SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles made a pair of significant roster cuts following Wednesday’s 7-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, optioning South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon and catcher Johnny Monell to Triple-A Norfolk.
The club also reassigned non-roster outfielder Xavier Paul to minor league camp.
Yoon, 27, signed a three-year, $5.575 million deal with the Orioles last month, but he couldn’t pitch in a Grapefruit League game until getting his work visa, a tedious process that sent him to Canada for four days and was just completed last week.
- Wei-Yin Chen struggles in Orioles' 7-4 loss to Rays
- Orioles' David Lough nears return after injuries
- Orioles' Dylan Bundy, Johan Santana continue rehab
- Orioles celebrate American League East title [Pictures]
- Orioles in September 2014 [Pictures]
- Top 10 teams in Orioles history [Pictures]
See more photos »
“That was the main thing,” Yoon said through interpreter Justin Yoo. “My preparation was there. I feel like I was ready. I couldn’t get enough innings because of the visa.
“I’ve thought about it,” Yoon said of being optioned, “but I really wasn’t expecting it. … I actually feel good right now. I want to maintain where I’m at.”
There is a clause in Yoon’s contract that allows the club to send him to the minors to begin the season. So Yoon will go to Norfolk to be stretched out as a starter so he is an option for the big league club.
“He’s not going to start with us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We think he’s got a chance to be with us at some point. I think he said the other day when he was talking to us, he needs to go down there and pitch innings, and [the innings]starting to go away. He needs some time down there against competition.”
On Wednesday, he made just his second spring appearance, retiring six of seven batters and giving up a wind-aided home run ball to Jayson Nix. He finished his outing by striking out former Oriole Wilson Betemit on an offspeed pitch.
“[He did] better [than] last time,” Showalter said. “I thought he showed the repertoire a little bit more today, had a good delivery. He’s going to be a strike thrower. He showed all three today. That’s intriguing.”
The Orioles optioning Monell, who was acquired in the offseason in a trade with the San Francisco Giants, makes Baltimore native Steve Clevenger the favorite to win the backup catching job, but the club could still go outside the organization to find Matt Wieters’ backup.
Three catchers — Wieters, Clevenger and non-roster backstop Caleb Joseph — remain in big league camp.
“He’s the leading candidate,” Showalter said. “Stevie’s presented himself well. We’ll see what happens between now and the end of the spring, what other options present themselves. Caleb’s had a good spring. I would characterize Steve as the leader in the clubhouse.”
Showalter made it clear early this spring that the position would be won on defense.
“We’re always looking, but we like the option Steve gives us,” Showalter said. “He’s done a nice job behind the plate defensively. More importantly, he’s engaged in that aspect of it. … We like what his bat brings also, as we do with [Monell].”
Clevenger is hitting .522 (12-for-23) this spring, while Monell hit .278 (5-for-18).
Even though the move gives the backup catcher battle more clarity, Clevenger said he still needs to win the job.
“I’m going to go out there and show [Showalter],” said Clevenger, 26. “Basically until my name is announced on Opening Day, that’s when I’ll be on the team.
“I feel very comfortable with what I’ve done,” he added. “Hitting, the main thing is catching. They made it a starting point from the beginning, it was going to be the catching that determined the job, and I feel like my catching has been up to far so par in spring training.”
Paul hit .214 (6-for-28) with six RBIs this spring.
With the moves, the Orioles now have 43 players in big league camp, including eight non-roster invitees.