It’s not often that a nonroster invitee cracks an Opening Day 25-man roster, but the nonroster players who receive big league camp invitations are nonetheless critical to a team’s success.
Occasionally, there are some surprises. Three springs ago, first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson nearly forced his way onto the Opening Day roster, losing out to Steve Pearce on the final position player roster spot.
And if you picked right-hander Chaz Roe this time last year as the one player out of the 15 nonroster invitees who would have the biggest impact in 2015, then I want to hear your pick for next year’s Super Bowl.
The Orioles released their list of their 17 nonroster invitees on Monday, and here are some observations about the list:
* There was some consideration to sending right-hander Hunter Harvey to minor league camp, especially since injuries prevented him from pitching in any minor league games last season. But Harvey will benefit from the atmosphere of big league camp. Last year was his first major league camp, and he took away a lot – veterans like Chris Tillman took Harvey under their wing – and his bullpen sessions raised some eyebrows. Any extended time Harvey is able to get with major league pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti should be considered worthwhile.
* I’m excited to see catcher Chance Sisco in his first big league camp. The organization feels that Sisco needs to made significant progress with his catching, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the challenge of being in major league camp. Sisco came to Camden Yards late last season to work with catching coach John Russell and major league catchers Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph. Now, having his locker near Wieters and Joseph will undoubtedly help with his growth. Jonah Heim is still a few years away, but he will also benefit from the big league atmosphere.
* With the addition of seven nonroster pitchers, the Orioles already have 29 pitchers in big league camp. And they conceivably could add another starter – or maybe even a reliever – before spring training starts. So it might be a challenge for Orioles manager Buck Showalter to get all of the arms the innings needed to evaluate them. As is usually the case, expect the team’s established starters to get innings in minor league and "B" games while some of the fringe pitchers get their innings in Grapefruit League games.
* Four of the seven nonroster pitchers are left-handed relievers – Jeff Beliveau, Cesar Cabral, Andy Oliver and Ashur Tolliver – showing that the Orioles are trying to emphasize having left-handed relief depth in the minors. Add in recent 40-man roster additions Chris Lee and Chris Jones to go with closer Zach Britton and fellow lefties Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland and the Orioles will have nine lefty relievers in camp. That doesn’t include C.J. Riefenhauser, who could rejoin the organization if he clears waivers and is outrighted.
* Paul Janish and Ozzie Martinez helped shore up the infield defense at Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, respectively, with their solid play at shortstop. Showalter has said many times that having the steady defense of Janish and Martinez up the middle was critical in helping develop young pitching at those levels. Both were free agents this offseason and the Orioles managed to re-sign both and invited them to big league camp, a sign the organization has committed to not just defensive depth at shortstop but that it sees steady defense as a part of developing young pitching.
Orioles groundskeeper wins leadership award
Orioles head groundskeeper Nicole McFadyen was named this year’s recipient of the Mary Pickersgill Award for Women’s Leadership in Business. The award, which is given by the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, will be given to McFayden on Thursday at the Flag House on 844 E. Pratt Street.
The award, which was established in 2012, is given annually to honor a woman who “demonstrates leadership in her community, exemplifies innovation in her chosen field and has the power to inspire others.”
This year will be McFadyen’s 10th season as the team’s head groundskeeper. She became the second female head groundkeeper in the major leagues in 2006, joining the Detroit Tigers’ Heather Nabozny, who has been head of the Tigers’grounds crew since 1999.