- Winning a job with the Orioles would complete a remarkable turn-around for Craig Gentry, as the outfielder tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that just months ago, he felt his career coming to an end. Gentry suffered a concussion (the sixth of his career) in September 2014 and was bothered by symptoms for almost two years; combined with a lumbar injury last year, Gentry was limited to just 40 total years over the last two seasons. These issues caused Gentry to question his passion to keep playing, though after his health finally began to improve this offseason, a session with Orioles hitting coach Scot Coolbaugh paved the way for Gentry to sign a minor league deal with the O’s. That contract doesn’t give Gentry an opt-out until the middle of June, though it could be a moot point if Gentry breaks camp with the team.
- Pedro Alvarez’s minor league deal with the Orioles includes an opt-out clause in May, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Alvarez is trying to make the O’s as an outfielder, which could be a tough call given Alvarez’s inexperience at the position and the number of other outfield candidates also in camp, Kubatko notes.
It usually isn’t a good tactic for free agents to accept the first offer that comes their way, yet this past offseason, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that several players would have been better served by accepting deals before the new collective bargaining agreement was finalized. Many free agents, particularly sluggers like Mark Trumbo, saw their offers drop after the new CBA was settled in early December, as teams were suddenly more wary about spending in the wake of more punitive luxury tax rules. Trumbo tells Heyman that he doesn’t regret returning to the Orioles on a three-year, $37.5MM deal, though the implication was that a larger offer was on the table for an undetermined amount. Reports from earlier this winter indicated that the Orioles themselves initially offered Trumbo a larger deal in the four-year, $52MM range.
- The Blue Jays talked to Pedro Alvarez before the slugger re-signed with the Orioles on a minor league deal. Toronto has switch-hitters Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak slated for DH and first base, respectively, though Steve Pearce and possibly Jose Bautista will get some time at both positions as well. Alvarez would have brought some needed left-handed pop to a Jays lineup that is heavy on right-handed bats, and he could’ve also maybe helped out in left field given how Alvarez has been working out as an outfielder this winter.
- Craig Gentry, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles last month, “has impressed Buck Showalter” and is looking in good position to break camp with the team. The O’s could use platoons in both left and right field, with Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith as the left-handed bats and Gentry and Joey Rickard providing the right-handed hitting support. This could mean that Rule 5 picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez may end up back with their old clubs, though Santander could be saved on the DL as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, as well as elbow and neck issues this spring.
- Manager Buck Showalter says the Orioles are focused on roster flexibility in shaping their bullpen, as Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports. With questions throughout the starting rotation and the inevitable need to fill gaps that arise during the season, Showalter stressed the organization’s improved set of optionable, upper-level pitchers. It’s still a wide-open competition to fill in for Chris Tillman in the rotation and settle on a long reliever in setting the Opening Day roster, and Meoli breaks down the hard-to-prognosticate state of play as camp enters its final phase.
As a dominant AL East closer that relies on one signature pitch, the Orioles’ Zach Britton has much in common with Mariano Rivera, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark writes. Obviously Britton has a ways to go before matching Rivera’s incredible track record, though Britton’s sinker (which he threw 92.2% of the time last season) is already being compared to Rivera’s legendary cut fastball. Without fully explaining his secrets behind the pitch, Britton tells Stark about what makes his sinker unique, and also how he came upon the pitch by accident while trying to learn, ironically, a cutter.
- Steve Pearce declined to tell Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun if the Orioles were in touch about re-signing the veteran utilityman, though he praised the O’s for supporting his decision to undergo elbow surgery late last season when the club was in a pennant race. Pearce also noted that he decided to sign with the Blue Jays since “they were hard and aggressive” in their pursuit this winter. “As a player, when you have somebody who wants you that bad and they come after you, they don’t mess around, they’re not trying to low ball — as soon as we got to a number we got comfortable with and they got comfortable with, it was an easy sign,” Pearce said.
