The Orioles set their opening day 25-man roster with really no surprises if you’ve been following the latest cuts and moves. Here’s a breakdown of the 2014 opening day 25-man roster.
1st Base: Chris Davis – Obviously no surprise here as Davis will anchor the lineup from the number four hole.
2nd Base: Jonathan Schoop against right-handers and Steve Lombardozzi against left-handers – Jonathan Schoop was just too good this spring and Buck reportedly wanted him to be the everyday second baseman but with Machado starting the year on the disabled list, he should platoon with Flaherty at third base with Lombardozzi getting the starts at second base against lefties.
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy – No surprise here, but now that the season has started, this will become a contract year for the Orioles sure-handed SS.
Third Base: Ryan Flaherty and Schoop against lefties: Flaherty was the odds on favorite to win the second base job but with Machado out, he’s the best defensive third baseman the team had so he will mainly play third base until Machado returns. When Machado returns, if he’s not outhitting Schoop he could move into a super utility role but could also slide over and platoon with Lombardozzi at second.
Left Field: David Lough – Lough should see the bulk of the time in left field though he could sit at times against tough lefties. His defense is such a plus that it will be tough to take him out of the lineup for Steve Pearce, Nelson Cruz or Delmond Young but their offense will allow them some time in left field as well. Pearce is the best defensive left fielder of the right-handed hitting outfielders and also will back up Davis at first base.
Center Field: Adam Jones – No surprise here. Jones will bat 3rd and hopes to take an other step offensively and solidify his all-star status.
Right field: Nick Markakis – Markakis looked to stronger and quicker this spring and could be looking at a big comeback year. However, if he struggles against left-handers, Cruz and Young could take some time out there but look for Markakis to be a regular fixture in right.
DH: Nelson Cruz – Cruz should be the full-time DH though he could see some OF time in left or right field. He will be a fixture in the lineup in the five hole right behind Davis.
Catcher: Matt Wieters – Again, no surprise as Wieters will catch the majority games behind the dish. Left-handed hitting Steve Clevenger could see a little more action than other previous Wieters’ cadies if he hits a bit and if Wieters struggles again against right-handers.
Chris Tillman (RHP) – Tillman gets the opening day nod and looks to solidify himself as one of the AL’s best pitchers.
Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP) – Jimenez was the big splash this offseason and hopes to duplicate the dominant second half of the season last year over the entire year this year. Jimenez could be one of the keys to the amount of Orioles success this season.
Wei-Yin Chen (LHP) – Chen slides into the number three starter’s spot and if healthy, should be fine as a middle of the rotation starter. The key to his success is not being pushed much past the 6th inning or 100 pitches.
Miguel Gonzalez (RHP) – Gonzalez had an up and down spring and will need to stay consistent all year. He’s a battler though and should be a solid number four starter.
Bud Norris (RHP) – The right-hander was never fully healthy in his stint with the Orioles last year and will look to show the fans why the Orioles acquired him last season. If he falters though, Kevin Gausman could replace him and he could end up a key pitcher out the pen.
Closer – It appears the Orioles are going to start the year with Tommy Hunter closing games. However, look for other like Evan Meek and even Zach Britton getting opportunities. Buck could go with the hot hand or match up his closer.
Set up – Darren O’ Day – The sub mariner will be the main setup guy but of course Ryan Webb, Meek and Britton could also be involved in those 8th innings.
Lefty Specialist – Brian Matusz – Should return to the lefty specialist role but Britton could see some time in this role as well.
Long relief: Josh Stinson was dominant this spring and earned his way back on the squad. He’ll probably be the guy who can go multiple innings if need be.
Just a phone call away
Dan Duquette put together some nice depth and has stashed many useful players in AAA this year.
Starting Rotation Depth – Kevin Gausman was fantastic this spring and if he continues to pitches well down in Norfolk, he’ll be the first call up if Gonzalez or Norris struggle. Korean import Suk-min Yoon, knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa and right-hander Mike Wright could all be in the mix as well at some point in 2014 in a starter’s or relief role.
Bullpen Depth: Brad Brach was really only sent to AAA because he had an option left, but he pitched well enough to make the club. He will log some inning for the Orioles this year. Steve Johnson was impressive in short stints and it will be interesting to see if the Orioles put him in a closer’s role in AAA or keep him as a starter. Either way, he could be valuable as a multiple innings reliever. Left-handers Kelvin De La Cruz and TJ McFarland are left-handed relief options, but McFarland is also a multiple innings reliever option as well. Don’t sleep on left-handed starter Tim Berry either. If the Orioles need help late in the year and think he can be a difference maker as a left-handed reliever they could pull him up. His fastball curveball combo is better than Matusz’ stuff according to one AL scout. Brock Huntzinger also could get some time in the right situation.
Infield depth: Jemile Weeks, David Adams and Cord Phelps are guys that could help out this year while Alexi Casillo and Ivan DeJesus could also get cups of coffee in the right situation.
Outfield Depth: Henry Urrutia will be waiting for an opportunity in Norfolk and Nolan Reimold could end up here if the Orioles try to sneek him through waivers once he comes off the disabled list.
Catching depth: Johnny Monell and Caleb Joseph will be at the ready if the Orioles need a back up for a bit and Brian Ward is there if they need a defensive specialist.