Good morning, Camden Chatters.
The appetizer is done. Now it’s time for the main course.
The Orioles put the finishing touches on 2023 spring training yesterday, dropping their Grapefruit League finale to the Cardinals, 8-2, at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. They ended with a record of 16-13 — plus three ties — before packing up the clubhouse and preparing to make their way north. In two days, their regular season begins in Boston.
The O’s had a few surprises in store before heading out of town, though, and one in particular was not well received. As first reported earlier in the day and made official after the game, the Orioles optioned Grayson Rodriguez, their top pitching prospect and a presumed frontrunner for a rotation spot, to Triple-A Norfolk instead of putting him on the Opening Day roster. It was a shocking turn of events for a guy who by all accounts would have been in the majors last June if not for an ill-timed injury, and was widely expected to break camp with the club.
The hot takes have been coming fast and furious from all corners of the fan base about the decision. Some see it as blatant service time manipulation and a short-sighted overreaction to Rodriguez’s shaky spring training. Others see it as a defensible way to limit his innings and let him regain his command in a lower-pressure setting. I don’t really know whether it’s the right move or not. All I know is that I was looking forward to finally seeing Grayson in an Orioles uniform after all this time, and it’s a bummer that we’ll have to wait longer.
The O’s took a few other steps toward whittling down the roster to the opening 26. That apparent spring competition for the backup first baseman job between non-roster veterans Franchy Cordero, Ryan O’Hearn, Josh Lester, and Lewin Díaz ended up being won by...nobody. Cordero exercised an opt-out and was released, while O’Hearn and Lester were reassigned to Norfolk, joining Díaz, who was sent there last week. So the O’s must feel comfortable enough letting someone like Anthony Santander or Terrin Vavra get reps at first base in the rare instances when Ryan Mountcastle doesn’t start.
The Birds also cut down their bullpen, most notably by reportedly sending Rule 5 right-hander Andrew Politi back to the Red Sox. That was a mild surprise to me, as I figured the injuries to Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens might give Politi an opening to stick around for a longer evaluation. But carrying a Rule 5 guy on the roster all season is no easy feat, especially for a team with postseason aspirations, so the O’s ended the experiment before it began. Their acquisition of veteran left-hander Danny Coulombe from the Twins might have sealed Politi’s fate.
There are still some minor roster issues to shake out before the opener, but for the most part we know what the 2023 Orioles will look like...to start the season, at least. Can’t wait for Thursday.
Rodriguez, Lester, O’Hearn, Cordero and Westburg among Orioles’ camp cuts (updated) - School of Roch
Mike Elias speaks at length about the Orioles’ decision to send down Rodriguez. It’s hard to gauge how much of this is sincere and how much is GM-speak, but it’s certainly worth a read.
Orioles’ season preview and predictions for 2023- MLB.com
Jake Rill’s bold prediction for the 2023 Orioles is that they’ll win a postseason series. Woo! I mean, I would like it more if he predicted they’d win three or four postseason series, but still...woo!
‘Moneyball’ questioned first base’s challenges. Some Orioles are learning the position is ‘unlike any other.’ – Baltimore Sun
Ron Washington wasn’t kidding when he said, “It’s incredibly hard.” But Santander, Vavra, and whoever else have just two days to get comfortable as a backup first baseman.
The Orioles can make the 2023 playoffs — if these 8 things happen - The Athletic
Eight things? I can’t tell if that’s not enough things or way too many. In any case...let’s make them all happen, Orioles!
Orioles acquire left-hander Daniel Coulombe from Twins - BaltimoreBaseball.com
I want this guy to get the last out of a game so we can say, "The Orioles are in the win Coulombe!" (Fine, his name is apparently pronounced KOO-lohm, but that ruins the joke.)
Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Three former Orioles have March 28 birthdays, including Christian Walker (32), who came up through the Birds’ system but played only 13 games for them before emerging as a slugger for the Diamondbacks. He’s coming off a 36-homer season, which I would not have guessed. Other ex-Orioles born on this date are right-hander Shawn Boskie (56) and first baseman Glenn Davis (62), who is not fondly remembered in Baltimore. Happy birthday anyway.
On this date in 1999, the Orioles became the first major league team to play in Cuba in 40 years, winning a 3-2 exhibition against a team of Cuban amateurs. Jose Contreras, who would later have an 11-year MLB career, dazzled for the Cuban club with eight innings of two-hit ball, striking out 10.
And four years ago on this date, the Orioles officially kicked off the Brandon Hyde/Mike Elias era with a 7-2 loss at Yankee Stadium to begin the 2019 season. It was the earliest calendar date on which the O’s have ever played a regular season game. Andrew Cashner, pressed into Opening Day duties after scheduled starter Alex Cobb suffered a groin strain, was smoked for six runs in four innings, while an O’s lineup that featured Joey Rickard, Jesus Sucre, Richie Martin, and Dwight Smith Jr. was — not shockingly — held in check by the Yanks’ Masahiro Tanaka and three relievers.