With teams all over the majors racing to finalize their Opening Day 25-man and organizational rosters, an influx of players are becoming available on waivers and through trades this week.
There is mutual interest in a return, according to sources, and if the Orioles are going to bring in a player to take away a roster spot from someone who has been in camp all spring, it’s more likely to be a known commodity like Worley than another player from outside the organization who would be considered more of a flier.
“It’s different with a guy like Worley because you have a prior [history] with him,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s like he’s been through camp with us. In fact, he’s been through the fire of the season. The other guys, this is where your professional scouting comes into play and [executive vice president Dan Duquette’s] trust factor in those evaluations, whether ‘X’ player is better than the player you’ve got here.”
Worley, 29, had a 3.53 ERA for the Orioles last season, giving the club valuable innings after early exits by starters. He entered this spring as a front-runner to win a long-relief spot with the Nationals — a spot that presumably will be won by another former Oriole, right-hander Jeremy Guthrie — but he had a 4.80 ERA in eight Grapefruit League appearances.
Worley allowed five runs in his first three Grapefruit League appearances spanning six innings, but tossed scoreless frames in four of his past five spring outings. His worst spring appearance came in that span, as he allowed nine base runners and four runs (three earned) in a 3 1/3-inning outing against the New York Yankees on March 20.
However, even though Worley signed an incentive-based deal with the Nationals this offseason, he could still be looking for a major league roster spot. And because he doesn’t have minor league options, that would put a fork into the team’s current long-relief dynamic -- which includes several optionable arms who can be shuttled between the majors and the minors when the team needs a fresh arm.
The most likely internal candidates to win long-relief jobs are right-hander Tyler Wilson and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Both have had their share of struggles, but Wilson has come on strong in his past three spring outings and Showalter values having a lefty like Nuno to bring in behind a right-handed starter to turn the lineup over.
“You know me,” Showalter said. “I’ve got to really get sold to take somebody that one person or analytics are trumpeting over someone that we know a whole lot about here. The tiebreaker is going to be the people over here. We know what we’re getting. We’ve seen enough reps that we’ve got a pretty good feel of what we’re going to get or not get. I don’t have any trepidation about people we’ve had here all spring. We have a pretty good feel for what we’re going to get. We’re going to have some people in Norfolk who we can easily take and can come up and do a good job for us."
Rotation order undecided: Showalter said the team has yet to decide how the rest of the rotation slots beyond Dylan Bundy in the second game of the season Wednesday. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will start either April 7 or April 8; left-hander Wade Miley remains a question mark because he has thrown only 13 Grapefruit League innings.
The club would ideally like to get Miley one more start before he opens the season. He went two weeks between starts this month because of a lingering flu bug, though placing him on the disabled list could prove to be a challenge because he’s physically able to pitch.
If the team is able to place Miley on the DL, he could continue to build his innings count – possibly in a simulated game – at a minor league affiliate. Any DL move to open the season can be backdated to Thursday, so he would be eligible to return April 9.
If the Orioles were able to carry just three starters on Opening Day – they have two days off in the first four days of the season -- it would allow them to carry 15 position players. That would help Trey Mancini, Craig Gentry and Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez to all break camp with the team or allow the team to carry an eighth reliever going into the season.
As the club heads north after Thursday’s game ahead of Friday's exhibition at Triple-A Norfolk, Jimenez will remain in Sarasota an extra day to get his work in.
Asher to pitch Friday: Newly acquired right-hander Alec Asher will pitch in Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale, Showalter said. He will likely get two innings, but he will remain on schedule after making his last appearance for the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.
Acquired Tuesday from the Phillies for cash or a player to be named, Asher reported to Orioles camp Wednesday morning and was scheduled for a light toss session.
“I wish we could pitch him a little more,” Showalter said. “He needs to pitch.”
Tillman's rehab: The Orioles have scheduled out right-hander Chris Tillman’s rehabilitation schedule through his first game action in an extended spring game.
Tillman has thrown two light catch sessions, and will throw one more on flat ground to his maximum comfort before throwing bullpen side sessions Saturday, Monday and Wednesday in Baltimore.
He is then scheduled to return to the team’s major league complex in Sarasota to throw live batting practice to hitters on April 8 and his first game in an extended spring game on April 11. Tillman’s track will then be re-evaluated after that outing, but the next step would be a rehab start with a minor league affiliate.