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Dan Duquette’s Rule 5 roster dream ends as the Orioles DFA Nestor Cortes

The idea of keeping two Rule 5 picks in the Orioles bullpen all year always seemed crazy. With Nestor Cortes allowing two grand slams in four appearances, the O’s decided to move on.

Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies
Nestor Cortes has pitched in four big league games and given up two grand slams.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Orioles found a little bit more bullpen flexibility on Tuesday afternoon by designating Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment. This opened up a space on the roster for the O’s to recall Yefry Ramirez to serve as “just in case” long relief insurance.

On top of Hunter Harvey, called up on Monday, the Orioles will also have Mike Wright Jr. out in the bullpen starting with Tuesday’s game. It appears that Wright is who the O’s have chosen to bounce from the rotation with Alex Cobb set to make his first Orioles start on Saturday.

With three extra inning games out of their first 11, the O’s bullpen has borne its share of work without even getting into having to cover for a short start like Wright pulled off on Sunday afternoon. They have had to get through multiple games where multiple relievers were not available under any circumstances.

A team just can’t go for long with that being the case. They can’t count on Richard Bleier being able to courageously pull three scoreless innings out of his hat when he had already pitched two days in a row. The Orioles had to do something about it.

Removing Cortes from the roster is an easy choice that helps the Orioles out a lot. The experiment of finding out whether his soft-tossing crafty lefty stuff would play at the MLB level seems to have been a failure.

If Cortes goes unclaimed by another team, the Orioles must offer him back to the Yankees as part of the Rule 5 process. Presumably, the Yankees would take him back and send him to the minors where he seems to belong.

Ramirez started one game for the Tides this season. He spent last year at the Double-A level between the Yankees and Orioles systems, combining for a 3.47 ERA across 24 starts. The 24-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic will be making his MLB debut if he gets into a game before the O’s decide to summon a different fresh arm.

With Colby Rasmus on the disabled list, the Orioles have an eight-man bullpen and the ability to play the roster merry-go-round with at least two of those spots. In a perfect world, they will not need these shenanigans for much longer, but then, Dylan Bundy can’t start every night. There will be problems.

The O’s are now better-placed to avoid being crippled by those problems. Better if they had realized this before Opening Day, but it could be worse if they had continued to hamper their roster flexibility due to the weird Rule 5 obsession.

The remaining Rule 5 pitcher, Pedro Araujo, has had one bad outing in five games but otherwise has at least offered the appearance of being big league-ready, including in two games in the recent series against the Yankees when he combined to allow just one hit and one walk in 4.1 innings of work while picking up six strikeouts.

Hopefully, Andrew Cashner pitches well enough on Tuesday night, and the offense scores enough for him, that the Orioles do not need to use any one of Harvey, Ramirez, or Wright in this particular contest. If they do have to burn some innings, though, they will be ready and they won’t have to overwork the back-end relievers in order to do it.