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Orioles bench may be more settled than you think


Orioles bench may be more settled than you think

In the first weeks of 2016, the Orioles will try and decide who plays first base and right field. Those decisions will also impact the composition of the team’s bench, but many of those positions are already accounted for.

To be sure, seven starting spots are already spoken for. J.J. Hardy (shortstop), Adam Jones (center field), Hyun Soo Kim (left field), Manny Machado (third base), Jonathan Schoop (second base), Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters (catcher).

While Kim hasn’t played in the major leagues, the Orioles wouldn’t have made a two-year, $7 million commitment to him unless they were convinced he could be a regular. He’s slated to play left field.

Trumbo’s position is secure, but whether he plays first base, right field or is the primary designated hitter depends on whether the Orioles re-sign Chris Davis, sign Pedro Alvarez or someone else.

Assuming the Orioles carry 12 pitchers, that leaves six of the 13 position players. While Ryan Flaherty and Caleb Joseph could conceivably be optioned to Norfolk, they won’t be.

Flaherty’s ability to play multiple infield and outfield positions is a plus, and he’s a left-handed hitter. Joseph could be the starting catcher for a number of major league teams.

The Orioles re-signed Nolan Reimold, and while he won’t be the primary left field, he could play there if the left-handed Kim has difficulty against lefties. He could also play some DH in a platoon. So could Joseph if Wieters is healthy and plays 120 or some games. Of course, Wieters could DH or play some first base, too.

A second utility infielder is unlikely to be carried, but the Orioles like Paul Janish, with whom they agreed on a minor league contract last week. If he could extend his defensive wizardry to the outfield and be a credible backup to Jones in center, that would help. But, his exemplary play at shortstop as insurance in case Hardy gets hurt may be good enough.

Some important bench questions to be answered in spring training include the fates of L.J. Hoes, Jimmy Paredes and Joey Rickard.

Hoes, who shockingly has a grand total of three at-bats with the Orioles, was traded for in November, and could compete with Reimold for an extra outfielder’s job.

It might be hard for the Orioles to carry both Hoes and Reimold, who hit right-handed.

If Paredes repeats his outstanding spring in 2016, the Orioles may be forced to carry him. A year ago, Paredes looked like a candidate to be moved off the 40-man roster, but he had a wonderful spring training, and after a short stint on the disabled list, sparkled in the season’s early months before fizzling in the second half.

He’s a switch hitter who is far better from the left side than the right, but is an enormous defensive liability. He’s listed as an infielder, but the Orioles shudder when they see him with a glove. He went to the Dominican Republic to play the outfield for a time in November, and the team hopes he could play some in right.

Paredes is no threat to be the injury insurance for Jones in center, a position manager Buck Showalter badly wants to upgrade. Of the choices here, Hoes seems to be the best match.

Maybe Rickard, the Rule 5 pick, could be the backup centerfielder.

Rickard has played more games in center than anywhere else, and like Kim, has great on-base numbers, but not in the major leagues.

Last year in three levels, Rickard batted .321 with a .427 OBP. He began in the Florida State League, and after 23 games moved up to Double A, and finished with a .360 average and .437 on-base percentage in 29 games at Triple-A Durham.

Rickard stole 23 bases in 29 attempts in the minors, and could provide some needed speed. The team doesn’t have a logical pinch runner.

Henry Urrutia remains on the 40-man roster, and while he hits left-handed, something the team desperately needs, it doesn’t seem that he’s looked upon as a true contender to make the team next spring.
While many others were recalled in September, Urrutia went to Sarasota to stay ready in case he was needed. He wasn’t.

Urrutia, who hit creditably during an August stint, was sent down near the end of the month to make room for another Cuban defector, Dariel Alvarez.

Alvarez didn’t play much in the final weeks of the season, and unlike a year ago when the team looked upon him as a real prospect, he doesn’t seem to be getting much love this time.

Surely the Orioles will add another player or two who will fit into the mix. The identities of those jockeying for bench positions are much more certain than those who may fill out the final starting spots.

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles looking to add to their club as 2016 begins

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."


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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm