The Orioles finalized their 25-man roster Wednesday for Friday's season opener against the Minnesota Twins, and there was one mild surprise: veteran sidearmer Darren O'Day and left-hander Troy Patton made the bullpen over lefty Zach Phillips.
The 25-year-old Phillips, who allowed just four hits, two walks and two runs in 131/3 innings this spring, had a minor league option left, unlike Patton.
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Harbor Park Stadium, 150 Park Ave, Norfolk, VA 23510-2712, USA
"It's tough. He pitched well enough to make our club," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Phillips. "It just didn't fit right now, but he'll impact our club this year. But the good point, we're sending some good pitchers down to Norfolk this year."
The decision leaves the Orioles with just one left-handed reliever, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said that shouldn't be a problem.
"We've tried to build the bullpen so that our pitchers can get out both right- and left-handed hitters," Duquette said. "And we have a number of pitchers in the 'pen that are capable of doing just that."
Patton, 26, might also have to serve as a long reliever if needed. But at this point, he doesn't care what his role is.
"It's been a very high-anxiety time," said Patton, who didn't allow a run in 10 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, giving up eight hits and four walks and striking out four batters. "But I knew as long as I pitched well this spring, something good would happen. I'd be somewhere pitching, hopefully, and they liked me enough to keep me on the team."
O'Day, 29, was slowed this spring by a strained groin but pitched well late, giving up three runs (one earned) in six innings during major league games while striking out eight batters.
"I wish I would have never gotten hurt, but it all worked out," said O'Day, whom the Orioles claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers in November. "Maybe it was a blessing because I got to work with [pitching coach] Rick Adair on some things. It's all coming together at the right time."
This will be O'Day's fifth straight season making an Opening Day roster; it will be Patton's first.
"Being able to experience Opening Day is a dream come true because that in my mind means you actually made it," said Patton, whom the Orioles acquired in the 2007 deal that sent Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros. "Whether or not you stay or whatever, if you are there for Opening Day, you are one of the 25 that made it out of camp. And that's a big milestone with me."
The Orioles' other final moves were expected. Lefty Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow impingement) was placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 28, and catcher Taylor Teagarden (back strain) was put on the DL retroactive to March 26.
The club also purchased the contracts of first baseman-designated hitter Nick Johnson and reserve catcher Ronny Paulino.
Orioles set rotation
The three right-handers will be followed by lefty Brian Matusz, who will start Monday at Camden Yards against the Yankees, and lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who will pitch the club's fifth game, against New York on Tuesday.
Chen was once thought to be a candidate for the second spot, but Showalter said he wanted the Taiwanese rookie, who had spent the past four seasons playing in Japan, to get a little more acclimated before his first start.
"I'm trying to get Chen some more time, trying to manage his innings," Showalter said. "It's his first time in a five-man rotation, [we're] trying to pick our spots with him."
Showalter said it's not by design that his two lefties will be facing the lefty-heavy Yankees lineup next week.
"They've got some real good hitters, period," Showalter said about the Yankees. "It doesn't matter if we throw with both arms. It just stacks up better for everybody's needs."
Major League Baseball announced that Orioles minor league catcher Brian Ward has been suspended 50 games for his second violation of the drug treatment and prevention program. The commissioner's office did not specify what he tested positive for but stated it was "a drug of abuse."
"There's not much I can say about it," Duquette said. "It is part of the drug testing program that Major League Baseball has in place, and we support [that] and are part of Major League Baseball."
Ward, 26, was in the Orioles' big league camp for several weeks this spring as a nonroster invitee. A nondrafted free agent in 2009, Ward batted .254 in 104 games at High-A Frederick last season. He was ticketed for Double-A Bowie and is expected to rejoin the organization at the end of the suspension, which starts immediately.
"The program is in place to doll out sanctions and [then] have the employee return to work," Duquette said.
A Reynolds homecoming
Third baseman Mark Reynolds, who grew up in Virginia Beach and used to come to Norfolk as a kid to watch minor league baseball, played at Harbor Park for the first time in his career in the Orioles' 6-4 loss to the Tides, their Triple-A affiliate.
"I used to come to games here, so it is a pretty cool experience to be back here playing," said Reynolds, who lived in Virginia until he moved to Arizona a few years ago. "I was never a specific team's fan. I remember going to old Met Park across the street when they were the Tidewater Tides, and then they built this place. We would come check games out and try to chase down foul balls and just have fun at the ballpark."
Reynolds left roughly 100 passes for friends and family to attend the game. He also bought 150 barbecue sandwiches from his favorite eatery in Norfolk, Doumar's, and had them distributed them to players and staff.
Duquette on prospects
The Orioles' top position prospects, infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, will start the season together at Double-A Bowie because, Duquette said, he believes that's where they both belong.
"I think that both these kids are qualified major league infielders, and I think they are both ready for Double-A," Duquette said.
Machado will play shortstop and Schoop, who also is a shortstop, likely will play primarily second base.
Machado, the club's first-round pick in 2010, is just 19 and played in 63 games at High-A Frederick last season. There was talk of his staying there to start 2012, but the organization decided to promote him and see what he can do at what might be the most competitive level in the minors.
"First of all, he believes he's a big leaguer, and the way he goes about his business, he knows he has talent. He can play shortstop," Duquette said of Machado. "The way he ranged to his left for ground balls and to his right for pop-ups showed me he can be a really top-quality shortstop and he just needs some at-bats. And Double-A is a key developmental level, so why not now?"
Around the horn
Duquette said he had trade discussions heading into setting his roster Wednesday, but "they weren't really attractive to us." … Matusz allowed three hits and one walk while striking out five in four scoreless innings against the Tides. He threw 57 pitches (35 strikes). ... The Tides scored three runs off Jason Berken, who allowed three hits in one inning. ... The announced crowd for the exhibition was 8,749. … The Norfolk Admirals, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, were honored at Wednesday's game for their AHL record 23-game winning streak. … The Orioles signed catcher Chris Robinson to a minor league deal Tuesday and sent him to Norfolk. The 27-year-old batted .316 with one homer and 29 RBIs in 66 games with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs last season. ... Duquette said nothing had been decided yet concerning left-hander Dana Eveland, who was designated for assignment last week.
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