PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. — A number of roster decisions announced Wednesday afternoon by Orioles manager Buck Showalter have put the club's Opening Day roster into much clearer focus.
The biggest news was the team's decision to place outfielder Nolan Reimold on the 15-day disabled list to open the season, capping a busy day that also included four roster cuts.
The Orioles have until Sunday at 3 p.m. to finalize their Opening Day roster, but Showalter acknowledged that the list of 25 players who will fly north to Baltimore is nearing completion.
“I've got a pretty good idea of which way we're going to go,” Showalter said. “There are a couple of things I've got to hear from [head trainer] Richie [Bancells] or [executive vice president] Dan [Duquette] and what's going on in the baseball world.”
Reimold, who has been limited to 56 games over the past two seasons because of multiple neck fusion surgeries, still can't play the outfield comfortably and has struggled to look up for fly balls, Showalter said.
“We're just trying to get him all the way healthy,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, we'll give him a little more time. … The two times he tried [to play the outfield], looking up bothered him some. It didn't bother him to hit too much. He could get sore. Obviously you need to look up to play the outfield.”
Placing Reimold on the disabled list — which the club still must officially do — answers one of the final pressing roster battles of camp. With Reimold on the DL, it essentially gives the two available reserve outfield and right-handed designated hitter spots to Steve Pearce and nonroster invitee Delmon Young.
Showalter said he met with Reimold, who he said agreed that he's not where he needs to be physically, but Showalter added he believes Reimold is still “light years” ahead of where he was this time last year, when the opened the season hitting .188 over his first 37 games before landing on the DL in mid-May.
“He can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Showalter said. “Let's face it, the guy has had two neck fusions. One that didn't get the results we hoped and one that seems like he's done real well with it. The last four, five games he seems more comfortable. He's missed basically two years and he's just now getting to the point where he's not thinking about it when he hits anymore.”
Earlier in the day, the Orioles optioned outfielder Henry Urrutia and right-hander Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk and reassigned infielder Alexi Casilla and outfielder Quintin Berry to minor-league camp.
Urrutia, a Cuban defector who went from Double-A to the majors in his first professional season last year, was also competing for an outfield/designated hitter bench spot. The 27-year-old was 10-for-39 with four doubles, one homer and three RBIs over 16 spring games.
Casilla, an offseason minor league signing, battled hamstring and knee injuries that hurt his chances of making the team as a utility infielder. He played in just 10 spring games and had four hits in 22 at bats but will now go to the minors to be the everyday shortstop at Norfolk.
“He's a guy, I wish he had been healthy from the first day, but he really caught up in a hurry,” Showalter said. “We have a real good idea of what [Casilla] is capable of bringing. I'm sure at some point this year, we're going to have need for him. There are some things we're able to do contractually that show how much we think of him.”
That leaves top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop and trade acquisition Jemile Weeks battling for the final infield roster spot. Whoever emerges from that battle will likely be the starting second baseman, with Ryan Flaherty moving over to third base in the absence of All-Star Manny Machado.
The Orioles spring camp roster is now at 36 players, but the team has yet to officially place five players on the disabled list: Reimold, Machado, outfielder Francisco Peguero, right-hander Edgmer Escalona and left-hander Johan Santana.
Showalter added that Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar also opening the season on the DL is a “possibility,” and it appears headed in that direction. As the club's Rule 5 pick, the Orioles must keep Almanzar on the active roster, or DL, for the entire season or offer him back to the Red Sox.
Almanzar injured his left knee — he has been diagnosed with left patellar tendinitis — while playing first base on Saturday.
Include left-hander Troy Patton, who will be transferred to the restricted list while he serves a 25-game suspension, and the Orioles have 29 players for 25 spots.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman and left-hander T.J. McFarland are likely slated for the Triple-A starting rotation. Either Schoop or Weeks will open the season in Norfolk as well.
That leaves the fight for the team's final bullpen spot between nonroster right-handed relievers Evan Meek and Alfredo Aceves.