws-Orange-Sidebar.jpgTillman went 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA over 172 innings last season. He spent time late in the year on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis. But he returned to go 1-1 with an ERA of 3.79 in his last four regular season starts. Asked last month at FanFest about his shoulder, Tillman said he felt any issues were a thing of the past.

“We worked hard this offseason to make sure it’s behind me,” he said. “A lot more shoulder stuff (exercises) than I’m used to, but we worked hard and I’m pretty confident it’s behind me.”

Tillman’s durability has been strong, and taking the ball every fifth day has clearly been something he takes pride in. Since 2013, he has made 33, 34, 31 and 30 starts.

Manager Buck Showalter noted now important durability is to Tillman.

“This is about being there for his teammates,” he said. “It really is. He wants to be one of those guys you can count on every fifth day, and it’s sincere.”

In this story less than two weeks ago, it was noted that the Orioles have won 64 percent of Tillman’s starts since the 2012 season. Last year, the Orioles went 22-8 (.733) when Tillman made the start and 67-65 (.508) when anyone else did. Since 2012, the Orioles are 92-51 (.643) in Tillman starts and 352-315 (.528) with anyone else. No doubt Tillman is not a one-man show and has needed his teammates’ help to see that his club has such a stellar winning percentage when he takes the ball. But we are looking at five years worth of starts and the numbers are pretty strong for him.

Perhaps the fact that Showalter put a date out yesterday for Tillman’s first spring start - they are shooting for March 17 - is a good sign. Maybe the Orioles are truly confident this is a small bump in the road.

A real conspiracy theorist may see this news and believe that the Orioles’ lack of contract extension talks with Tillman may be related to concerns over his shoulder. There is absolutely no evidence this is true, but there also reportedly has not been much happening to produce a possible new Tillman deal. He can be a free agent after this season.

It didn’t take long for this news to knock outfield defense out of the headlines. Tillman’s streak of three straight opening day starts is likely over. If he’s healthy and doesn’t miss much time though, no one will bat an eye over that. If the problem turns out to be bigger, a team already with question marks about its rotation can ramp up the concern level several notches.

A few links:

* It doesn’t just happen to the Orioles’ young pitchers. One of the major legues’ top prospects may need Tommy John surgery.
* The New York Yankees want to party like it’s 1996.
* The Texas Rangers have added former Orioles Eddie Gamboa and Adam Loewen.
* The Orioles got a decent grade for their offseason moves.

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