Ah, roster construction. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees considering I’ve only had eyes on the product for 7-10 days this spring. Two unforeseen moves — the free-agent signing of third baseman Maikel Franco and acquiring right-hander Adam Plutko from the Cleveland Indians — have made it clearer of how this very well may shake out.
With cover and protection for a young pitching staff at the forefront of their thinking, the Orioles appear to be leaning toward a 14-man pitching staff to start the season.
“We want to put ourselves in a position to protect our young starters and not overtax our bullpen and our young relievers,” general manager Mike Elias said in a Zoom session with the local media March 27.
That led to the acquisition of Plutko. The 29-year-old right-hander, who started 36 games from 2018-2020 for Cleveland, could be used as a long reliever and eventually as a starter.
“We’re going to need a lot of innings from a lot of different pitchers,” Elias said.
So now I’ll take a second shot (no vaccine pun intended) at who will be on the field, in the dugout dugout and in the bullpen at Fenway Park on Thursday, April 1.
Infielders (6): Trey Mancini, Pat Valaika, Ramon Urias, Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco and Rio Ruiz
Outfielders (4): Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander (who may get a lot of early action at DH)
Catchers (2): Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco
Pitchers (14): John Means, Matt Harvey, Jorge Lopez, Bruce Zimmermann, Dean Kremer, Adam Plutko, Wade LeBlanc, Cesar Valdez, Cole Sulser, Tanner Scott, Paul Fry, Shawn Armstrong, Tyler Wells and Mac Sceroler
Admittedly, since my first crack at this about a week ago, both Rule 5 guys have gone from off the bubble to being two guys who look interesting enough to take a closer look at in the season’s first month.
Watching Dan Duquette navigate the waters of retaining Rule 5 pickups was an eye-opener for me, especially how the creative use of the injured list can allow a team to cover the full time needed on the big-league roster. That is not done without the players giving the club adequate reasons to keep them based on the results of their performance.
The 2021 season will allow teams to go easy on arms that didn’t pitch competitively in 2020. Wells and Sceroler fit that description.
Remember, these 14 pitchers listed here are only part and parcel of who’ll be called upon in 2021. Don’t be at all surprised to see Felix Hernandez, Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann and Alex Wells get extended looks at points along the way. Dillon Tate, Thomas Eshelman, Mickey Jannis, Conner Greene and Josh Rogers all will probably see more than a couple box scores this summer.
That brings the number pitchers we at least kind of know about to 24. There could be 6-10 more along the ride.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox