Despite going into spring training as a top candidate to win an Opening Day roster spot, outfielder Joey Rickard was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk earlier than anticipated Wednesday with 11 days remaining in camp.
Along with Rickard, infielder Rubén Tejada — who was competing for the club’s utility infielder position — was reassigned to minor league camp, trimming the team’s major league camp roster to 42 players.
The likelihood of Rickard making the club steadily diminished as the Orioles added more outfield options. The week before camp began, the Orioles re-signed Craig Gentry to a minor league deal, and then added veterans Colby Rasmus and Alex Presley on minor league deals. With the team wanting to see more of prospects Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins, Rickard ended up being the player sent out before all of them.
Rickard, who made the Opening Day roster in 2016 and 2017 — first as a Rule 5 pick and then again last year — graded out last season as one of the top defensive outfielders in the American League. But he struggled at the plate this spring, hitting just .152/.282/.182 in 15 games.
The Orioles re-signed Tejada to compete for the utility spot with Luis Sardiñas and Éngelb Vielma, but was the first of the three candidates to be cut. He hit .194/.237/.250 in 19 Grapefruit League games, but more importantly, he didn’t show that he could earn the club’s trust defensively.