Mickolio's destination is only roster question left for Orioles

Reliever will end up in Triple-A or on DL

25-man squad all but set

April 01, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

SARASOTA, Fla. — — The Orioles will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the regular-season opener at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, and, barring a serious injury or 11th-hour trade, the 25 players who will be making the trip up Interstate 75 to St. Petersburg on Sunday are set.

Manager Dave Trembley will not reveal his Opening Day roster, but all the mysteries have been solved before he has to officially submit the list by 3 p.m. Sunday.

The only lingering question is whether reliever Kam Mickolio, who has been unavailable since Friday with a groin strain, will be sent to Triple-A Norfolk or placed on the disabled list.

"I'm not sure," Trembley said. "I don't really know what the difference is."

Trembley's point is that Mickolio, a leading candidate for a bullpen spot this spring, is no longer in consideration to break camp with the Orioles because of injury and inconsistency. Another bullpen candidate, Koji Uehara, will start the season on the disabled list.

In essence, that leaves seven relievers for seven bullpen spots, putting an unofficial but obvious end to what was the last unannounced roster decision. Two of the other position scrums, backup catcher and fifth starter, were officially resolved Tuesday.

By sending outfielder Lou Montanez to Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, the Orioles now have 32 players in camp, but only 25 still have a chance of going north. Alfredo Simon, Ross Wolf and Scott Moore have been reassigned but will remain with the team until Sunday, and Chad Moeller and Joey Gathright have been told they aren't part of the Orioles' initial 2010 plans but have not been reassigned.

With Uehara and Mickolio no longer in the mix, the camp number drops to 25. So, by process of elimination, four relievers on the roster bubble heading into the spring - Matt Albers, Jason Berken, Cla Meredith and Will Ohman - all will make the team.

They haven't been given confirmation from Trembley, however, so none of the four is celebrating yet.

"I haven't found anything out," Berken said. "My main focus has been pitching, and it is not going to change. I am just assuming we will find out soon."

Ohman is the only one of the group not on the 40-man roster. When he is added, someone must be removed.

That is assuming the club doesn't make a last-minute, minor trade. Last season, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail sent pitcher Hayden Penn to the Florida Marlins for utility infielder Robert Andino on April 1. He didn't rule out the possibility of a deal this year.

"We are always studying our options," MacPhail said.

One potential target area could be backup catcher. The team announced Tuesday that Craig Tatum, who has just 26 games of major league experience, had beaten out 10-year veteran Chad Moeller.

MacPhail is looking to ship Moeller to a team needing a big league backup, but if he can't, Moeller might ask for his unconditional release. If the Orioles grant it, it would leave them without a major league-ready option in the minors as insurance if Tatum struggles. Another veteran, Michel Hernandez, broke his finger and will be sidelined for several more weeks.

Tatum, 27, was the roster's biggest surprise addition. Even he wasn't sure what to expect when Trembley called him into his office Tuesday.

"I was super-excited," Tatum said. "Just to be able to break with a team is something I have never done. It's going to be a great experience."

Claimed off waivers in November from the Cincinnati Reds, Tatum is considered a solid defensive catcher with a strong and accurate arm and a tireless work ethic.

He'll need it as he attempts to learn a new league of hitters.

"When I got to the NL Central, I didn't know anybody, so I'd sit in the video room for 2 1/2 hours every day just going through each team, going through their lineups and just jotting down notes about each player, and it helped," Tatum said. "That's what I will do this year."

In contrast, Mickolio, 25, was expected to make the team when spring training began, especially early on when Trembley raved about the 6-foot-9 right-hander's ability, intimidating presence and commitment to fitness in the offseason.

But Mickolio had several uneven outings, walking seven batters in 9 1/3 innings (yet allowing only two earned runs).

On Friday, he tweaked his groin during conditioning drills and hasn't thrown from a mound since. He says he is about 80 percent healthy.

"It's just a tightness," Mickolio said. "It isn't anything really to complain about. I just didn't want to keep going and make it worse and then really mess things up."

Once healthy, he is ticketed to be the closer in Norfolk; it will be his fourth season in Triple-A.

"It is hugely disappointing," he said. "I am kind of losing sleep over it right now, actually."

Season opener

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