With a bullpen that’s in constant flux and not a lot of room on the 40-man roster, the Orioles have been facing a bit of a crunch that was going to have to be resolved sooner or later by someone getting released. On Monday afternoon, the O’s moved to bolster the bullpen by selecting the contract of reliever Sean Gilmartin from Norfolk. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfielder Joey Rickard was designated for assignment.
Rickard was one of several of Dan Duquette’s Rule 5 obsessions, and thanks to his performance over the first seven games of his big league career, in which he batted .370/.367/.556, he made a great first impression in that magical week in 2016. Fans were chanting his name: “Joey! Joey! Joey!” He appeared in commercials for gas station convenience store fried chicken.
Nothing could stop Rickard except for the cold reality that there was a reason he was made available in the Rule 5 draft in the first place, and that reason wasn’t, “The Rays were dumb and Duquette was a genius for selecting Rickard.” In the years since, Rickard has gone on to bat .245/.299/.372 in 317 games as an MLB player, just useful enough to stick as a fourth outfielder and even occasional starter on some bad Orioles teams but never good enough to be a long-term answer.
Rickard seemed to be a favorite of both the previous manager and general manager. Buck Showalter, who had Rickard start 16 games last September, is gone, and of course so is Duquette.
Current GM Mike Elias doesn’t need a 28-year-old on the 40-man who’s not even that good of a fourth outfielder, not when the Orioles are awash in corner outfielders who they are going to want to give a chance to play. Even with guys like Dwight Smith Jr. and DJ Stewart currently on the injured list, the O’s are giving that left field time to 24-year-old Anthony Santander rather than the older Rickard.
Gilmartin, 29, is surely not a long-term answer for the franchise either, but he is a pitcher and hopefully he can pitch better than some of the bullpen dudes who’ve been rolling through so far this year. If he can be better than Branden Kline, Evan Phillips, or Tanner Scott, he can hang around. He got into 12 games for the 2018 O’s towards the end of the season, posting a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 27 innings. The lefty debuted for the Mets in 2015 and has a 3.84 MLB era across parts of four seasons.
There was no need for a corresponding move on the 25-man roster since David Hess was optioned to Norfolk following Sunday’s loss to the Red Sox.