- Former slugger and current vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson is a source of tension within the Orioles organization, writes FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in a detailed feature that’s revealing about the ways players and coaches think about the roles of team front office members. Anderson’s duties with the club include coaching, working on the team’s strength and conditioning program and helping determine player transactions, meaning he has influence in a number of seemingly disparate areas. He’s also close with owner Peter Angelos. Former pitching coach Dave Wallace cites Anderson’s “total autonomy and really no accountability” as a problem for the Orioles, and both Wallace and former bullpen coach Dom Chiti (who are both now with the Braves) cite Anderson’s presence as reasons they left the organization. Former catcher Matt Wieters also describes Anderson’s blurring of the boundaries between executive and coach as an issue for the club. “Brady was a great player for a long time. He was a member of that clubhouse,” says Wieters. “At the same time, when you get into the season, the 25 guys in that clubhouse are who you want in that clubhouse.”
Given that Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper are scheduled to reach free agency after the 2018 season, high-payroll teams will spend the next two years deciding the more worthy target, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com. With that in mind, Olney polled seven evaluators on which potential $400MM player they’d prefer to sign. Six chose Machado, whom the evaluators regard as a more well-rounded player. “Harper gets credit and gets a huge part of his reputation for how far he hits home runs, but they still only count for one run,” one evaluator told Olney. “Machado is an entire field hitter who hits to the situation. He can hammer majestic homers, but can also do other things to help a team win.”
The Orioles have released right-hander Logan Ondrusek, tweets Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com. (The move was first noted on the Orioles’ Transactions page at MLB.com.) As Connolly reported at the time of Ondrusek’s deal with Baltimore, the 31-year-old’s $605K salary was not fully guaranteed, so by cutting him loose today, the Orioles won’t be responsible for that entire sum. Ondrusek has been battling elbow soreness and is slated to make the dreaded visit to Dr. James Andrews for further examination.
Ondrusek joined the Orioles midway through the 2016 season after beginning the year with the Yakult Swallows of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and pitching quite well. His overseas work resulted in a 2.45 ERA and a 29-to-11 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings of work, which garnered enough interest from the Orioles to bring Ondrusek over on a Major League contract. However, the veteran righty wasn’t able to replicate that success with the O’s, surrendering seven runs in the 6 1/3 innings he spent with the big league club before being sent down to the minors. Baltimore declined a club option on Ondrusek this winter and later re-signed him to the aforementioned one-year deal.
Ondrusek’s 2016 season was his second pitching with Yakult and his second in which he enjoyed great success in Japan. Prior to his work there and with the Orioles, the former 13th-rounder spent five seasons as a member of the Reds’ bullpen. While he struggled in 2014, Ondrusek’s overall work with Cincinnati was typically solid, though he’s primarily been used in low-leverage situations throughout his MLB career. Even with unsightly numbers in 2014 and 2016, Ondrusek owns a career 4.03 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 277 innings.
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman received a cortisone injection in his right shoulder today, as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Manager Buck Showalter told reporters that the O’s are “encouraged” with Tillman’s recent progress and are planning to see how he reacts to the cortisone shot a few days from now before determining exactly when Tillman can return to the mound. Showalter again stated that Tillman isn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day, but Encina notes that the cortisone injection will hopefully allow Tillman to debut for the Orioles at some point in April. Certainly the Orioles will hope for a speedy recovery, as Tillman represents one of the top three arms in their rotation. But for Tillman, personally, there’s quite a bit at stake, as he’s slated to become a free agent at season’s end.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves here:
- Righty Andrew Bellatti has joined the Orioles on a minors deal, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The 25-year-old had spent his entire career with the division-rival Rays organization, but lost his 40-man spot last summer. Bellatti worked to a 2.31 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 23 1/3 MLB innings in 2015, his first and only big league stint. But he struggled last year in the minors, allowing 11 earned runs in 14 1/3 frames on the year while working through shoulder troubles.