Having finally fulfilled the major league active roster requirements placed on him since the Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 draft two Decembers ago, switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander was optioned to Double-A Bowie before Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Santander started 27 games for the Orioles, including 25 in right field, and was hitting just .198/.250/.297 with five doubles, one homer and six RBIs in 108 plate appearances. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said sending Santander to Bowie will allow him to play every day. He will play both corner outfield spots for the Baysox, Showalter said.
"It's a good level for him, Showalter said. "But if you look at Anthony's experience, background, you can make a case for it. I just kind of asked, 'Where do you want to send him? Bowie?' That's what I did. … But this guy's turned into a good defender, good runner, great teammate, plays the game right. He's got a lot of attributes you're looking for. … This guy is a college senior, OK? He's going to be one of the younger guys in our Double-A, Triple-A outfield. If he had never appeared here, you'd be really excited about where he was and his status was."
The Orioles recalled outfielder Joey Rickard from Triple-A Norfolk to fill Santander's role with the team. Rickard was hitting .301/.424/.462 in 27 games with the Tides.
Rule 5 picks must remain on the active major league roster for 90 days or be offered back to his original team for half the claiming price. Santander spent most of last season on the disabled list — he opened the year on the DL with a forearm strain and remained there until Aug 16. Because he couldn't reach the 90 days last season, the requirement carried over to the beginning of this season and was satisfied Saturday.
When the Orioles selected Santander from the Cleveland Indians in the Rule 5 draft in December 2016, he had never played above High-A. And while he gained valuable experience at the major league level, the Orioles believe he would benefit from more seasoning at Double-A now that he can be sent to the minors. Also, there's currently a logjam of outfielders at Norfolk with a group that includes DJ Stewart, Alex Presley, Jaycob Brugman and Michael Saunders. Outfield prospect Austin Hays remains in Bowie.
"Let's face it, there's two or three reasons why he was here," Showalter said. "He's a Rule 5 guy. I was hoping he was hitting .280, .300 and taking off and we didn't have this, but as much as we like Anthony, there were some challenges for him here that showed up. … I don't think it really matters that much [where he plays]. We take a lot of guys from Double-A [and] Triple-A. We kind of [thought] it fit better for his development and for everything we're trying to do at those two levels with the personnel. It's a changing landscape."
The Orioles have received limited production from the four Rule 5 picks on the roster entering spring training.
The club still has one Rule 5 pick — right-hander reliever Pedro Araujo — on the current 25-man roster. The team selected three players in the draft this offseason, but returned right-handed reliever Jose Mesa Jr. to the New York Yankees on March 27 and left-handed reliever Nestor Cortés Jr. to the Yankees on April 14. Araujo has a 6.86 ERA.