At least in body, the Orioles’ Sept. 1 roster expansion began a day early as outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. and relievers Tanner Scott and Branden Kline joined the team Saturday in Kansas City from Triple-A Norfolk in advance of being activated Sunday.
Manager Brandon Hyde said those three would be the first wave of expanded-roster reinforcements Sunday, with more players added when the minor league regular season ends on Monday.
Pitching will be the priority as the Orioles determine which of the the rest of the candidates to come up, Hyde said.
“I think one of the things is you obviously want to be covered on the mound as we get later in the year and innings start piling up,” Hyde said. “You just don’t want to be short innings-wise on the mound, and if something happens with a couple of your starters, you want to be able to have people there that aren’t sitting on the couch if they’re not playing.
“We’re looking into getting deeper from a pitching standpoint, and also [having] conversations with [executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias] and them about what position players we want to see here in September.”
With Scott and Kline joining already, that leaves starters Chandler Shepherd, Tom Eshelman, David Hess, plus relievers Evan Phillips and Tayler Scott, as the healthy pitchers on the 40-man roster. All are candidates to be called up when Norfolk’s season ends.
It’s less clear with the team’s position players. While a third catcher in Austin Wynns seems a likely addition once things wrap up in Norfolk, rehabbing designated hitter Mark Trumbo (knee) seems the likeliest to join on the hitting side.
Trumbo homered in his first two rehab games for the Tides on an assignment that began on Tuesday.
Smith will join a crowded outfield that has Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart, Stevie Wilkerson and Jace Peterson all vying for playing time. Hyde said it’s “yet to be determined” whether outfielders Austin Hays or Cedric Mullins would be added.
Hays is batting .253 with a .751 OPS since the All-Star break at Norfolk but playing a position of need for the Orioles in center field. Mullins, the Opening Day starter who started slowly upon his second demotion to Double-A Bowie, is batting .279 with a .785 OPS in August.
He steered clear of any declarations on if either could make a return to the majors next month, though.
“I’m not going to go into if we’re calling those guys up or not at this point,” Hyde said. “We have a lot of outfielders here right now.”
Tampa Bay series adjusted
The forecast that has Hurricane Dorian set to impact Florida’s east coast this week led the Tampa Bay Rays to adjust this week’s schedule for the Orioles’ three-game series at Tropicana Field this week.
Monday’s Labor Day matinee will be played as planned, but Wednesday’s game was moved up so the teams can play a single-admission doubleheader on Tuesday at 3:05 p.m., allowing the Orioles to leave Florida Tuesday night.
Around the horn
Hyde was impressed by the debut of right-hander Ryan Eades, who pitched for the first time in relief Friday after being called up Saturday. “Tough to do after not pitching for, I think, eight days or so, to come in and at that point in a game you’re just hoping a guy comes in and pounds the strike zone,” Hyde said. “That’s what Ryan did. I liked his breaking ball. I hadn’t seen much of Ryan, and he’s got some deception in his delivery, kind of a sneaky fastball with a good breaking ball. I thought he did a great job.” … Double-A Bowie entered Saturday’s game needing one more win or one more Erie loss to clinch an Eastern League playoff spot.