Mar 10, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nolan Reimold (14) and left fielder Henry Urrutia (51) talk prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
This is not the first post on the Baltimore Orioles roster possibilities, and it will not be the last speculation on what will be the final list of 25 players who open against the Red Sox at the end of the month. Having done Orioles writing for some years now, this is the most interesting and intriguing spring training when thinking about the actual composition of the team. And that really is a credit to the management and the many good choices they have made.
Not to go all touchy-feely on you, but I had sort of wanted to entitle this post today with something like, “an emotional perspective on the Orioles’ roster.” But I couldn’t come up with anything that did not sound like a teenage girls magazine cover.
What I am talking about is that there is no way the Orioles can avoid being unable to include every player that has a following with the O’s fanbase and a history with the franchise. There just isn’t enough room and enough options. It is something like what happens when you eat at one of those cafeteria places – there are simply more items that you’d like to choose, but your plate and your stomach only has limited food roster space!
Add to the Orioles’ dilemma is the fact that almost everyone is playing well enough to be kept. The other teams in MLB certainly realize this, as we have been reading from the Orioles beat writers that an unusual number of scouts are following every Baltimore game. Something is going to fall off the plate onto the floor, or someone is going to say, “I’ll trade you my General Tso’s chicken for your shrimp lo mein.”
Let’s think about it briefly …
Pitching: I am not going to include Ervin Santana, who right now looks more destined for the Braves. At this moment, the starting rotation is Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bud Norris … and Kevin Gausman may well deserve to be there, though simply won’t. Relievers who will certainly be on the roster include Ryan Webb, Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, and Zach Britton. Evan Meek and Eddie Gamboa look like players who should stick, and we have not yet factored in Suk-min Yoon – who could start the season in AAA, but he is not going to stay there. If the Orioles want to keep Alfredo Aceves or someone additional, there is simply not room to do so without a trade – possibly of Matusz or Britton who both have long histories with the Orioles … or perhaps moving out the $5 million salary of Bud Norris.
Infield: If the Orioles keep six OF/DH, which they almost certainly must, it leaves but one utility infielder, and that has to be Ryan Flaherty in the event that Jonathan Schoop earns the 2B job – a fan favorite choice already. Jamile Weeks can be optioned. It does not look good for Alexi Casilla.
Outfield: This is where it gets very crowded very fast. Of course there is Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nelson Cruz … leaving three more. How can David Lough not be kept? Quinton Berry adds many elements of speed and versatility to the team. Delmon Young cannot be optioned; Henry Urrutia can be and will be – probably destroying AAA pitching. So that scenario totals six players, but this leaves out Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce.
Showalter says he has not been thinking about it much yet and that he goes by feel and his eye over the stats on the page. But I have to imagine that he is running these varied scenarios through his mind.
The difference between this year and previous campaigns is that the Orioles are able to sift through a list of all good choices rather than selecting someone who can marginally get a job done or can fill a spot prematurely relative to the development of their career.
It really is a feast. This has been a great spring training adventure so far.