The Orioles added a pair of pitchers, right-handers Joe Gunkel and Jesus Liranzo, to their 40-man roster Friday night ahead of the deadline to protect players from next month’s Rule 5 draft.
“Joe Gunkel is able to use a three-pitch mix effectively to keep hitters off-balance and has excellent command of his pitches,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said in a statement. “Jesus Liranzo has a power arm, as well as a sinker and slider with strikeout potential. He advanced quickly through our minor league system this past year by limiting walks and hits."
Gunkel came to the Orioles from the Boston Red Sox in a 2015 trade for outfielder Alejandro De Aza. The 24-year-old has posted a career 3.30 ERA in the minors with a 1.12 WHIP, and in 2016 had a 4.02 ERA over 28 starts with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
While he might not be a starter at the major league level, Gunkel could easily slot into a long-relief role with his repeatable, deceptive delivery and above-average command.
Liranzo was signed by the Orioles in 2013 after he was released from the Atlanta Braves' Dominican Summer League team, but only made his debut in the United States this year.
He had elbow surgery in 2014, and was finally fully healthy in 2016. This season, at age 21, Liranzo posted a 1.87 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 27 walks in 53 innings with Low-A Delmarva and Bowie.
The Orioles had seven open spots on the 40-man roster, but decided against adding more than the two pitchers. Relievers Stefan Crichton and Jimmy Yacabonis, catcher Audry Perez and outfielder Mike Yastrzemski are among those who were left off the roster and could interest other teams.
Liranzo, however, is a prospect several scouts had pegged as a player they’d take if the Orioles left him unprotected.
Some of the luster of this year’s crop of additions was sapped when the Orioles added first baseman Trey Mancini to the roster in September. Mancini would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft were he not added.