SARASOTA, Fla. — The Orioles may be projected to lose in the neighborhood of 100 games for the third straight full season, but they continue to attract attention from a reasonable number of scouts from other major league clubs.
All of them seem to have the same question. Are the Orioles going to make any moves in the short period of time remaining before Opening Day?
“Any idea what the Orioles are going to do?” one scout asked before Monday’s exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium on March 21. “They seem to be listening in on everybody.”
General manager Mike Elias is no doubt listening but isn’t hearing what he’d like. The Orioles continue to shop primarily for top prospects “and that’s not going to happen,” the scout said.
It would appear that left-handed pitcher John Means is the center of most interest from other teams. He is considered a starter for the back end of a contender’s rotation, but the Orioles look at him as their No. 1 starter and would want that type of compensation.
End of conversation. It’s not a deal deadline, but the countdown to Opening Day is at the serious stage.
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Given the lack of proven starting pitchers for the early-season rotation, and the scarce number of times they figure to have a ninth-inning lead to protect, the Orioles will have an interesting decision to make on Tyler Wells.
A working project this time a year ago, it was hoped Wells might develop into a spot starting, long relief role. But the absence of a dependable late-inning reliever and his early success meant he eventually evolved into the role of closer.
But the fact remains, as manager Brandon Hyde noted after the big right-hander’s scoreless two-inning stint here on March 21, that Wells was drafted as a starter, groomed as a starter, was still considered a starting candidate after Tommy John surgery and being selected by the Orioles in the 2021 Rule 5 draft.
Despite his modest success a year ago, the jury undoubtedly remains out on how Wells can best help the Orioles.
There are two schools of thought on the subject for a team like the Orioles in the midst of a rebuild. The first is there aren’t enough late “save” situations for a quality pitcher to be restricted to the closer role. The second is that victories are precious for such a team and every blown opportunity is doubly devastating, while keeping in mind there’s no such thing as a quality loss.
Chicken or egg? Starter or closer?
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Quick summation of the uneven spring training debut of Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ hopeful ace of the future: he was good until he was wild.
It was a pair of walks by the normally pitch efficient Rodriguez rather than a lack of swing-and-miss stuff that did in the young right-hander. It’s probably just as well that he didn’t blow the Twins away, which would only have heightened the thought he open the season in the big leagues than at Triple-A Norfolk, which is where he belongs — for now.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/Gary Sousa/PressBox