LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Orioles added to their dwindling stable of relievers Thursday by selecting 21-year-old right-hander Adrian Rosario from the Milwaukee Brewers organization with the fourth pick in baseball's Rule 5 draft.
Then the club watched as two of its own young relievers were plucked away: 26-year-old right-hander Pat Egan was taken in the first round by the Brewers and 24-year-old righty Pedro Beato was selected by the New York Mets in the second round.
All three players have to stay on major-league rosters for the full season or must be offered back to their original team for half the $50,000 selection fee.
Rosario is considered a raw prospect, a 6-foot-4, 180-pounder who was signed by the Brewers out of the Dominican Republic at age 16. He spent most of 2010 at Low-A Wisconsin, going 4-0 with two saves and a 4.50 ERA. His highlight of the season was finishing a no-hitter started by top Brewers pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi in August.
"[He is] big-bodied, lack of experience, good armed-kid that captured the imagination of our guys. I mean, he really has the chance to grow into something," said Andy MacPhail, the Orioles president of baseball operations. "Whether he's ready or not, we'll find out. But we ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â… didn't feel like we could miss the opportunity to take a chance on [him]."
The Brewers were surprised by the selection, assuming Rosario was too far down in the minors to be selected. Milwaukee then pulled its own surprise, by selecting Egan, a 6-foot-6 righty who was 6-1 with a 2.12 ERA in 22 games with Double-A Bowie and 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk.
The Brewers originally had decided not to take anyone in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin changed his mind minutes before it started and told his representatives to grab Egan if he were still available.
"I pulled a Peyton Manning; I called an audible," Melvin said.
It's possible that if neither player is in position to make the big leagues out of spring, the teams could swap the two.
"That's a dynamic that frankly we didn't anticipate," MacPhail said. "But interesting to see how this spring plays out."
The Mets took Beato, a player they originally had drafted in the 17th round in 2005 but could not sign. The Orioles selected the 6-foot-6 right-hander the following year with a first-round sandwich pick, 32nd overall.
He was named to the prestigious Futures Game in 2007, but didn't live up to his advanced billing until last season, when he was switched to a bullpen role and was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA and 20 saves for Double-A Bowie.
The Orioles actually were most interested in selecting left-handed pitcher Joe Paterson, a 24-year-old lefty reliever from the San Francisco Giants organization. But he was taken with the third pick overall -- one spot ahead of the Orioles ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â– by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Orioles also added three players in the minor-league phases of the Rule 5 draft: infielder Dale Mollenhauser from the Chicago White Sox organization and left-handed pitcher Casey Lambert from the Chicago Cubs organization in the Triple-A portion and right-hander Jacob Rasner from the White Sox in the Double-A portion.
Besides Beato and Egan, the Orioles lost two players in the Double-A portion of the draft, catcher Dashenko Ricardo (San Francisco) and right-hander Brent Allar (Florida).
Mutual interest with LaRoche
In their search to fill their hole at first base, the Orioles have growing interest in Adam LaRoche, a 31-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman who batted .261 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010.
According to industry sources, there is mutual interest between LaRoche and the Orioles and the two sides have talked, though no formal offer has been tendered.
He is considered the club's top first base option along with former Atlanta Brave Derrek Lee.
MacPhail said he is turning his attention more toward first base and bullpen help now that he has acquired a shortstop (J.J. Hardy), a utility infielder (Brendan Harris), a third baseman (Mark Reynolds) and re-signed closer Koji Uehara.
Landing a first baseman was pushed back on the priority list after the team failed to get free agents Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn. It instead concentrated on other areas of need.
"Those talks, while they have been considerable, are probably not as advanced as our bullpen, shortstop, third base discussions were at this point," he said. "That's a function of what we see as supply and demand and other options [at first base]."
If the Orioles don't acquire a first baseman, they could fill the hole internally, likely with designated hitter Luke Scott.
Although it won't be official until a yet-to-be-scheduled physical is completed, the Orioles have re-signed right-hander Uehara to a one-year, $3 million deal that could be worth as much as $5 million if he reaches certain incentives.
The deal also includes a vesting option for 2012 based on games pitched or games finished.
Uehara, 35, is 3-6 with a 3.58 ERA in two seasons with the Orioles. As a reliever, he was 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA and saved 13 of 15 games in 2010.
"We always wanted to bring him back, it was really a function of just structuring the contract in a way that protected Koji if he was healthy, but protecting us in the event that he wasn't healthy and had a reoccurrence of [injuries]," MacPhail said.
The Orioles chose not to offer Uehara arbitration earlier this offseason -- which in retrospect looks like a shrewd move. Through arbitration, he may have made as much as $7 million in 2011.
"I didn't associate that large a risk with it, to be honest with you," MacPhail said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.