SARASOTA, FLA. — Top prospect Yusniel Diaz and former first-round draft pick DJ Stewart were part of the Orioles' second wave of spring training roster cuts Sunday, paring down the camp roster while adding some clarity to a crowded outfield picture.
Diaz, the centerpiece of last year's six-player deal that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was one of the standout performers in the early part of the Orioles' Grapefruit League schedule. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder had 11 hits, including a home run and three doubles, in 34 plate appearances and had a sacrifice fly in Sunday's loss to the Phillies.
However, Diaz was a nonroster invitee, meaning that he'd have to be added to the 40-man roster if he were to play his way onto the team. With Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander and the yet-to-debut Dwight Smith Jr. already on the roster, manager Brandon Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias have plenty of outfielders also having good springs to take north with them.
Reassigning Diaz to minor league camp gives him a chance to play every day and prepare for the season as playing time ramps up for the Opening Day roster contenders, and allows the Orioles to delay the start of his major league service time and club control clock that would come with him being added to the 40-man roster.
Stewart, 25, became the team's everyday right fielder for the last few weeks of last season and hit .250 with an .890 OPS in his first major league month, but entered Sunday having one of the slowest springs of any of the outfield competitors. He was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday.
Additionally, the Orioles optioned right-hander Luis Ortiz to Triple-A Norfolk and right-hander Dillon Tate to Double-A Bowie and reassigned infielder Ryan Mountcastle to minor league camp.
Tate and Ortiz came to the Orioles in trades last July for closer Zack Britton and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, respectively. Each is a former first-round pick who is on his third team, and had uneven springs. Ortiz allowed eight runs on 10 hits in five innings over three outings, while Tate allowed four earned runs on seven hits and a pair of home runs in four appearances.
Mountcastle, 22, had his bat come around late in spring and hit a towering home run Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, but was never a candidate to head north with the Orioles. His minor league assignment will give him time to work on his defense at first base, which the new coaching staff introduced him to this spring in an effort to find a home on the diamond so they can maximize his potential impact bat.
Three other non-roster invitees were reassigned as well: catcher Martin Cervenka, left-hander Sean Gilmartin, and right-hander Bo Schultz.
Cervenka homered twice this spring but wasn’t going to be a factor in the major league catching mix with Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns, Jesús Sucre and Carlos Pérez above him on the depth chart.
Gilmartin re-signed as a minor league free agent after he was outrighted off the roster last season and allowed three earned runs on two hits and five walks in three outings this spring, while Schultz, also a non-roster invitee who signed in January, allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings over four appearances.
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Not including non-roster right-hander Gregory Infante, who is dealing with an illness, the Orioles have 47 players remaining in major league camp.