When the Orioles open up spring training down in Sarasota two weeks from tomorrow, expect non-roster pitchers Mike Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez, who are among the organization’s top pitching prospects, to be among those looking to make an impression in major league camp.
With the World Baseball Classic pushing the beginning of spring training up a week, the Orioles likely limit some regulars, especially pitchers, when games begin on Feb. 23.
That will give many of the Orioles' younger players an opportunity to make an impression during the opening days of the Grapefruit League season. Expect to see a lot of them that final week of February.
Rodriguez, who will turn 20 in April, made a dramatic jump last season at Single-A Delmarva. He went 5-7 with a 3.70 ERA for the Shorebirds while picking up velocity on his fastball into the mid 90s. The Orioles are very high on the left-handed Rodriguez, who could become the Orioles’ first home-grown pitcher signed out of Venezuela.
The 6-foot-5 right-handed Wright, the team’s third-round pick in 2011, was 10-5 with a 4.06 ERA last season between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie last season. He made a Grapefruit League appearance last spring, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings in a night game against the New York Yankees at Ed Smith Stadium. The 23-year-old Wright is ranked the organization’s eighth-best prospect by Baseball America.
According to Baseball America, Rodriguez and Wright are the organization's top two pitching prospects after right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
They’ll join the mix of young players on the team’s 40-man roster -- Bundy, Gausman, Zach Clark, L.J. Hoes, Xavier Avery among them -- who should see valuable innings early in spring training.
In other words, don’t expect Orioles manager Buck Showalter to trot out closer Jim Johnson -- or even play catcher Matt Wieters -- until early March.
Nick Johnson reportedly retires
First baseman Nick Johnson has decided to retire from baseball, according to WFAN in New York, and later acknowledged by Johnson on his Twitter feed.
It’s not exactly a surprise considering Johnson, 34, left the Orioles in late June due to a wrist injury that had plagued him in his career, and he never returned. Johnson was attempting to come back from injury after not playing at all in the majors in 2011.
Johnson had an inauspicious debut with the team in 2012, going hitless in his first 29 at-bats as an Oriole, a club record for position players. He ended up hitting .289 in 18 May games and .313 in 12 games in June before playing his finale for the club on June 27.
Popular with his teammates for his understated wit and accessibility to younger players, Johnson played the majority of his 10-season career with the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos. He played in Montreal in 2004 and came with the club when it relocated to Washington before the 2005 season.
He’ll retire as a career .268 hitter with a .399 on-base percentage. For the Orioles, he hit .207 with a .324 on-base percentage, four homers and 11 RBIs in 102 plate appearances spanning 38 games in his lone season with the franchise.