Although I’m sure Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette will talk about competition this spring, but realistically there are very few positions up for grabs. One of those jobs will definitely be in the bullpen where the long reliever spot is pretty much an open competition.
Going into this spring four relievers have spots guaranteed, one would have to totally implode this spring, and one has the strong inside track to a spot. The four relievers with spots:
Closer: Zach Britton (LHP)
Setup: Darren O’Day (RHP)
Setup: Brad Brach (RHP)
Setup: Mychal Givens (RHP)
Hart almost assuredly has a spot on the team after his dominant performance over the last two months of the season last year. He was instrumental to the bullpens success and Buck was unafraid to use him in key high leverage situations against tough lefties. With no other experienced left-handed relievers with a history of dominating lefties in camp, Hart seems to be a shoe-in. Drake is probably not guaranteed a spot at this time, but he has to be considered a leading candidate to get the sixth reliever position after his performance at the end of the year last season. Over his last 10 games Drake pitched to a 1.46 ERA with 15 K and 2 BB, over 12.1 IP while holding batters to a .136./174/.250/.424 slash line. Drake also has no options left and it’s doubtful he would make it through waivers after the numbers he’s put up the last few years in AAA and the majors.
If Drake does have competition, it would come from Logan Ondrusek or non-roster RHP Nate Adcock. Ondrusek was signed last season after being released by his Japanese team but struggled with the Orioles and was DFA’d before being resigned this offseason. Adcock missed the entire 2016 after under going Tommy John surgery, but has 123 major league innings under his belt and has an interesting mid-90s sinker-cutter/slider combination that makes him intriguing.
That brings us to the 7th reliever spot which should be manned by the long reliever. The Orioles have a lot of candidates for this spot and honestly, it’s probably a pretty open competition since all of the candidates have options. Here are the candidates:
Logan Verrett – Purchased by the Orioles last November from the Mets, Verrett pitched to a 5.20 ERA in 91.2 IP last year.
Gabriel Ynoa – Purchased by the Orioles last week from the Mets (gotta wonder if the Mets GM has Duquette on speed dial), the Orioles may want to let Ynoa start everyday at Norfolk in order to be starter depth, but he’ll get an opportunity to compete.
T.J. McFarland – Seems to have more roster lives than a cat, with four of the five projected starters being right-handed, the left-hander would give the team a different look in the long relief role, but he really struggled last year.
Tyler Wilson – Won a spot last season and had an up and down season in a starter, swing man, long reliever role. Pitched to a 3.86 ERA as a reliever vs 5.67 as a starter.
Mike Wright – Started last season as the 5th starter, but eventually was demoted to AAA before coming back in late August as a reliever. Pitched to a 3.27 ERA as a reliever vs 6.22 as a starter.
If I had to take an educated guess, I think Verrett has the inside track on the job with Tyler Wilson next. The Orioles would probably prefer Ynoa pitched every five days in Norfolk’s rotation, and they may want to put Wright into a short reliever role in Norfolk.
Either way, the long reliever spot should be one of the most interesting roster battles of the spring.