PHILADELPHIA — Former Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez cleared release waivers Friday, officially receiving his unconditional release from the club and becoming a free agent.
It seems unlikely, but the Orioles still hope they can re-sign Gonzalez to a minor league deal and have him pitch in the rotation at Triple-A Norfolk. Gonzalez will likely get a major league offer elsewhere.
"We still hope that we can figure out a way to have him pitching in Norfolk here very shortly," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Miguel is in some ways a no-lose situation. He's going to get offers from other clubs, including us, and we'll see what's the best way to hold our depth and put the best team on the field."
The Norfolk rotation could definitely use an upgrade. Since Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson will open the season with the major league club, the current Triple-A rotation consists of Odrisamer Despaigne, Todd Redmond, Nick Additon and Terry Doyle.
The Orioles placed Gonzalez on release waivers Wednesday, parting ways with a key piece of their starting rotation for the past three-plus seasons. By releasing Gonzalez before Opening Day, the team paid him just $1.275 million instead of the $5.1 million he agreed to this offseason through the arbitration process.
Showalter seemed optimistic but realistic that Gonzalez could return.
"It's the same chance that other teams have," Showalter said. "I'd like to think ours are a little better, but we'll see. He's earned the right to make the choice of where he wants to go. I talked to him about it [Friday], not long after he cleared. I wanted him to hear from [pitching coach Dave Wallace] and I and [bullpen coach Dom Chiti].
"I know Dom and Wally have been staying in touch with him. He's already been contacted by three or four clubs, so we'll see where it goes. … He talked to Dom about the clubs he had heard from, so I've got an idea of where the competition is."
Roe and Phillips clear waivers: The Orioles passed relievers Chaz Roe and Zach Phillips through waivers unclaimed and will outright both to Norfolk, essentially setting the club's bullpen as Opening Day looms.
Both players can reject outright assignments to Triple-A, but because both are signed to major league deals, it's unlikely they would refuse those assignments.
That essentially sets the Orioles bullpen to be closer Zach Britton, setup man Darren O'Day, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Dylan Bundy and T.J. McFarland. Either Wilson or Vance Worley will start on April 10 when the Orioles need a fifth starter, but Showalter said both candidates will initially be available out of the bullpen. Left-hander Brian Matusz is set to open the season on the disabled list.
Roe was a nonroster invitee to camp last year, but came up in late May and had a 0.90 ERA in his first 15 outings (20 innings, holding batters to a .162 batting average). Roe struggled in the second half of the season and eventually went on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, but pitched well this spring. He posted a 2.31 ERA over 11 2/3 spring innings and did not allow an earned run in his last eight outings over 8 1/3 innings.
"Chaz, I have no doubt he has the ability to impact our club this year. It would be nice to have him down there, especially with the amount of roster spots we have open to us now," Showalter said.
"It's kind of like having a player with an option to have those many roster spots open. Most clubs don't have three roster spots open this time of the year. That's why those guys got through, that and what it costs to pay them."
Phillips, who was signed to a major league deal last week to serve as insurance for Matusz, allowed three runs over 3 1/3 spring innings with the Orioles. Phillips being outrighted means that the Orioles will open the season without a situational lefty reliever.
Kim still with club: Outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was with the team for its exhibition game against the Phillies on Friday night in Philadelphia but again did not start. He pinch hit in the ninth.
The Orioles are trying to talk Kim into accepting an assignment to Triple-A. But according to a clause in Kim's two-year $7 million contract, he can refuse the assignment. After Friday's game, Kim confirmed that he doesn't want to go to the minors.
The sides have talked multiple times with no resolution, and Kim's agency issued a statement Thursday saying he would not accept a minor league assignment.
"I'd like to think you prepare for everything," Showalter said. "So I'll let the people that are handling it handle it, and we'll be in a position to adjust either way. … If he's on the club, you obviously have to take someone off of it. We're settled on which way we're going to go. We've got plenty of roster room."
Rosters must be set by Sunday, so it's looking more likely the Orioles will be forced to carry Kim on their Opening Day roster. He hasn't started since last Saturday.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette declined an interview request through the team Friday, saying through a spokesperson that he had nothing to add about Kim.
More cuts: After Friday's game, the Orioles reassigned right-hander Pedro Beato, outfielder L.J. Hoes, infielder Paul Janish, right-hander Todd Redmond and infielder Steve Tolleson to minor league camp. They also optioned catcher Francisco Pena to Norfolk.
With these moves, the Orioles now have 28 players on the active roster and one nonroster invitee at the conclusion of major league spring training.
Around the horn: On Friday, right-hander Kevin Gausman (shoulder tendinitis) threw his first bullpen session since receiving a cortisone injection, throwing 25-30 pitches, all fastballs and changeups. … Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez threw four innings (60 pitches) in a Triple-A intrasquad game Friday in Sarasota, allowing two earned runs on six hits, striking out two and walking one. Jimenez will make his first regular-season start Thursday against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards. … Matusz (1 2/3 IP, 0 H, 1 K, 3 BB, 37 pitches), Britton (1 IP, 1 H, 2 K, 12 pitches), O'Day (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 pitches) and Bundy (1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 19 pitchers) all pitched in the same minor league intrasquad game in Sarasota. ... Orioles minor league left-hander Felix Rutledge was suspended 50 games without pay after a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Rutledge is on High-A Frederick's roster. ... Former Orioles catcher Taylor Teagarden, among the athletes accused of using performance-enhancing drugs in a December report by Al Jazeera, was suspended 80 games for violating the league's drug policy.