BOSTON — Hours before beginning their 2023 season, the Orioles put the finishing touches on their 26-man roster for Thursday’s opening day matchup at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.
Baltimore’s roster had featured 31 players since the cuts that followed Monday’s spring training finale, with a swap of bullpen candidates taking place Tuesday to keep that figure in place. Needing to reduce it by five, the Orioles placed four veterans — pitchers John Means (60 day), Mychal Givens (15 day) and Dillon Tate (15 day) and catcher James McCann (10 day) — on the injured list and optioned right-hander Joey Krehbiel to Triple-A Norfolk.
“I’m looking forward to the season,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I’m ready for this to start, honestly. I thought we had a really good spring training. I thought we made some big progress. I think guys improved over the course of the year last year into spring training this year, so I’m looking forward to watching them play.”
It’s been known throughout spring that the Orioles would open the season without Means and Tate. Means isn’t expected to return from last year’s Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery until July at the earliest, and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias announced Tate’s right elbow flexor strain early in camp, saying it would keep him out through at least April. But McCann’s left oblique strain and Givens’ left knee inflammation came on late in the exhibition slate, meaning two of Baltimore’s five significant offseason additions won’t be on the opening day roster.
Starting pitchers (5): Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells
Two of the others will pitch in this opening series, with veteran Kyle Gibson, signed for $10 million in December, starting Thursday’s season opener and trade acquisition Cole Irvin on the mound in Sunday’s finale. Filling out the Orioles’ rotation are three incumbent right-handers; Dean Kremer occupies the rotation spot between Gibson and Irvin, and Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells beat out top prospect Grayson Rodriguez for their backend roles.
Relievers (8): Félix Bautista, Bryan Baker, Cionel Pérez, Danny Coulombe, Austin Voth, Keegan Akin, Logan Gillaspie, Mike Baumann
Along with Cionel Pérez and Bryan Baker, Givens and Tate were expected to serve as setup men for closer Félix Bautista, but their injuries opened bullpen spots for two other right-handers in Logan Gillaspie and Mike Baumann. Hyde praised the stuff Gillaspie and Baumann showed this spring, but said it was a “tough conversation” with Krehbiel, a popular figure in the Orioles’ clubhouse. Over recent days, picking two out of Krehbiel, Gillaspie and Baumann to make the roster seemed to be the Orioles’ final decision, barring another acquisition.
They had already added one pitcher who didn’t make another team’s opening day roster in left-hander Danny Coulombe, acquiring him from the Minnesota Twins for cash and adding him to the roster by returning Rule 5 draft pick Andrew Politi to the Red Sox.
Keegan Akin and Austin Voth offer manager Brandon Hyde a left-right tandem of long relievers.
Catchers (2): Adley Rutschman, Anthony Bemboom
With McCann’s side preventing him from serving as Adley Rutschman’s backup to start the year, the Orioles selected Anthony Bemboom’s contract, opening a 40-man roster spot by placing Means on the 60-day IL. Hyde said McCann will begin baseball activities Friday.
“I think it’s gonna be shorter versus longer,” McCann said. “Obliques are funny. There’s not just a set [timeline]. I’ve said this numerous times: If it was a sprained ankle, I’d tape it, and here we go. But oblique, you can’t really do that.”
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Offensively, the Orioles return many of last season’s key figures, boosted by the possibility of full seasons from Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, baseball’s former and current top overall prospect.
Infielders (6): Gunnar Henderson, Ryan Mountcastle, Adam Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías, Terrin Vavra
With McCann sidelined, second baseman Adam Frazier, signed for $8 million, is the only position player on Baltimore’s roster who didn’t play for the club in 2022. Joining him and Henderson on the infield are Ryan Mountcastle, Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías and Terrin Vavra, who along with outfielder Kyle Stowers claimed Baltimore’s final offensive roster spots by beating out a large group of nonroster invitees who were vying to serve as left-handed corner bats.
The Orioles sent Ryan O’Hearn, Josh Lester and Lewin Díaz to the minors and released Franchy Cordero and Nomar Mazara; although Elias expressed interest in re-signing Cordero after his impressive spring, the 28-year-old reportedly agreed to a deal with the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
Outfielders (5): Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, Kyle Stowers, Ryan McKenna
Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Austin Hays all played in at least 145 games last year and return as the starting outfield this season. Stowers could get ample opportunities filling in for the trio and at designated hitter, especially against right-handed pitchers. Ryan McKenna returns to the role he served in last season of offering defense and speed off the bench.
Opening day lineup
- Cedric Mullins, CF
- Adley Rutschman, C
- Anthony Santander, LF
- Ryan Mountcastle, 1B
- Gunnar Henderson, DH
- Ramón Urías, 3B
- Austin Hays, RF
- Adam Frazier, 2B
- Jorge Mateo, SS
Starting pitcher: Kyle Gibson
Hyde said he wanted Urías, a Gold Glove winner last season, at third base, with Mateo, who won the Fielding Bible Award, at shortstop while keeping Henderson’s bat in the lineup.
“These guys are gonna move around quite a bit,” Hyde said. “It’s gonna be pretty much starting pitcher against us dependent with also who we have on the mound. But all these guys are gonna play.”