SARASOTA, FLA. — In the final days of spring training, the Orioles have been stung by a rash of injuries, the latest one hitting the team's best hitter of the spring.
Third baseman Jimmy Paredes became the latest Orioles player who will likely open the season on the disabled list, beset by a lower back strain he suffered earlier this week while lifting weights.
Paredes joins outfielder David Lough and shortstop J.J. Hardy as players who have been injured over the course of the past week. Both will begin the season on the DL. Catcher Matt Wieters will also open the season on the disabled list.
The switch-hitting Paredes was battling for one of the club's final roster spots and appeared close to making the team after hitting .364 (20-for-55) with 10 extra-base hits (seven doubles, one triple and two homers) and 12 RBIs.
Because he last played on Tuesday, Paredes wouldn't be eligible to return from the disabled list until April 16 and by that time, it's uncertain whether the Orioles will have a place for him.
"It's a little depressing because he had a chance to make our club initially," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Though still murky, the loss of Paredes, along with the sticky situation involving right-hander Ryan Webb that emerged on Friday, makes the Orioles' roster situation become a bit clearer as Sunday's 3 p.m. roster deadline approaches.
The Orioles placed Webb, who was 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 49 1/3 innings in 51 appearances with the team last season, on waivers this week hoping that another team would claim him and take on his $2.75-million salary for 2015.
No club bit, and now because Webb has more than five years of major league service, he can refuse an assignment to the minor leagues. A provision in his contract forces the Orioles to either keep him on the major league roster or release him, but the Orioles are likely to eat the remaining money on his contract.
They're unlikely to find a trade partner, even if they're willing to cover a portion of Webb's salary, because once he is released, any team can sign him for the $507,500 major league minimum.
Showalter said Friday that Webb remained on the club's spring roster, which currently sits at 35 players.
Wieters, Lough, Hardy and probably Paredes will head to the DL, while first baseman Chris Davis will be on the restricted list serving the final game of a 25-game suspension.
Showalter indicated he is open to carrying 13 pitches on the Opening Day roster. He doesn't plan to name a fifth starter — either Ubaldo Jimenez or Kevin Gausman — until following the first or second game of the season, so they will carry both.
An extra bullpen slot also makes it more possible to carry Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia.
"It's an option for us," Showalter said. "So much changes, now it's hour to hour."
Norris to start home opener
Showalter named right-hander Bud Norris to start the Orioles' home opener against the Blue Jays on Friday.
Norris, who won a career-high 15 games last season, has struggled this spring. He is 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts. He made his last spring start in a Triple-A game on Wednesday, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings.
"I've got a lot of confidence that the guy who pitched for us last year is going to be there for us this year," Showalter said. "He's healthy. His arm strength is there. He had a good outing the last time out. Sometimes the guys who have the worst statistical spring end up having the best spring.
"So there's no blueprint for it.When you tell them to come down here and get their work and be healthy and then they do that and then you base the whole thing on whether he gets some Triple-A hitter out in the fourth inning or something."
Showalter said he would base his rotation order on matchups, and Norris had great success against the Blue Jays last season going 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA in five starts against Toronto. He also put up strong numbers at Camden Yards last season, going 8-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 13 home starts.
Hardy feeling better
While Hardy's recovery from a left shoulder injury appears to be progressing better than expected, it is still unlikely that Hardy will be able to come off the disabled list when he is eligible next Saturday.
Hardy said the swelling in his shoulder has subsided and he has full range of motion.
"It's been good so far," Hardy said. "I think every day there's been improvement. We've still got to wait until there's nothing in there before we can really get after it so that way I'm not dealing with a sore shoulder if I try to come back too soon and I'm dealing with that the whole year. I really want to knock it out…but overall good."
Hardy said his timetable hasn't changed — last Monday, Showalter said Hardy would be shelved from baseball activities for 10 days — but he said he feels his recovery is ahead of schedule.
"It seems like everybody what they've expected, it seems like I've been better than what they've expected every day," Hardy said. "I'm encouraged. They're encouraged. It's just a matter of time before its strengthened enough to get back into baseball activities."
Around the horn
Miguel Gonzalez threw 65 pitches in five innings in a Triple-A minor-league game on Friday in Port Charlotte in his final tune up before pitching in the Orioles' third game of the regular season on Wednesday at Tampa Bay. Gonzalez said he allowed three homers in the outing, in part because the minor leaguers were hunting fastballs. … Lough (sore left hamstring) was 2-for-4 playing four innings in a Triple-A minor league game. He will continue to play in extended spring games until joining the Orioles in Baltimore before the home opener. … The Orioles named advance scouting coordinator Ben Werthan to become the video replay coordinator, replacing Adam Gladstone.