Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard has been on the disabled list with a sprained finger since April 8th. The 25-year-old is expected to play two rehab games this week and should then be ready to rejoin the big league club on Wednesday. This begs the question, when Rickard returns, who leaves?
The move to initially put Rickard on the DL was a convenient fix to a roster crunch at the time. Wade Miley was set to make his 2017 debut the following day and the team needed to make room for the southpaw anyway. At the time, manager Buck Showalter made it clear that there were certainly other options.
“I have a pretty good idea of what we would have done, but it wouldn’t involve Joey,” Showalter said. “That’s for sure.”
It is far from a foregone conclusion, but one would assume that if Rickard wasn’t going to be the move a few weeks ago, he will probably not be headed back to Triple-A Norfolk this time either. He does have options and could still be sent down later in the year, but Showalter clearly values what the right-handed hitter brings to the table.
The obvious answer to who should be sent out of town lies in the outfield. There are six players out there, but of course Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Seth Smith and Hyun Soo Kim (ya never know) are not going anywhere.
That leaves a choice between rookie sensation Trey Mancini and defensive replacement/pinch runner/lead-off hitter (for some reason) Craig Gentry. Mancini has options, Gentry does not.
The 25-year-old Mancini has been one of the Orioles best hitters despite only playing in 13 games so far. Trey leads the team in home runs (five), RBI (11) and slugging percentage (.667). But he is more of a designated hitter than an outfielder. He is learning the corner spots on the fly and could potentially be a defensive liability going forward.
Gentry, 33, has been been pretty awful at the plate. He has played in every game so far, but is just 4-for-25 at the plate and is slashing .160/.267/.320. Oddly enough, his slugging percentage is actually higher than Trumbo’s thanks to his one home run earlier this season, the fifth of his MLB career.
Of course, Gentry is athletic, has the ability to steal a base and can play all three outfield positions at a high level. In fact, he may be the only healthy player in the organization that Showalter is comfortable with playing center field in the majors right now outside of Jones himself.
The bullpen bunch
An always reliable batch of fringe major league talent loaded with minor league options is the bullpen. Take your pick. Showalter and Dan Duquette have the opportunity to send down one of Jayson Aquino, Alec Asher, Stefan Crichton and Vidal Nuno. Additionally, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart could be sent down too, but I think we can all agree that it would ridiculous to do so.
Aquino and Asher have both made spot starts this season and looked decent enough while doing so. Aquino was in danger constantly against the Red Sox on Saturday and may have been a tad lucky, but managed to escape with his first career MLB win. Asher was more impressive last Sunday, allowing one run on three hits, a walk and five strikeouts in 6.1 innings, but it did come against a seriously scuffling Toronto team.
Technically, the Orioles do not need a fifth starter again until May 2nd, which is the day that Chris Tillman is set to return from injury. The off-day on Thursday this week would allow the O’s to skip the spot starter while keeping all of the other starters on regular rest, which would make Aquino and Asher a bit redundant and unnecessary. Of course, any major rain delays or postponed games could throw a monkey wrench into things.
Crichton, the first guy to be called up from the minors this season, has struggled in just 3.0 innings of work, allowing three runs on nine hits and two strikeouts. But he is one of those middle relief pitchers that Showalter can go to in less competitive games in order to save the back end arms.
Nuno has been used sparingly thanks to the Orioles starters, on the whole, being better than expected. However, he was a key cog in the Birds win over Tampa Bay on Monday, giving them 2.2 scoreless innings after Ubaldo Jimenez flamed out early. It’s nice to have a southpaw long man to relieve the O’s righty-heavy rotation.
Showalter and Duquette like to stretch the roster as much as possible. The pending return of one option-eligible option player and a midweek off day is their way of having “fun”.
It feels like this will eventually come down to Gentry getting the axe, right? He and Rickard fill almost the exact same role. Both would likely lead-off games against left-handed pitching and be used as a late-inning replacement for Kim against right-handed starters. And both are athletic and could play center field in a pinch.
Gentry has had ample time to prove that he is ready to play at the major league level again. He hasn’t done it yet, and the team does have several other internal corner outfield options who could be serviceable in the field while hitting much better. Who knows? Gentry could end up in Norfolk anyway and then nothing is lost.
That said, the off day on Thursday could convince Showalter and Duquette to go light on the pitching for a couple of days, buying themselves time to decide on their overpopulation of outfielders. Crichton has been the weakest of the bullpen bunch, holding a WHIP of 3.00 in his three innings of major league work. Asher could slot into the middle relief spot in the meantime and Aquino can join Nuno has a longman/spot starter if needed.
What do you think should be done when Rickard returns from injury? Send down one of the pitchers? Which one? Or should they get rid of Mancini or Gentry in the outfield? Or should it be Rickard himself who goes to Norfolk? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments section. Thanks for reading!