Araujo, who was selected from the Chicago Cubs in December, saw his ERA balloon to 7.71 after allowing four runs — including two home runs — in one inning of work in the Orioles’ 13-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday.
With the Orioles needing to make roster space to activate closer Zach Britton from the 60-day disabled list before Monday night’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards, Araujo would appear to be the most likely player to come off the roster.
The Orioles drafted three players in December but returned right-hander Jose Mesa Jr. to the New York Yankees during spring training, then returned left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. to the Yankees after he posted a 7.71 ERA in four appearances. They also optioned outfielder Anthony Santander, a December 2016 selection, to Double-A Bowie on May 13 when he fulfilled his Rule 5 roster requirements after hitting .198 in 33 games.
Araujo, 24, figured to play a prominent role in the Orioles bullpen, but struggled early. He entered a tie game in the seventh inning in his third appearance of the season but allowed four of six batters he faced to reach base and was eventually charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning after allowing a grand slam.
Since then, Araujo hasn’t had many high-leverage opportunities, typically working in the middle innings and with the Orioles behind, but he’s struggled to keep games close in those situations, as was the case Sunday, when he allowed six of the nine batters he faced to reach base. He’s given up runs in 10 of his past 14 appearances.
“It’s been a challenge for him, and that’s to be expected,” Showalter said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s got a chance to be a good pitcher in the big leagues. We’re talking to him now, making sure everything’s OK, because you never want to assume something. You also want to keep in mind the psyche of a young pitcher like that without a whole lot of experience. Just make sure he and we are communicating with him and know what’s going on.”
Rule 5 picks must remain on the active 25-man roster for at least 90 days to fulfill their roster requirements, and Araujo has been on the roster for only 74 days, but the Orioles have been creative in finding ways for their Rule 5 picks to meet the requirements.
In the past the Orioles have placed a player short on service time on the disabled list to return near the times when rosters expanded to meet the criteria, as they did with right-hander Jason Garcia in 2015. Santander opened last season on the disabled list, finished the year on the active roster and then fulfilled the rest of his service time at the beginning of this season.
Araujo was one of the best stories in spring training, going from the least likely Rule 5 pick to make the team to earning an Opening Day roster spot after holding opponents to a .152 average in 9 2/3 Grapefruit League innings.