The Orioles made a curious move on Sunday when they took left-handed reliever Paul Fry off the organizational 40-man roster, freeing up a precious roster spot.
Fry hasn’t pitched well and maybe it was the best time to run him through outright waivers, but the timing is interesting given two pending opt-out dates tonight.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson and outfielder Pedro Alvarez, both at Triple-A Norfolk, can exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts today, forcing the Orioles to add them to the team’s 25-man roster over the next two days or release them from their contracts. Because they were minor-league signings, both players would also have to be added to the team’s 40-man roster as well.
Alvarez is in much of the same situation now as he was when the Orioles re-signed him to a minor-league deal late in spring training. The team doesn’t have roster space for him, and they are unconvinced he can play outfield at the major-league level. Even though he’s shown power – Alvarez has 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 56 games with the Tides – he’s hitting just .225.
The most likely player to press the Orioles’ hand is Jackson, and that’s because he can provide the club with something they currently need and will always need – bullpen length.
Jackson owns a 3.10 ERA at Norfolk pitching mostly in multi-inning relief. And for a player who went through the entire spring training schedule without a team, he’s starting to hit another gear. His last three outings have been scoreless spanning 5 2/3 innings, and over that span, he’s shown the Orioles he can do a lot of things they need.
Last Monday, Jackson threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in a 23-pitch outing, then two days later needed just 34 pitches to record three more scoreless frames. And on Saturday, Jackson recorded the save for Norfolk with a three-up, three-down ninth inning that included two strikeouts.
At this point, the only thing holding Jackson down is that his lack of minor-league options would sacrifice some of the team’s ability to move optionable relievers back and forth – especially with Ubaldo Jimenez jettisoned to the pen. But Jackson’s ability to pitch often while providing long relief outings might help overcome that.
Jackson has earned more fans within the organization over the past few weeks, and his camp is confident that if the Orioles don’t call him up, he’s done enough that he will have big league opportunities elsewhere. It’s difficult to argue that point, because even though Jackson is well-traveled, he’s always had a job somewhere.
The move doesn’t have to happen today. Tonight just potentially starts the opt-out process, but basically, the Orioles have until Wednesday to add Jackson to the 25-man roster.
Keep in mind that the Orioles didn’t give up much for Fry – they sent international bonus slot No. 105, which is worth $198,000 that the club wasn’t going to use regardless, to the Seattle Mariners – but they did designate right-handed reliever Parker Bridwell for assignment to make 40-man roster space for Fry.
The Orioles eventually traded Bridwell, a ninth-round pick of the club in 2010, to the Los Angeles Angels, who immediately made Bridwell a starter again. After eight appearances with the Angels’ Double-A and Triple-A clubs, Bridwell made his first major league start – his previous two appearances with the Orioles were both in relief -- this past week and recorded a quality start against the Atlanta Braves, allowing three runs over six innings.
Fry, meanwhile, is boasting a 6.56 ERA at Norfolk and has allowed 12 runs over his last four appearances spanning seven innings. He’s held lefties to a .217 batting average, but right-handed hitters are hitting .272 against him.