Baltimore Orioles

Orioles roster projection: Questions remain with bullpen, infield rotation as opening day looms

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thursday marked three weeks until the Orioles begin the regular season at Fenway Park. Spring training to this point has done little to calcify the decisions they’ll have to make in that time.

The club’s first cuts of the spring Thursday did little to alter the competitions in camp.


The Orioles have made it through spring training relatively healthy to this point, which is manager Brandon Hyde’s emphasis whenever roster battles are discussed. Unless there are any changes in that regard — certainly a possibility with three weeks of games left — the majority of their roster appears largely set.

Still, some of Baltimore’s 26 roster spots are up for grabs, and candidates have spent the first two weeks of exhibition games trying to grab them.

Kyle Gibson, pitching for the Orioles against the Pirates on Wednesday, is a candidate to start on opening day.

Starting pitchers (5): Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, Cole Irvin, Grayson Rodriguez

This ordering largely aligns with how the Orioles have set their rotation for exhibitions, with the exception of Tyler Wells starting between Gibson and Bradish as Kremer is set to pitch for Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Austin Voth, another candidate, will start Saturday in Irvin’s place against the Toronto Blue Jays; Irvin will instead throw on the Ed Smith Stadium back fields rather than face a divisional opponent. Spenser Watkins, an underrated regular in last year’s rotation, has pitched behind Rodriguez, the Orioles’ top pitching prospect, twice thus far this spring.

Another four pitchers entered camp as rotation candidates, but they would likely need someone else to struggle and or injuries elsewhere to enter the picture. DL Hall, Baltimore’s No. 2 pitching prospect, had a chance to break in here, but after a late-offseason back injury, he won’t be built up enough.

Relief pitchers (8): Félix Bautista, Mychal Givens, Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker, Tyler Wells, Austin Voth, Andrew Politi, Keegan Akin

Bautista has yet to appear in a spring training game, but the Orioles’ closer is on track to take the mound sometime next week; he’ll need only a handful of outings to be deemed ready for opening day. Pérez and Baker are poised to retain their late-inning roles, with Givens set to join them after returning to the Orioles as a free agent during the offseason.

The other half of the bullpen is less clear. Some of the rotation candidates will wind up here, and Wells and Voth both have previous relief experience. Dillon Tate’s forearm strain will sideline him for most if not all of April, which might open a spot for Andrew Politi, who struggled Thursday but has otherwise impressed, especially with his curveball. As a Rule 5 draft choice, he must make the team to ensure that he remains in the organization. Joey Krehbiel and a starting candidate such as Watkins or Mike Baumann are other options, with the possibility a nonroster invitee pitches his way in.

The Orioles will want another left-hander alongside Pérez, with Akin, Hall and Nick Vespi the likeliest options. Hall and Vespi are coming off injuries and have yet to get into exhibitions, though both could be available when the season begins. Hyde said Akin is “throwing the ball as good as anybody this spring,” also noting that there’s value in having several multi-inning relievers early in the year. This outcome would send Hall to Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation, where he would finish stretching out and potentially be the Orioles’ first call-up when they need another starter.

The only aspect of behind the plate that’s unclear is how often the Orioles will have Adley Rutschman, pictured swinging during a game against the Tigers on March 2, catch.

Catchers (2): Adley Rutschman, James McCann

The only aspect of this position that’s unclear is how often the Orioles will have Rutschman catch. He’s likely to still be in the lineup as the designated hitter with McCann behind the plate, but Rutschman’s value is at its highest when he’s catching, too.

Regardless, the Orioles will benefit from having Rutschman on their roster all season after his 2022 debut was delayed because of a right tricep strain. That injury also prevented him from getting a full spring training’s worth of at-bats, possibly affecting his major league readiness. But after a couple of slow weeks after his late May debut, he was one of baseball’s most productive players; from June 11 on, Aaron Judge was the only position player to perform better in FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement.

Infielders (6): Ryan Mountcastle, Adam Frazier, Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías, Terrin Vavra

Hyde has yet to reveal how he’ll rotate playing time for Frazier, Henderson, Mateo and Urías at second, shortstop and third, saying he simply wants them all to get through camp healthy. If they do, they and Mountcastle are assured five of these spots.


The intrigue comes from the sixth, which figures to provide a left-handed hitter to complement Mountcastle at first base. The Orioles have a bevy of options on their spring roster for that role, but none of them offer the versatility of Vavra, who can also play second, third and the outfield. He was off to a strong start offensively, as well, before experiencing left shoulder discomfort, but he’s expected back in the lineup as soon as Friday. Lewin Díaz, the only left-handed nonroster invitee who doesn’t also play outfield, has impressed Hyde with his ability to hit the ball hard and play first base.

Outfielders (5): Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna, Kyle Stowers

Mullins and Santander are also participating in the World Baseball Classic, opening opportunities in the spring for the same collection of lefty bats vying for the last infield spot. They and Hays are expected to open the season as Baltimore’s starting outfield.

McKenna served as a prototypical fourth outfielder last year, offering late-inning defense and pinch-running. No one in camp has challenged him for that role, but the Orioles could always decide to use Hays, or even Stowers, as Mullins’ backup in center field and instead carry one of the extra left-handed hitters on their bench.

Ryan O’Hearn (9-for-17), Franchy Cordero (7-for-18) and Josh Lester (6-for-18) have had solid performances in camp while showing the ability to play first base and the corner outfield; Lester has also played third. Nomar Mazara, strictly an outfielder, has one hit in 16 spring at-bats.

Any nonroster invitee would need to be added to the 40-man roster to make the trek north with the Orioles, but Baltimore is likely to have left-hander John Means open the season on the 60-day injured list as he completes his rehabilitation from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Baltimore Orioles Insider


Want to be an Orioles Insider? The Sun has you covered. Don't miss any Orioles news, notes and info all baseball season and beyond.

Up next


Grapefruit League

Twins at Orioles

Friday, 6:05 p.m.

Grapefruit League

Orioles at Blue Jays

Saturday, 1:07 p.m.