Right-handed pitchers Alan Mills and Jim Lewis were optioned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings yesterday, as the Orioles reduced their roster to the Opening Day limit of 25.
But manager John Oates hastened to say that, under different circumstances, Mills and Lewis would have won jobs on the pitching staff.
"They are capable of pitching up here," Oates said after the two had been informed of the decision. "I told them that the reason they were not on this club had nothing to do with the way they performed."
Instead, it was the simple fact that both pitchers had an option remaining, meaning the Orioles could send both to the minor leagues without losing them.
"We all know what the rules of the game are," said Oates, alluding to the lack of openings on the pitching staff. "Certain guys were going to be here no matter how they pitched.
"And very seldom do the 10 pitchers that leave spring training stay all year," said Oates.
Mills, obtained from the New York Yankees early in spring training, was 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA this spring. Lewis, who came from the San Diego Padres in the Craig Worthington trade, was 0-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Both will work in relief at Rochester.
Oates emphasized that the makeup of the Orioles roster was decided without interference from the front office. "The on-field staff picked this club," he said.
"We were not dictated to in any way [by the front office]. They were in full support of us. In effect, they said, 'Here's what we provided for you, now go for it.'
"That makes me feel good," said Oates. "I don't feel good about some of the people we had to let go, but I feel good about the fact they, in effect, said to us that they hired us to do a job and have enough confidence to let us do it."
The Orioles open the season with only one left-hander, veteran Mike Flanagan, on their 10-man pitching staff. Jim Poole, a second left-hander in the bullpen last year, opens the season on the disabled list and probably faces a rehabilitation assignment before he is activated.
When that happens, the Orioles will be faced with another decision -- one that might have to be resolved by making a trade.