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Saturday Bird Droppings: The Orioles Opening Day roster is starting to come into focus

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The team made two rounds of cuts this week as they continue shaping the 2021 roster. Plus, fans prepare to attend games at Camden Yards.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Birdland!

The Orioles have 16 games left on their Grapefruit League schedule, but they have already started to trim down their roster with eyes towards Opening Day on April 1st.

In a rather predictable flurry of moves, Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, and Isaac Mattson were all optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Friday. Another pitcher, Evan Phillips, was reassigned to Twin Lakes Park, the team’s minor league spring site.

The O’s had made other cuts earlier in the week too, reassigning Brett Cumberland, Marcos Diplan, Mason McCoy, Zach Muckenhirn, and Josh Rogers to Twin Lakes.

There are now 60 players in big league camp. Of course, that includes some names, like Adley Rutschman, who will obviously be re-assigned at some point.

It also includes a few guys who have battled injuries and now face a race against time to be ready for Opening Day:

  • Chris Davis has two at-bats this spring and none since February 28. He is due to see a specialist for a back strain, and it’s possible he is headed for a stint on the 60-day IL.
  • Hunter Harvey hurt his oblique on Friday, and is expected to miss a couple of weeks.
  • Richie Martin, who missed all of 2020 with a left wrist injury, is currently on the mend from a right hamate injury. He is expected to play in games this coming week, but it doesn’t leave him much time to secure a roster spot.
  • Rio Ruiz has been out for a week with an illness. He is still expected to be the team’s everyday third baseman, but faces pressure from Rylan Bannon, Ramon Urias, and the potential signing of Maikel Franco.
  • DJ Stewart is nearly back from a hamstring injury. He would seem to be on the outside looking in of the battle for outfield playing time, but could certainly see some AB’s as a DH option to open the season.

The biggest development here is Davis’s injury. Despite poor play the last few seasons, he was expected to have a spot on this roster. An extended absence gives Stewart a good chance to make the squad.

Beyond that, Harvey’s uncertainty leaves a hole in a bullpen that seemed fairly set. It might allow someone that seemed to be on the bubble (like Jorge Lopez, Wade LeBlanc, Bruce Zimmermann, or one of the Rule 5 picks) a chance to start the year in Baltimore.

Links

Cubs Return Rule 5 Pick Gray Fenter To Orioles | MLB Trade Rumors
It was always going to be tough for Gray Fenter to stick on a major league roster despite not yet playing above A-ball. The Cubs must have seen enough on the backfields because he certainly didn’t get much of a chance in Cactus League games, tossing one total inning. Now Fenter could become a possible bullpen piece for the O’s down the road.

What fans need to know about seeing a game at Camden Yards this season | The Baltimore Sun
Sounds like if you are hoping to have any shot at attending Opening Day, you need to become a “Birdland Member” ASAP. Beyond that it looks like tickets are going to be at a premium for the big day. Plus, normal weekend games might even be hard to nab with only 11,000 folks permitted. Perhaps that number rises as the season goes on and vaccinations become more widespread.

Latest On Maikel Franco | MLB Trade Rumors
If MLB Network’s Jon Heyman is to be believed (I know) then Maikel Franco is signing somewhere this weekend. Three teams are said to be interested, the Mets, Braves, and yes, our Orioles. Mike Elias indicated last week that he didn’t expect any major news for the O’s, but that could have also just been posturing.

Notes: Harvey’s oblique injury; camp cuts | Orioles.com
Hunter Harvey exited Friday’s game after just a single pitch, which seemed ominous. Turns out he has a tweaked oblique. That’s not great as it likely puts Harvey on the shelf past Opening Day, but it shouldn’t end his season.

John Means sizes up strong outing | Steve Mewlewski
I will consider 2021 a success if the Orioles can get out of it feeling comfortable that John Means and others are legitimate rotation pieces long term. Means had a sophomore slump last summer but still flashed good stuff. He is going to have to shoulder a lot of responsibility on this staff.

Springtime Sadness (Ep. 59) | The Warehouse Podcast
If you need another Orioles podcast to listen to, you can check out this one I do with a couple pals.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

The only former Oriole celebrating a birthday with you is former professional hitter Will Clark. His left-handed stroke spent parts of two seasons in Baltimore from 1999 to 2000 before he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for infielder Jose Leon.

This day in history

1995 - Leon Day, a legendary Negro Leagues pitcher, dies in Baltimore less than a week after being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Day had grown up in Baltimore’s Mount Winans neighborhood and got his start in professional baseball with the Baltimore Black Sox.