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Orioles return to four-man bench as they add Vielma, option Harvey

The Orioles have been playing with a short bench for a few days due to needs in the bullpen. They made another roster move before Wednesday’s game to add utility infielder Engelb Vielma.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
Engelb Vielma in action in spring training.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Early in the 2018 season, the Orioles are back into the familiar pattern of daily roster moves to fill a need that may exist one day but not the next. The latest move on Wednesday afternoon saw the team recall utility infielder Engelb Vielma from Triple-A Norfolk. As a corresponding move, prospect Hunter Harvey was optioned back to Double-A Bowie.

The Orioles have been working with a three-man bench since they placed outfielder Colby Rasmus on the disabled list on Saturday. They have effectively been operating without a utility infielder entirely, because none of the bench bats could play shortstop.

It’s not clear whether Vielma will be inhabiting this role for the duration or if he is merely remaining on the roster until either Alex Cobb is activated for Saturday’s game or Mark Trumbo is activated from the disabled list before whatever game he’s ready to play. Trumbo is in Baltimore on Wednesday instead of continuing the rehab assignment.

The story with Trumbo:

A subsequent tweet relayed Buck Showalter insisting that this development is not a setback. I wonder how a guy not being able to continue a rehab assignment is anything other than a setback. It is possible that Trumbo will return to Sarasota after the Boston series. A return does not sound like it will happen any day now. But it’s not a setback!

Harvey’s two-day stay with the Orioles did not see him get into a game. Also unclear is whether this callup caused any disruption to a carefully-laid plan about how to build up Harvey’s innings, or whether any such plan ever existed to begin with.

Harvey was supposed to pitch three innings on Monday in Bowie and got called to Baltimore instead; now, according to Showalter, Harvey will pitch in Bowie on Saturday, possibly pitching just two innings instead of three. At this point, it has been nearly two weeks since he threw a pitch.

With back-to-back seven inning starts by Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner, the desperate bullpen need has subsided for the moment. The O’s have Yefry Ramirez, called up before Tuesday’s game, to fill an emergency long relief role. Also, Mike Wright Jr. is another arm in the bullpen after his being kicked there following his disastrous Sunday start against the Yankees.

Hopefully, Kevin Gausman pitching on Wednesday means that there will not be any need for any emergency options at all.

Vielma, a 23-year-old from Venezuela, has experience at shortstop, third base, and second base, making him acceptable insurance in case one of the Orioles regular infielders takes a funny step, fouls a ball off of his knee, gets ejected, or has some other situation that dictates an absence of several innings or two or three games.

The switch-hitter batted a combined .229/.273/.280 in 121 games between Double-A and Triple-A in the Twins system last year. Since last September, he bounced from the Twins to the Giants to the Phillies to the Pirates to the Giants to the Orioles. That is quite a journey. His first appearance this season will be his MLB debut.

It’s bad hitting, but with the Orioles having 75% of their infield hitting poorly right now, we’ll hardly notice. Unrelated to his baseball ability, his middle name, according to Baseball Reference, is Stalin, and apparently as far as his first name goes, if BR is accurate, the ‘b’ is silent. Someone tell Gary Thorne.