4 most intriguing storylines of Orioles camp

March 1st, 2018

There's still a lot of Spring Training left. But that doesn't mean that the early days don't mean anything. With camp battles for the fifth-starter slot, three bullpen spots, backup catcher, utility infielder and the outfield, there are plenty of storylines to follow out of Orioles camp, and a few things we've learned already. Here are four important storylines from the first two-and-a-half weeks:

not slowing down

If you thought Mancini was going to coast this spring, you were wrong. Despite a fantastic rookie season in which he placed third in American League Rookie of the Year voting, the outfielder is playing like he's trying to win an Opening Day spot. Mancini, who made the move to the outfield last spring, has made improving his defense a huge part of this spring. And his early success at the plate doesn't hurt, either. Mancini is obviously making this team. But if early spring is any indication, his breakout 2017 season could be just scratching the surface of what he can do.

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Nestor Cortes Jr.'s intriguing arm

Cortes, who made his second start in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Rays, is showing why the O's were so excited about him in the first place. He doesn't light up the radar gun -- quite the opposite, actually -- but he gets outs. The crafty lefty, who allowed one run over two innings in both of his starts, is vying for the fifth-starter spot in the rotation.

Working for him? The O's don't have any other lefty starters. Working against him? His competition, Mike Wright Jr. and , are both out of options. Cortes is in a similar boat -- he can't be sent down as a Rule 5 selection -- but the jump from the Minors to an AL East rotation spot is a big one. He'll be closely watched over the next few weeks, as the O's make a decision about where -- or if -- he factors in. Cortes could also be a potential bullpen guy if he doesn't make the rotation.

Manny Machado a man on a mission

No one wants to say Machado was bored over at third base, but moving the All-Star over to shortstop has given him a little extra pep in his step.

"I think he's real excited about that," manager Buck Showalter told reporters after Wednesday's game. "He knows that we're really counting on him to bring a lot to play a really demanding position."

Of course, there's a lot riding on it for Machado, as well. Entering his final season before free agency, Machado will be involved in more plays at shortstop and, to that end, he changed his offseason regimen to ensure he'll hold up. He had a slow first half last season, but he's started off spring on a tear at the plate, including Wednesday's grand slam.

Orioles not afraid to play the long game (the really long game)

Yes, there was reason for concern when the club headed down to Sarasota, Fla., with three open rotation spots. But credit executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and the rest of the front office for waiting out a slow market and getting two guys ( and Chris Tillman) for reasonable contracts. The O's didn't stop there, signing -- who immediately is a favorite to make the outfield -- and adding left-handed-hitting depth with Alex Presley and .

Could they make a few more moves? You should know better than to count out the Orioles being active in February and March. Another benefit to waiting? The club still has some salary to spend if it sees an opportunity. It doesn't make for the most exciting winter, but the O's strategy certainly made for an exciting opening week to camp.