Orioles acquire pitcher Vidal Nuno from the Dodgers. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)
The addition of left-handed swingman Vidal Nuño gives the Orioles added pitching flexibility, not only by giving the club another pitcher who can both start and pitch in varied relief roles, but by adding another pitcher with minor league options.
It can be difficult to carry pitchers who are out of minor league options, and in recent months the Orioles have concentrated on not just added pitching depth, but optionable pitching depth, by adding Nuño and right-handers Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett.
In acquiring Nuño, the Orioles designated left-hander T.J. McFarland — who was out of minor league options — for assignment. If McFarland clears waivers, he would be outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk and could start the year in the minors without the team risking losing him again.
"We got caught in some tough situations last year where we couldn't manipulate or maneuver the way we needed to with the option status, but it's something Dan [Duquette] and I, we talked about a lot and it's something we've really been able to improve at," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's one of the things with the decision with T.J. If you don't feel it's a given, that he's going to make your club, then you're sitting there at the end of spring. But we're hoping he ends up back with us. We'll see what the next couple of days bring."
Last year, the Orioles carried Vance Worley — who was out of options — first as a starter and then a long reliever. Two years ago, the club carried Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia as a long reliever. By doing so, the team had one less spot to bring up a fresh relief arm when it was needed.
"It's tough," Showalter said. "We were fortunate that Vance was good at it last year. If they're not, the only way to maneuver around it is to release a guy. And that has a certain sense of finality that it's tough to do early on."
Showalter added that the available crop of optionable arms runs deep into the minors, and the Orioles haven't been hesitant in bringing up pitchers from Double-A Bowie.
"I look at it as 36 pitchers between Bowie and [Triple-A] Norfolk and Baltimore," Showalter said. "I think our guys really believe that. Someone was telling me the number of players who started the year not in camp last year who ended up playing with us. But we've got to continue to have those guys who have that option."
This spring, the Orioles face another difficult decision with right-hander Oliver Drake, who is also out of options.
Around the horn: RHP Logan Ondrusek, who rolled his right ankle this past weekend, participated in some drills Monday but won't pitch in either intrasquad game Tuesday or Wednesday.