As the Orioles leave Sarasota, Florida, in a much different manner than they did a year, they do so with an Opening Day roster that’s nearly finalized.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Wednesday that reigning Most Valuable Oriole Anthony Santander will be “ready” for Thursday’s Opening Day in Boston despite missing the final week of spring training games. Dealing with a sore side, Santander got several at-bats on the backfields and will be “good to go” defensively in the outfield, Hyde said.
In addition to saying the team’s full Opening Day roster will be announced Thursday morning, Hyde also announced that right-handers Adam Plutko, Dillon Tate and Cole Sulser have all made Baltimore’s bullpen. Right-hander Travis Lakins Sr., who spent all of the 60-game 2020 season on the Orioles’ roster but struggled this spring, will be optioned to Triple-A.
But with the Orioles and every other club preparing for a season nearly three times the length of the prior one, it likely won’t be long before Lakins is back to provide innings the team will desperately need in 2021.
“Travis had kind of an up-and-down spring training,” Hyde said. “I thought he did a nice job for us last year. I think our pitching is going to be in flux all year, so we’re going to need as many arms as possible, and Travis is going to go down to Triple-A, but it doesn’t mean he’s not going to be with us soon and not going to be with us for the rest of the year. He’s not going to be on the roster to start the season, but I would expect for him to be with us really soon.”
Tate was one of three pitchers the Orioles acquired from the New York Yankees for left-hander Zack Britton in 2018. After spending his first half-season in the organization as a starter, he moved to the bullpen early in 2019 and arrived in Baltimore by the middle of that campaign. A line drive that hit his pitching arm in summer camp delayed his start to 2020, but he had a 3.24 ERA in 12 appearances once he returned.
Sulser unexpectedly began 2020 as the Orioles’ closer, leading the team with five saves. But none came in Baltimore’s final 40 games as Sulser struggled with his command and lost the closer’s role. His splitter made him particularly effective against left-handed batters, holding them to a .143 average and .464 OPS.
The Orioles acquired Plutko from Cleveland for cash over the weekend. He has worked as both a starter and long reliever in his career and will at least begin 2021 working out of Baltimore’s bullpen.
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Plutko is out of minor league options and was expected to make the club after the trade. The inclusion of Tate and Sulser, though, seemingly means the Orioles have 10 relievers for nine bullpen spots.
Left-handers Tanner Scott and Paul Fry were the Orioles’ best relievers a year ago. Both Rule 5 draft picks, Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, have been informed they made the team, while Plutko is one of four out-of-options relievers along with Wade LeBlanc, César Valdez and Shawn Armstrong. However, Hyde said “there’s a couple things in play,” reiterating the roster will be finalized Thursday morning.
Hyde also said “there’s a good chance” third baseman Maikel Franco will make the team despite joining late after signing as a free agent. Franco’s contract gives the Orioles the ability to have him start the season at their alternate training site in Bowie. Outfielder DJ Stewart, who homered in his first two spring training games but suffered a hamstring injury in the third, will “more than likely” be on the injured list to begin the year, Hyde said.
Thursday, 2:10 p.m.
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