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Baltimore Orioles

Versatile Chris Owings happy to contribute (almost) anywhere; Orioles bring back pitchers Chris Ellis, Conner Greene | NOTES

SARASOTA, Fla. — Chris Owings’ first workout as an Oriole on Tuesday featured practically every glove he owns: his most frequently used for middle-infield work, the outfield glove he’s worn more often in recent seasons, the first-base mitt he’s deployed in only spring training.

“Catcher is where I kind of draw the line,” Owings quipped Wednesday morning.

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He perhaps picked a bad day to make such a declaration, with opportunity suddenly available after Adley Rutschman, Baltimore’s top prospect, was shut down with a right tricep strain. But Owings, 30, is otherwise willing to play wherever the Orioles will need him to, though he figures to get most of his work as a shortstop candidate after signing a minor league deal Tuesday.

During his nine-season career, Owings has appeared in major league games at every position but first base and catcher. This marks the third straight year he’s signed a minor league deal, the previous two coming with the Colorado Rockies. He batted .298/.372/.536 over 94 plate appearances in those two seasons with the Rockies — success that he said was the result of swing changes focused on his keeping his swing path through the ball — but dealt with injuries both years. He spent most of 2021 on the injured list with a left thumb injury that required surgery.

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He played winter ball in the Dominican Republic in the offseason, appearing in 20 games and nearly matching his number of plate appearances with Colorado. He moved around, playing second, third, center and right, but there’s a path to playing time for him at shortstop with the Orioles. Baltimore has Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo on the 40-man roster, but neither has much major league experience.

“I can bring a lot to the table, if that role changes, so it’s not just that this is my position and this is it,” Owings said. “I am flexible, but right now, I think I’m going to be working at shortstop mostly.”

The Orioles are having Owings move between infield and outfield groups during workouts, allowing him to get to know both sets of players and take on the veteran mantle that has also been bestowed on free-agent signees Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos. He said he had a similar role in Colorado and is glad to do so again as one of five players 30 or older in Baltimore’s 65-player camp.

“I have a little experience, and just helping some young guys grow and me playing different positions, I’m in different groups all at different times,” Owings said. “I think it is unique for me to experience what it’s like to be an outfielder or what it’s like to be an infielder, so I do bring a little bit to the table with that. But yeah, it’s funny. When I looked at the roster, I am definitely one of the older guys here, and I don’t feel like I am a veteran. I don’t feel like I’m 35, right? I have been in baseball a little bit, but I feel like I still have some baseball to play, for sure.”

Ellis, Greene sign minor league deals

A pair of right-handers who played significant roles in the Orioles’ pitching staff late in 2021 returned to the organization Wednesday. Chris Ellis and Conner Greene signed minor league contracts that included invitations to spring training.

Ellis, 29, made six strong starts for the Orioles after joining the club on an August waiver claim from the Tampa Bay Rays, posting a 2.49 ERA. After ending the season on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, he was outrighted to Triple-A and elected free agency. A hard thrower, Greene, 26, had a 7.71 ERA with Baltimore but got a few late-season, high-leverage opportunities.

Manager Brandon Hyde also announced that Spenser Watkins, another right-hander on Baltimore’s 2021 pitching staff who re-signed on a minor league contract before the lockout, will start Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ed Smith Stadium.

Mattson (shoulder) is pain-free

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Right-hander Isaac Mattson said his pitching shoulder is free of pain a day after Hyde said the 26-year-old reliever is a month behind and thus won’t be able to break camp the Orioles.

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One of four pitchers Baltimore acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in December 2020 for starter Dylan Bundy, Mattson said he had some shoulder pain in August but felt healthy after taking a couple of weeks off. When he started throwing in the fall, the inflammation returned, and he got a physical therapy plan from the Orioles not long before the league-imposed lockout began, which prevented the team from communicating with Mattson as he recovered.

Mattson said he was still able to work out throughout the offseason, with some lifts modified for the sake of his shoulder. Although his in-game return to the mound will be delayed, Mattson threw a bullpen session Saturday, throwing 75% fastballs.

“It’s a little disappointing, but at the same time, just got to control what I can and do the best I can to be ready when I can be,” Mattson said. “Just following the steps that the training staff’s put in place and taking care of my body as best I can.”

League names return to MiLB

Minor League Baseball announced Wednesday that league names will return in 2022 after leagues were named for their level and geographical region in 2021.

After spending last year in Triple-A East, the Norfolk Tides are back to playing in the International League, with Double-A Bowie once again part of the Eastern League.

Before the realignment of the minor leagues before last season, the South Atlantic League housed Low-A teams, but it’s now home to Baltimore’s High-A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds. Delmarva, a former member of the South Atlantic League, is part of the Carolina League.


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