Who will make Orioles' Opening Day roster?
SARASOTA, Fla. -- When Spring Training ended and the Orioles broke camp Monday evening, their Opening Day roster had not yet been finalized. But it was almost there.
Over the next few days, Baltimore will make several more moves to cut down to 26 players. That will include placing several of them on the injured list.
Then, it will be time for the O’s to focus on the first game of the 2023 regular season, which is scheduled for Thursday afternoon vs. the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“It’s going to be a really entertaining, exciting season,” general manager Mike Elias said. “I think that we’re going to be scrapping and clawing the whole way. My goal is that we get to the Trade Deadline and we’re in it and that we’re looking to add to this group for the first time since I’ve been here. We’ve got to go out and play the games now.”
With Opening Day nearly here, here’s an updated Orioles 26-man roster projection.
Catchers (2): Adley Rutschman, Anthony Bemboom
Elias said James McCann (left oblique soreness) is “likely” to open the season on the injured list. That creates an opportunity for Bemboom to make Baltimore’s Opening Day roster for the second straight year. McCann, who was acquired in a December trade from the Mets, will be Rutschman’s backup when he returns.
First baseman (1): Ryan Mountcastle
Mountcastle will spend some time at designated hitter, but he’ll get most of the starts at first.
Second baseman (1): Adam Frazier
The Orioles wanted to add another left-handed bat to their infield and did so by signing Frazier. He could also get some starts in the corner outfield.
Shortstop (1): Jorge Mateo
Mateo is slated to again be the starter at shortstop. The 27-year-old also got some time at center field this spring, as Baltimore aims to be as flexible as possible.
Third baseman (1): Gunnar Henderson
Henderson, the No. 1 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, will be ready to get starts at both shortstop and third base. It makes the most sense to put his 70-grade arm at the hot corner.
Outfielders (5): Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Kyle Stowers, Ryan McKenna
Hays, Mullins and Santander will again comprise the starting outfield. Santander could also play some first, where he spent some time this spring. He and Stowers should be in the DH rotation. McKenna provides speed and solid defense off the bench.
Utility (2): Ramón Urías, Terrin Vavra
Urías, a Gold Glove Award winner at third base last season, has spent time both there and at second base this spring. The 28-year-old is capable of playing shortstop, but he’s behind Mateo and Henderson on the depth chart at the position.
Vavra appears to have won the final bench spot, as the Orioles reassigned non-roster candidates Ryan O’Hearn and Josh Lester to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday, while granting both Franchy Cordero and Nomar Mazara their releases. Vavra slashed .348/.392/.565 in 16 Grapefruit League games and showcased his versatility by appearing at five positions (first, second, third, left and right).
Starting pitchers (5): Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells
Wells secured the final spot in the rotation over Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 7 overall prospect. The two right-handers finished spring in much different manners. While Wells allowed two runs (one earned) in 8 2/3 innings over his final two spring starts, Rodriguez gave up 14 runs (11 earned) in 10 2/3 frames over his last three outings.
Gibson and Kremer are scheduled to start Baltimore’s first two games, respectively, while the order for the final three starters has not yet been set. John Means (the club’s Opening Day starter in both 2021 and ‘22) will begin on the 60-day injured list, as the left-hander is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to return until July at the earliest.
Relief pitchers (8): Félix Bautista (closer), Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker, Austin Voth, Keegan Akin, Joey Krehbiel, Mike Baumann, Danny Coulombe
The Orioles’ bullpen will be without some of its best right-handed options to open the season. Dillon Tate (right flexor forearm strain) will begin on the IL and isn’t likely to return until May, while Mychal Givens (left knee soreness) is expected to join him.
Baumann started spring in the rotation competition, but he emerged as a strong short-relief option late in camp. The 27-year-old right-hander ended Grapefruit League play with 5 1/3 scoreless innings over his last five appearances.
Coulombe, who was acquired from the Twins in exchange for cash considerations on Monday, would give Baltimore a third left-handed reliever in addition to Pérez and Akin. The 33-year-old is an eight-year MLB veteran who spent the past three seasons with the Twins, posting a 2.92 ERA in 41 games over that span.