The Orioles optioned reliever Donnie Hart to Triple-A Norfolk before Sunday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets, trimming the club’s big league spring training roster to 41 players.
Hart, 28, was competing for a left-handed bullpen spot but allowed opposing hitters to bat .323 against him in eight Grapefruit League innings this spring. He allowed four hits and walked three in 3 2/3 scoreless innings against left-handed hitters.
Last season, Hart struggled to duplicate his 2016 success against lefties that made him a valuable part of the Orioles bullpen. He allowed left-handed hitters a .371 on-base percentage. When Hart debuted with the Orioles in 2016, he posted a sparkling 0.49 ERA in 18 1/3 relief innings, holding left-handed hitters to a .132 average and .190 on-base percentage.
“He’s got a couple of guys ahead of him right now, and Donnie, I think he’ll work his way back into it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “…I think Donnie just needs to get back to kind of like he was when he first got here. Just be a little more aggressive and trust his stuff and be a little more…He’s got three pitches that he can get you out with, and [they’re] all the right pitch. We were telling him today. It’s just the conviction you throw them with. He second guesses himself. … It’s just some indecision and I think he’ll take a deep breath and just kind of trust himself a little more, but he’s capable of helping us. I expect him to pitch well and get back on the map.”
His departure with a week remaining in camp would suggest he’s dropped down the left-handed reliever depth chart. Left-hander Richard Bleier has a spot in the team’s bullpen, and Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. might also if he does not earn the final rotation spot.
Hard-throwing lefty prospect Tanner Scott remains in camp, as do nonroster lefty relievers Josh Edgin and Joely Rodríguez.