Orioles Opening Day roster: Who's in, who's out, who has a chance?

The Sun's Dan Connolly breaks down the players left in spring training and looks at who's likely heading north

March 21, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — When spring training started in February, the Orioles had several roster spots up for grabs: reserve catcher, two other bench positions, a couple of rotation slots and two to three bullpen openings.

With 10 days remaining in camp, the names of the candidates have changed some, but the battles remain the same.

"I think there are definitely a couple of positions that have not been determined," said Andy MacPhail, the club's president of baseball operations. "I wouldn't say that's terribly unusual. Sometimes, these decisions are self-evident; other times, it takes a little while to figure out the best course.

"I'd say we are closer to the latter than the former this spring."

The club's decision-makers will meet again Wednesday to discuss roster construction, as they have done periodically this spring. Frankly, there are plenty of scenarios to be discussed.

The Orioles likely will break camp with a four-man rotation until a fifth starter is needed April 10, the ninth game of the regular season. That means they could temporarily make room for an eighth reliever or perhaps a fifth bench player.

One possibility is keeping three catchers; another is three left-handed relievers or two utility infielders. There's also the remote possibility that reserve left fielders Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold could both make the club. Most likely, though, the Orioles will use the spot to deepen their bullpen.

As is often the case, building the 25-man roster isn't always about compiling the most talented group. There are contractual and financial considerations as well. Players such as Robert Andino and Jake Fox are out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers before being sent to the minors. Left-handed starting pitching prospect Zach Britton has had the best spring, but if he isn't recalled until late April, the Orioles will have him under team control for an extra season.

And, of course, the decisions become more complicated if first baseman Derrek Lee, second baseman Brian Roberts and pitcher Koji Uehara aren't healthy enough to play Opening Night.

Also, near the end of the past two springs, MacPhail has acquired a player in a minor trade: Andino in 2009 and infielder Julio Lugo in 2010. He could do that again this month, especially with a surplus of intriguing role players such as Andino and Fox.

The San Diego Padres, among others, are looking for middle-infield help, and several teams, most notably the Houston Astros, are in need of a catcher. The Orioles, like every club in baseball, could use more pitching. So an 11th-hour trade can't be ruled out.

"If something makes sense to us, sure," MacPhail said.

Here's a look at the Orioles' potential roster with 10 days left in the spring: who is in, who has a chance and who needs a miracle, listed in alphabetical order.

ROSTER LOCKS (13): LHP Michael Gonzalez, RHP Kevin Gregg, DH Vladimir Guerrero, RHP Jeremy Guthrie, SS J.J. Hardy, IF Cesar Izturis, RHP Jim Johnson, CF Adam Jones, RF Nick Markakis, LHP Brian Matusz, 3B Mark Reynolds, LF Luke Scott, C Matt Wieters

Skinny: These players were contributors last season or were acquired in the offseason to be key components of the 2011 Orioles. This group is going north.

HEALTH WILLING (4): RHP Justin Duchscherer, 1B Derrek Lee, 2B Brian Roberts, RHP Koji Uehara

Skinny: Duchscherer (hip) has pitched just two innings this spring and is not throwing from a mound. He says he still has time to be ready for the opener, but it would be an absolute stunner if he didn't start the season on the disabled list. Lee (wrist/foot) and Roberts (back) returned to game action recently, and Uehara (elbow) is expected to pitch in a minor league game Tuesday. Barring setbacks, they are expected to be on the April 1 roster.

LOOKING GOOD (5): RHP Jeremy Accardo, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Brad Bergesen, C-UTIL Jake Fox, OF Felix Pie

Skinny: Arrieta was one of several starters fighting for two spots in the rotation. He's now the favorite for one. Bergesen appears to be battling with Chris Tillman for the other slot, though Britton and swingman Josh Rupe are still being considered. The most likely scenario is that Bergesen makes the rotation and Tillman is sent to the minors until the club needs a fifth starter. There has been internal discussion about putting Bergesen in the bullpen initially to help protect the other young starters. That would allow Tillman and Bergesen to both make the team, but that's only one of several long-relief options.

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