Reliever Dennis Sarfate joined the Orioles before the 2008 season as part of the Miguel Tejada trade with the Houston Astros, and now he looks to be the odd man out as Tejada returns to the club.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Tejada, who was signed to a one-year deal Tuesday to play third base, the Orioles on Wednesday designated Sarfate for assignment, meaning the club has 10 days to trade him, release him or put him on waivers.
"I'm a little hurt, not really hurt, but disappointed," said Sarfate, who was 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in 20 games for the Orioles last season. "I really liked Baltimore, my daughter was born there, my wife loved it. I liked the way the team was going. I wish I could have stayed."
Sarfate, 28, was out of options, so he would have had to make the 2010 team or could have been lost to waivers at the end of the spring. The Orioles considered that scenario, Sarfate's uneven 2009 that was interrupted by injury, and their glut of right- handed relievers on the 40-man roster before making the move.
"It's getting crowded," said Andy MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations. "We lost a player in the Rule 5 draft, we have been adding players, and eventually you start to lose guys and it hurts. I hope we can work something out in his best interest and ours as well."
Based on his service time and the fact that Sarfate had never been outrighted before, MacPhail said that if the pitcher is placed on waivers and not claimed, the Orioles could send him to Triple-A Norfolk without his approval.
Despite Sarfate's potential - when he's healthy, his fastball can reach the mid-90s, and he has, at times, been an effective major league reliever - it's possible he could go unclaimed because most teams are at their roster limit right now. So another club likely would have to drop a player if it wanted to add Sarfate.
"With the vast majority of teams, anytime you make a move this late, there is a corresponding move of a player coming off the roster," MacPhail said.
In his two seasons with the Orioles, Sarfate mixed promise with bouts of wildness and freak injuries. He was 4-4 with a 4.82 ERA in 77 games, including four starts. He threw 102 2/3 innings with the Orioles, striking out 106 batters and walking 76. But he pitched in just 20 games for the team last season because of a circulation condition that numbed part of his right hand and forced him to miss nearly four months.
He came back in September and then pitched this offseason in the Mexican Winter League, saying that his fastball reached 97 mph. Because he is healthy now, Sarfate is confident that another team will take a chance on him, either by trade or waiver claim.
"I don't think I am going to be back; it's just a confidence thing," he said. "I am pretty sure I am valuable when my arm is not hurt. And I am healthy now."
Sarfate said he knew the Orioles needed to make room for Tejada but that he hadn't thought he would be the casualty.
"I compare my arm to the other guys on the roster, and I probably have a better arm than most of them, in general," he said. "I loved Baltimore, but it is a business. I understand that, and I don't hold anything against anyone else."
Snyder wants to impress
With the offseason signings of Garrett Atkins
to play first base and Tejada to play third, the Orioles are seemingly set at the corner infield spots for the start of 2010.
But that won't deter one of the club's top prospects, first baseman Brandon Snyder, from heading into the spring thinking he is fighting for a big league job.
"I think that's the only way you can go in there," Snyder, 23, said. "I went in there last year thinking in my head that I'm going in there to make the team. Is that a long shot? Yeah. But you go in there with that mind-set because you don't want to leave anything on the table."
Snyder, the club's top draft pick in 2005, batted .248 with two home runs in 262 at-bats at Norfolk last season after tearing up Double-A Bowie (.343 average, 10 homers, 45 RBIs in 201 at-bats) in the first part of the season.
He is considered the Orioles' first baseman of the future now that he is playing the position full time after previously playing catcher and third base.
"I think defensively, going from one side of the field to another was probably the toughest," Snyder said. "Physically, I could handle it ... but mentally, I wasn't going about playing the right way. Once I did that, it became a lot easier. Now, I love it over there. I feel a lot more comfortable."
Snyder said he also expects to be more comfortable in big league camp this spring than in his first one last year.
"I grew up watching these guys. I respect them so much," Snyder said. "Once you realize that they are the same guys and it's just a bunch of great guys and a great clubhouse, it's just fun."
Tejada will be No. 9
The Orioles announced via their communications department's Twitter account that Tejada will wear No. 9 this season.