Sarasota, FL -- 02/21/2015 -- Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (left) and executive vice president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette chat while they watch pitchers throw during spring training at the Orioles' spring facility Saturday, Feb 21, 2015.
Sarasota, FL -- 02/21/2015 -- Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (left) and executive vice president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette chat while they watch pitchers throw during spring training at the Orioles' spring facility Saturday, Feb 21, 2015. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

On Thursday, the Orioles have the opportunity to dip into their minor league reserves for reinforcements as they can expand their roster size up to 40 players.

Manager Buck Showalter shed some light on how the Sept. 1 roster additions might play out for his team.

Advertisement

Here's a rundown, as best as we know:

They'll add "at least one" outfielder who isn't currently on the roster

Showalter said as much Wednesday, plus the team could return rookie Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard. He'll have his injured right thumb evaluated on Friday, and his status will dictate whether he is put on the 60-day disabled list (eligible to return on Sept. 19) or stay on the regular DL.

Those non-roster options include Julio Borbon, Chris Dickerson, Xavier Avery, and L.J. Hoes, probably in that order. Borbon has been up twice as cover, and could be again. Dickerson has been at Double-A Bowie for barely two weeks after working his way back from shoulder surgery.

…but that means they'll have to create roster spots

The number Showalter has thrown around is three or four roster spots that need to be created. Rickard's could be one if he goes on the 60-day disabled list, but they won't know that until Tuesday. They'll also have to create a spot to add left-handed reliever Brian Duensing back from the 60-day disabled list on Sept. 5. So that could be a wash.

To create roster spots, there will seemingly have to be a name or two coming off the 40-man roster who could just as easily be called up in roster expansion. Outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Christian Walker are both hitting well of late, but Alvarez has been up twice this season and doesn't seem to have the confidence of the coaching staff. Walker has had a shaky transition to left field this year.

Incredibly, every pitcher on the 40-man roster has been up to the majors this season, except for for injured left-hander Chris Lee (shoulder). That could make for tough decisions if one of the pitchers needs to come off the roster. Even though they have minor league options remaining, T.J. McFarland, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Jason Garcia could be candidates to come off.

Relief help on the way

Just like the outfielders, however, there are lots of options for where pitching help can come from. Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright are obvious candidates, though Showalter said Wright would probably start in Norfolk through the balance of their season.

Left-hander Ashur Tolliver has struck out five in three scoreless innings since returning from a hamstring injury at Norfolk, and could join up as well. Parker Bridwell could use some time in the major league bullpen to continue to acclimate to that new lifestyle, even if he doesn't pitch much. Despaigne could eat innings if he sticks around.

The Orioles' 40-man roster is almost exclusively made up of players who have been up in relief this season and could be again. So this is a hard one.

They could make early Rule 5-eligible additions

If the Orioles have any players who could contribute now and are assured of being protected from the Rule 5 draft by being added to the 40-man roster this fall, that could come now. A few big names, and a few smaller ones, fall into this category.

Advertisement

First baseman Trey Mancini comes to mind, and is batting .270 with an .808 OPS and 20 home runs between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He'll be redundant on the Orioles' roster now, though he could be a bat off the bench against left-handers. He's probably a lock to be added at some point, though.

If they want to add an outfielder that might not just come off the roster at season's end, they could go with Mike Yastrzemski. He's scuffled a bit at Triple-A this year, batting .222 with a .670 OPS, six home runs, and 10 steals. His current-season production aside, Yastrzemski has fourth-outfielder potential given his ability to play all three positions and provide speed. Those are the types of players that get taken in the Rule 5 draft, and if the Orioles are sure he will, they might as well get that return now.

Another player who needs to be added to the 40-man roster or else be left exposed to the Rule 5 draft is right-hander Joe Gunkel, who has been consistent all season at Triple-A Norfolk, where he has a 3.75 ERA. He has a career 3.19 minor league ERA, and was a player plenty of teams asked Boston for before the Orioles acquired him from the Red Sox for outfielder Alejandro De Aza last year. Even in a long-relief or bullpen role long term, he could be an asset to a team that could carry him on their 25-man roster next year should the Orioles not protect him.

Two possible Rule 5 additions whose future isn't uncertain — they're relievers all the way — have made intriguing cases this year. Jesus Liranzo, a 21-year-old Dominican right-hander, is in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery and is running his fastball up to 95-96 mph with a workable slider at Double-A Bowie. The team moved him to Bowie from Class-A Delmarva, where he was just making his full-season debut, with his Rule 5 status in mind. Another pitching well in the Bowie bullpen is Jimmy Yacabonis, who has struck out 44 in 42 1/3 innings with a 1.91 ERA.

Liranzo is more likely to be added than Yacabonis based on ability alone, but their roster status could come into play.

Trade additions could also take a spot or two

Showalter said general manager Dan Duquette brought him up to speed on several interesting trade opportunities as the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline arrives. Duquette said this weekend he was "working on" adding to their bench and maintaining pitching depth.

Also, Caleb Joseph will be coming back

He's batting .263 with a pair of RBIs in eight games for the Tides.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement