SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles continued to manipulate their 40-man roster Saturday, claiming catcher Pedro Severino off waivers from the Washington Nationals and designating infielder Stevie Wilkerson for assignment.
The move calls into question how the catching situation will play out over the next few days. Veteran Jesús Sucre let the opt-out clause in his minor league contract pass Friday, leading to the assumption that he has been promised a place on the Opening Day roster, but there has been no announcement to that effect.
Now, the Orioles have three catchers on the 40-man roster and Sucre is not one of them. Severino, 25, joins Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, but Wynns almost certainly will open the season on either the injured list or in the minors.
Manager Brandon Hyde would not discount the possibility that Sisco could join top outfield prospects Austin Hays, DJ Stewart and Yusnial Diaz in the minor leagues to start the season.
“Wherever he goes, he’s going to continue to get better,’’ Hyde said. “He’s a young guy who has a chance to swing the bat and be a left-handed-hitting catcher for a long time. He’s still young, so I think there is still development that can happen, but I’ve just been really impressed with how he’s gone about this camp and how much he’s improved the last month.”
There certainly could be more maneuvering over the next several days since the 25-man roster does not have to be finalized until Thursday.
Severino has played in the majors in each of the past four seasons for the Nationals and was rated among the Nats’ top 16 prospects five consecutive years from 2013-17 by Baseball America.
He appeared in 14 exhibition games for the Nats this spring and batted .429 with no homers and two RBIs. He has thrown out 36 percent of base runners trying to steal on him in the big leagues.
The Orioles announced a second transaction Saturday afternoon, dealing minor league outfielder Mike Yastrzemski to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed pitcher Tyler Herb.
Yastrzemski, 28, the grandson of Boston Red Sox great and Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, appeared to be road-blocked on the Orioles’ crowded outfield depth chart, which would likely have cut deeply into his playing time at Triple-A.
Herb, 26, was 3-9 with a 5.40 ERA in the minors last season. He was a 29th-round draft choice by the Seattle Mariners in 2014 and played college baseball at Coastal Carolina.
Fry the ‘opener’ Sunday?
Reliever Paul Fry will be the starter in Sunday’s split-squad game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, but will pitch no more than two innings before giving way to starter candidate Gabriel Ynoa.
The club has not publicly labeled Fry an “opener,” but that seemed to be the reason for the change in the order of the two pitchers.
Hyde said Friday night that the “opener” concept, which allows a team to start a reliever and potentially flip the opposing lineup, is a possibility this season when the Orioles get past the top three starters in their rotation.
He walked that back a bit Saturday, attributing the odd pitching order to the late split-squad doubleheader.
“Don’t put too much stock in the opener tomorrow,’’ Hyde said. “I think that’s just we have a split squad and Paul Fry is going to throw a couple innings to start the game and then we just kind of run in some bullpen guys from there. It’s not like we’re experimenting with an opener. That’s more that we have two games and [Andrew Cashner] is throwing in one and some other guys are going to get some innings in both places.”
Fry is happy for the opportunity to play the role Sunday — if that’s what it is — and is open to the concept of assuming it more regularly if that’s what the coaching staff decides to do during the regular season.
“I’m here if they want to do it and I’m sure other guys are, too,’’ he said.
If it’s an unfamiliar situation, Fry said he’s going to treat it as business as usual.
“I’m not going to treat it as anything new,” Fry said. “I’m an ‘opener,’ not a starter. … I’m just trying to go out there and get outs, whether it’s in the first two innings or the last two innings. Same mind set. Same approach. Just throw strikes and get outs.”
Núñez not quite ready
Third baseman Renato Núñez said he felt good taking two at-bats as the designated hitter Friday night, but the biceps soreness that has kept him off the infield has not completely subsided.
“It's feeling much better,’’ he said Saturday. “I felt good yesterday swinging, being the DH. … I still feel it when I throw a little bit, but yesterday I felt much better.”
Núñez said he still hopes to be ready to open the season on the active roster, but he probably has to be ready to play defense to break with the team.
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“That’s the goal,’’ he said, “Of course, I want to be playing today, but at least I can swing the bat.”