SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles’ outfield situation got a little clearer Friday when the club released Eric Young Jr.
The 33-year-old outfield candidate, who was signed right before the start of spring training, said he was surprised when he was informed he wouldn’t be making the club, but left open the possibility of re-signing with the team and going to the minor leagues if he doesn’t find a major league job.
“A little bit [surprised],’’ he said, “but at the same time … I’ve been through a lot of situations, so there aren’t too many situations that can shock me. That’s part of the business. I’m happy with the spring that I’ve had, so I’m not too worried about that.”
Young, a 10-year big league veteran, was trying to catch on with his sixth major league club. In 13 spring games, he produced a .323/.462/.452 slash line and said he was satisfied with his performance.
“I had a great spring,” he said, “and showed at 33 that I can hang with the young bucks. Like I said, I’m not worried about it. I did what I was supposed to do on my end. It’s one of those business decisions. They’ve got to do what's best for the organization, and I’ve got to do what’s best for me now.”
Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias agreed, saying in a statement that Young performed well and is still coveted by the organization as a depth piece.
“Eric has looked and played great this spring,’’ Elias said. “Once we determined he was unlikely to make our Opening Day roster, we felt we would allow him to look around for a little while. We plan to keep talking to him in case he doesn’t find a better opportunity.”
The same sentiment was expressed by manager Brandon Hyde before Friday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.
“EY had a great spring in many ways, not just performance-wise but he’s a true pro,’’ Hyde said. “Loved how he came to the ballpark every single day with energy. He was really great with our young guys. Just a pro. I really hope that he finds a big league opportunity. I’m hoping with the camp he had, someone will give him an opportunity. If that’s not the case, I would love to have him as an option for us this season. I just wish him the best, because he deserves it.”
The move leaves Joey Rickard, Dwight Smith Jr. and utility man Drew Jackson to compete for what appears to be one starting outfield position and an extra outfield spot.
The team previously reassigned top prospects Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, Yusniel Diaz and Anthony Santander to the minors.
Young applauded the young players he competed with this spring.
“The sky’s the limit for them,” he said. “I’m excited to see what they do here in the future. They have a lot of talent. Now they just need the experience, which some are going to get now that I’m obviously out of the race.
“I’ve got nothing but love for all the guys. I want to see nothing but the best for them.”
Austin Wynns progressing
Catcher Austin Wynns (oblique) is moving forward in his rehabilitation program and has progressed to taking batting practice. He said Friday that there is still some slight discomfort in the area, but he is working through it and trying to get ready to return to action as quickly as possible.
“I did my whole routine today,” he said. “I did the tee and front toss and then today was first day of BP — coach’s BP. It was good. I felt it a little bit, but it was really good, good progress. And tomorrow we’re going to try to amp it a little more and go from there.”
It seems unlikely that he’ll avoid starting the season on the disabled list, but he isn’t ruling anything out.
“I’m trying to get back as fast as I can … trust me on that,’’ he said. “We’ll see. I haven’t spoken to them about that. When I find out, you’ll find out.”
Hyde hopes Wynns can start getting some at-bats soon, but cast doubt that there was nearly enough time for him to start the season on the active roster.
“I like to be realistic, too,’’ Hyde said. “You don’t want to break and not have an [at-bat] for three weeks. You’ve got to have some at-bats. He took BP today and it went well. He’s going to take BP tomorrow and hope that goes well. Then how many days do we have left? … We’re still waiting for how he’s recovering from batting practice. He’s taken one day of batting practice.”
Jesús Sucre’s situation
The opt-out date in catcher Jesús Sucre’s contract has arrived, but he was in Friday’s lineup, which would indicate he’s going to stay and make the major league roster. He told reporters no one has told him anything yet.
“We haven’t told him anything,’’ Hyde said. “Before I say anything publicly, I want to talk to the guy first. So, I’m not going to announce he’s on the team yet.”
Both Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis made the trip to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays. Trumbo will bat second and be the designated hitter for a couple of at-bats and Renato Núñez (biceps soreness) is scheduled to also get two at-bats in that slot after Trumbo leaves the game.
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The lineup is starting to look more and more like the one that could open the season. Cedric Mullins is in the leadoff spot. Rule 5 draftee Richie Martin is at shortstop. Jackson is making his first appearance in left field.