The Orioles on Thursday announced the 30-player roster they will use for Friday’s Opening Day game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the first of 60 games they will play in a season shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Opening Day arrangement includes outfielders Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Santander, both of whom tested positive for the coronavirus during intake testing and missed the first two or so weeks of the team’s abbreviated camp. Infielder Pat Valaika, acquired through waivers twice this offseason, made the club and filled the open spot on the team’s 40-man roster, Thursday’s only addition to that group.
Outfielder Cedric Mullins made the Orioles’ Opening Day roster for a second straight year after beginning 2019 as Baltimore’s starting center fielder before struggling mightily and eventually being demoted to Double-A. He’ll provide speed and defense off the bench and offer outfield coverage as the club continues to ramp up Santander and Smith.
The roster does not include pitchers John Means, Hunter Harvey or Dillon Tate, all of whom were placed on the 10-day injured list Thursday with various arm ailments. They join infielder Richie Martin (broken wrist) and outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini (colon cancer treatment) on the IL, with Martin and Mancini on the 60-day IL and likely to miss the full season.
Means, the 2019 All-Star who was Baltimore’s scheduled Opening Day starter before a bout of arm fatigue, has a “really good chance” of returning to pitch one of the Orioles’ two games next week in Miami, manager Brandon Hyde said Wednesday.
Harvey, a 2013 first-round pick who the Orioles converted to relief last year, has some muscular soreness in his right elbow area, but Hyde described the Orioles’ caution with him as “conservative,” given Harvey’s history of arm injuries.
Tate has been sidelined for nearly two weeks since taking a line drive off his right arm while pitching in an intrasquad game. Those IL stints are retroactive to Monday, meaning each pitcher can first be activated July 30.
With Means, Harvey and Tate sidelined, pitchers David Hess, Evan Phillips and Travis Lakins Sr. filled out a 16-man pitching staff. Hess, who opened last year in Baltimore’s rotation, figures to provide Hyde with a long-relief option.
Phillips and Lakins are among the nine Orioles who are on their first Opening Day roster, along with outfielders Austin Hays and DJ Stewart; infielder Andrew Velazquez; and pitchers Tanner Scott, Kohl Stewart and Cole Sulser.
Notable exclusions from the Opening Day roster include catchers Bryan Holaday and Austin Wynns, outfielders Ryan Mountcastle and Mason Williams, infielder Dilson Herrera, and right-handers César Valdez and Thomas Eshelman. All but Wynns and Mountcastle were nonroster invitees to training camp and thus would’ve needed to be added to Baltimore’s 40-man roster. They will join the 13 players already training at the Orioles’ alternate site in Bowie and participate in intrasquad games there to prepare should they be called upon during the season.
Along with Mountcastle — the Orioles’ No. 5 prospect according to Baseball America — catcher Adley Rutschman (No. 1); pitchers DL Hall (No. 3), Keegan Akin (No. 9), Michael Baumann (No. 10) and Dean Kremer (No. 11); and outfielder Yusniel Díaz (No. 6) will be part of the group in Bowie.
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Before the pandemic, rosters were set to expand this season by one spot to 26 players. Given the rapid nature of the 60-game campaign coming together, teams can have 30 players on their rosters for the first two weeks, then 28 for two weeks, then down to 26 through the end of the season. For all road trips, the Orioles will be permitted to carry a three-player taxi squad, with one of those players required to be a catcher.