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Orioles return Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi to Red Sox as bullpen competition narrows

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One former Rule 5 draft pick being put in the Orioles’ rotation opened a potential spot in their bullpen for another, but right-hander Andrew Politi’s time in the organization came to an end Tuesday.

Baltimore returned the 26-year-old to the Boston Red Sox after he cleared waivers. Taken in December’s Rule 5 draft, Politi was required to remain on the Orioles’ active roster all season to be guaranteed of staying with the organization, but he was designated for assignment for Baltimore to select the contract of left-hander Danny Coulombe, who the team acquired in a trade for cash with the Minnesota Twins on Monday.

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When the Orioles decided to give right-hander Tyler Wells their fifth rotation spot over top prospect Grayson Rodriguez, it seemingly created a place in their bullpen that could have gone to Politi. A Rule 5 draft choice before the 2021 season, Wells pitched in relief that year and briefly served as the Orioles’ closer but returned to the rotation in 2022, when he was Baltimore’s most consistent first-half starter before injuries limited him in the season’s closing months.

Had Rodriguez made the rotation, Wells likely would have claimed one of Baltimore’s remaining bullpen spots, but with the Orioles optioning Rodriguez to Triple-A, that opening remains. It won’t go to Politi, who allowed six runs — four coming in one outing — with eight strikeouts over 8 2/3 innings this spring. The Orioles were intrigued with Politi’s curveball, which helped him post a 2.34 ERA in 50 upper-minors outings in Boston’s system last year, but it wasn’t enough to prompt Baltimore to try to keep him on the roster all season.

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Baltimore returned right-hander Rule 5 draft pick Andrew Politi to the Boston Red Sox after he cleared waivers.

Half of the Orioles’ eight bullpen spots are seemingly secured, with Coulombe, a 33-year-old who has a 3.92 ERA with 194 major league appearances, expected to join closer Félix Bautista, left-hander Cionel Pérez and right-hander Bryan Baker. Austin Voth, who also spent this spring as a rotation candidate, figures to grab a spot, and Keegan Akin could serve as a third lefty. With Mychal Givens expected to open the season on the injured list with a left knee issue, right-handers Mike Baumann, Joey Krehbiel and Logan Gillaspie are jockeying for the final spots. Of course, it’s possible the Orioles make another addition in line with grabbing Coulombe, picking up a player who didn’t make another organization’s season-opening roster.

The rotation, though, seems set. Right-hander Kyle Gibson will pitch the season’s first game Thursday at the Red Sox, with right-hander Dean Kremer and left-hander Cole Irvin starting the series’ next two games. Right-hander Kyle Bradish and Wells are expected to pitch the first two games of the next series at the Texas Rangers, though the Orioles have yet to say the order in which they will start.


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