Five things we learned from Orioles spring training

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Orioles’ season-opening roster is seemingly set, though there’s the ever-looming presence of a waiver request to shake that up.

Although the roster changes are just beginning, this season’s shortened spring training is over. After Major League Baseball’s 99-day lockout, the Orioles had just a few days of practice and three weeks of games to prepare for what looks like another 100-game losing season, especially in a League. American East filled with four suitors.

Before Baltimore opens the season against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, here’s a look at what we’ve learned about the Orioles this spring.

The Orioles’ biggest camp story evaporated before spring training even really began, with top prospect Adley Rutschman’s right tricep strain knocking him out of the Opening Day mix before even that Baltimore won’t play an exhibition. Otherwise, his potential inclusion on the Orioles’ 28-man roster would have been the most important aspect of everything that happened this spring, given that baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement tries to incentivize teams to break up the camp with the best hopes for the occasion. to earn additional draft picks. Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr., Detroit’s Spencer Torkelson and Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez — the top five consensus picks along with Rutschman — are all seemingly beneficiaries.

But with that part of baseball’s ABC removed as the Orioles’ spring rater, it’s clear the deal had little impact on them beyond keeping players out of the game. enter the field. Efforts to curb tanking with a toss didn’t stop Baltimore from trading half of its (relatively) experienced relievers in Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Miami Marlins, and more such moves will have place this summer. Orioles clubhouse players are openly aware of the circumstances they face, with Trey Mancini referring to his desire to be a leader in the context of doing so “while I’m here, for as long as I’m here, ” and Paul Fry saying he needed to “play every day where my feet are” following the trade.

But the ‘it’s part of the business’ view widely expressed after the trade stood out against a comment from starting pitcher Tyler Wells when asked about the overall state of the roster after his last leaving in the spring.

“Obviously the clubhouse is a little different now with Tanner and Cole gone,” Wells said. “These are two guys who helped me a lot last year. So for me it’s a bit different, and whether that’s good or bad is not for me to say.

Coming into camp, each of the Orioles’ mid-20s starters who have spent 2021 being pummeled by opposing offenses believe they learned something from the experience that they could apply to their offseason and thus improve. .

Spring offered mixed results. Each of the six in question – Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann – had command issues, although all but Lowther and Alexander Wells ended up on the opening roster of the season. It’s fair to wonder, though, if that would have been the case had Scott and Sulser been there to claim two spots.

That Wells was among the first cuts in camp was surprising, considering he spent the entire month of last September in Baltimore’s rotation. But the fact that none of these softer southpaws broke camp couldn’t indicate where they stood in Baltimore’s future plans. Bruce Zimmermann, an Ellicott City native who will start the opener at home on Monday, is the only one guaranteed a rotation spot.

Kremer has shown increased confidence this spring even though the results have been troublesome. Akin had a second straight spring in which his command suffered. Baumann displayed the speed that put him among the Orioles’ top pitching prospects, but was also tagged a few times in an outing against the Yankees.

It’s understandable that Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias challenged these young pitchers to “step up,” noting that there’s another wave of pitchers on the way that could bypass them. So far, they have offered little resistance to this move. Four of them will have a chance in the major leagues to turn things around.

Tyler Wells’ development from Rule 5 cleanup reliever to legitimate major league play was one of the best stories of a 2021 season filled with many individual successes. After thriving as a high-leverage reliever, it seemed logical that the Orioles would ride that wave into the year and finally offer manager Brandon Hyde a closer set.

Instead, given his background as a starter and the fact that he’s had more major league success than Baltimore’s other rookie arms, Wells came out of the spring as the No. Orioles, after showing his legitimacy in the role with seven strikeouts in 3 2/3 scoreless innings against a lineup packed with Toronto Blue Jays starters.

Because Wells pitched less than 60 innings in 2021 and missed the previous two seasons due to injury and the pandemic, the Orioles will be careful with him. But given that Hyde referenced the Orioles’ desire to see their pitchers show they’re capable of passing a major league call twice — not even three times — perhaps Wells becomes a role model for future pitchers. . However, having starters stacked in three rotation points is less than ideal at present.

Wells talked about how he hoped to combine the mindset he had as a starter in the minors with the one he had as a closer, and he seemed to sync it against the Blue Jays.

“My whole mentality last year was hitting all the guys,” Wells said Tuesday. “Today was like the mentality of last year. It was like I was going right after the guys, I didn’t care what happened. I’m going to attack you and I’m going to try to put you down. fight. I will try to eliminate you.

This plan of attack could dissipate on others.

The Orioles’ 28-man roster looks different than you’d expect when practices began, but there really aren’t any major surprises in the final selections. They used the 40-man spots opened up in the trade to add reserve receiver Anthony Bemboom and utility Chris Owings, but no players left the roster for further additions. As a result of the Miami deal, every healthy pitcher who entered camp Wednesday and made it onto the 40-man roster made the club.

Much of the intrigue that lingered when Rutschman got injured also came in the form of prospects, but it seemed none of them had a legitimate chance to make it to the club.

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Yusniel Diaz showed his ability to hit the ball hard in all areas during his time this spring, but after what Elias called a “totally wasted year,” the Orioles sent him back to Triple-A rather than see if he could carry the momentum into a major league season. Kyle Bradish has shone in two spring outings against mostly big league hitters, but he’s never really been in the mix for a rotation spot. DL Hall kicked off perhaps the most exciting round of the spring, hitting 100 mph with several other prospects playing defense behind him.

But the Orioles want to develop those players to help them in the future, not rush them to the majors in the present. They have already established what this means to them.

Due to the shortened spring, it looks like many of the competitions discussed throughout camp will carry over into the season.

On Wednesday morning, Hyde didn’t know what his starting field would be for Friday’s opener, with five players in the mix for the three spots that will go to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Rather than a fixed line, the Orioles could mix and match Ramón Urías, Jorge Mateo, Rougned Odor, Kelvin Gutiérrez and Owings until they find a combination that works.

With most of the Orioles’ top interior prospects at Double-A, this group has some leeway in the face of increasing competition, but that’s not necessarily the case for backup outfielders. With the Orioles choosing to carry 14-position players, Ryan McKenna and DJ Stewart made the team, but Diaz, Kyle Stowers and Robert Neustrom could all make their major league debuts this year.

As noted, starting pitchers at the back of the rotation or working out of the bullpen will have Hall, Bradish and top general pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez in their necks soon enough. There is also the internal competition; the fifth starter spot is temporarily open, and working in tandem could determine who secures it in the long run. Relievers Bryan Baker, Joey Krehbiel, Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista had fairly effective springs, but the bottom of the Orioles’ bullpen was scoured steadily during this rebuild.

Spring is over. The season is almost here. The Orioles roster rotation is probably just getting started.

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