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Wednesday Bird Droppings: The Orioles start preparations for the season ahead

Pitchers and catchers have arrived, as have some position players. Now, the battles begin

MLB: Baltimore Orioles-Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning Birdland,

Now that pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Sarasota, the Orioles can now begin preparations for the 2021 season. Hoo boy!

Barring any trades or significant free agent signings, we can make a pretty good guess at what the Orioles roster will look like on Opening Day. As is typical, the big battles will take place at the back of the rotation, on the fringes of the bullpen, and on end of the bench.

At least one of Felix Hernandez, Matt Harvey, and Wade LeBlanc is going to be in the team’s rotation. That would have been great news eight years ago, but is less exciting given their recent performances. Add in the pair of Rule 5 picks and some of the younger guys in camp, and the starting pitching becomes one of the main attractions this spring.

The Orioles relievers have a shot at being a top 10 unit in the league. There is plenty to like from guys like Hunter Harvey, Cesar Valdez, Dillon Tate, and Paul Fry among others. There is already some hype building for Issac Mattson as well, one of the players that came over in the Dylan Bundy trade last off-season.

And of course, who serves as that “utility” type of player is always up in the air. Richie Martin is dealing with another injury and seems slated for Triple-A at this point. Pat Valaika showed off his bat a season and would appear to be in pole position. Jahmai Jones is a new face that would seem to bring the best glove and athleticism to the role. But don’t count out Ramon Urias or Rylan Bannon.

The spring is always a lot of fun. It is a different vibe than the regular season and always creates storylines that are interesting enough to get us to April.

Links & Notes

Five storylines to watch as Orioles spring training begins this week | The Baltimore Sun
There is a good point in this that the media won’t have the same kind of access as in most years. So, we may have no idea who is in the best shape of their life until the first exhibition game. Prepare yourselves.

It makes sense for Orioles to sign veteran starters | Baltimore Baseball
Of course! It’s just the type of veteran pitcher that they have decided to sign is a tad mystifying. They need innings eaters that won’t block the young guys. Well, this crop of olds they have certainly won’t block anyone, but they might also never get out of the starting gate.

Rylan Bannon added to his resume during instructional league | Steve Melewski
Catching is arguably the hardest position in baseball, and that’s for guys who have been playing it their whole life. It’s even more difficult for those that have to adapt to it. Look at Chance Sisco. He was moved to the position as a senior in high school and even he has had trouble.

The reconfiguration of spring camp and non-roster candidates | School of Roch
Spring training, just like everything else in life this last year, is gonna look a tad different this time around.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

Scott Williamson turns 45. The right-handed pitcher finished his MLB career with a 16-game stint on the 2007 Orioles

The late Alan Wiggins (d. 1991) was born on this day in 1958. The utility man spent the final three seasons of his career with the Orioles from 1985 through 1987. He hit .256/.320/.298 during his time in Baltimore.

Mike Hart is 63 years old today. He played in 34 games with a 47 OPS+.

Happy 87th birthday to former outfielder Willie Kirkland. Over 66 games with the 1964 Orioles he hit .200/.281/.293.

Orioles history

1995 - Amid the players strike, the Orioles announce that they will not play exhibition games against teams using replacement players

2003 - Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, 23, dies of multi-organ failure following conditioning drills at spring training.

2014 - The Orioles add two arms to their roster: Ubaldo Jimenez joins on a four-year, $50 million while Suk-min Yoon puts pen to paper on a three-year, $5.75 million pact.