The Orioles are taking a longer look at the two Rule 5 Draft picks in camp than they did last spring, and decision time is approaching.
The O's latest chance to evaluate Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells came in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium, when both right-handers enjoyed their best performances of the spring. Sceroler and Wells each tossed two scoreless innings and allowed one hit apiece in relief of starter Matt Harvey. Wells notched three strikeouts, while Sceroler fanned one.
It was a good showing for both as they battle for roles in Baltimore's crowded bullpen picture, while Harvey also had a strong night as he fights for a rotation job, holding New York to one run across four innings. As Rule 5 Draft selections, Sceroler (from the Reds) and Wells (Twins) must remain on the active roster for the entire 2021 season or else be offered back to their respective clubs for $50,000.
“Both guys did a nice job against some good Yankees hitters,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Very impressive. They were facing some Yankee regulars, guys who are going to be in the lineup. I thought they worked ahead nicely.”
Given the Orioles’ need for swingman/bulk-inning types, their bullpen probably has room for one Rule 5 player. That pits Sceroler and Wells in direct competition. So far, Wells has the edge, holding opponents to one run over six innings with six strikeouts. Sceroler has allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings -- and they all came in an appearance on March 5 at Toronto, when he went one-third of an inning. Sceroler gave up a two-run homer and a three-run homer during that outing; he’s been unscored upon in his other three appearances.
Wells stands 6-foot-8 with a fastball that’s sat between 92-96 mph this spring. Sceroler operates more in the 93-95-mph range and features a four-pitch mix, including an interesting splitter. Neither has pitched above Double-A, as Wells had been sidelined since 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. Whether either can break through the roster logjam will be something to watch over the final week-plus of camp.
The official spring debuts of infielders Richie Martin (left hamate bone surgery) and Maikel Franco (late free-agent signing) are nearly here. Hyde said both played in an intrasquad game Saturday, with an eye toward starting Sunday against the Twins, which would mark the first Grapefruit League action for both players. Franco will start at third and Martin at shortstop, per Hyde.
He Means it
A day after he was named the Orioles' Opening Day starter for the second consecutive season, John Means called it “a blessing and just so humbling.”
“I take every day as it comes, and it’s such a cool experience that I will hopefully make this time around,” Means said. “It’s unbelievable. If you had told me this three years ago, I would have told you, 'You’re crazy,' and now, it’s kind of set in, become more real, and I am looking forward to it.”
Those comments echoed Means’ sentiments from last June, when upon earning his first career Opening Day nod, the left-hander said, “If you would’ve told me that two years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face.” However, he ended up yielding the assignment to Tommy Milone due to left shoulder fatigue, finishing the year 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA in 10 starts. Now, Means, a 2019 All-Star, is looking to take the next step forward in '21.
“Just be more consistent, just consistency every five days and being the same pitcher over and over and over again that I know I can be, and that’s the name of the game,” Means said. “It’s part of growing up in this game and becoming an older guy in the clubhouse, like I am in this clubhouse, you’ve just got to be more consistent, and that’s going to be a goal this year.”
From the trainer’s room
While outfielder DJ Stewart (left hamstring strain) progressed enough by Saturday to play in the Orioles’ intrasquad game alongside Franco and Martin, he isn’t ready to return to Grapefruit League action yet. The reason? Stewart has yet to fully sprint on the hamstring without issue. He’s been sidelined since March 5.
“I told him to take it easy, but he swung the bat very well in the game,” Hyde said. “With a hamstring, you just want to be careful with it. I’d like for him to be 100-percent healthy before we throw him into a Spring Training-type game. At this point, we’ll recheck him and see about game action in a couple days, but we’re just not going to push the envelope with him with a hamstring.”
With Félix Hernández’s status uncertain due to right elbow discomfort, there is an opening for right-hander Jorge López to claim a job in the Orioles' rotation over the final stretch of Grapefruit League play. He'll start Sunday, when the Orioles host the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET. Minnesota will counter with lefty J.A. Happ.