Orioles spring training preview: 40 for 40

February 10, 2014 | Luke Jones

Orioles spring training preview: 40 for 40

As Orioles pitchers and catchers prepare to hold their first workout in Sarasota on Friday, much of the attention will begin to shift from an abysmal offseason to the daily happenings of spring training.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and ownership have yet to deliver on stated goals of adding a veteran starting pitcher as well as significantly addressing a number of other needs, but the roster isn’t devoid of talent either as manager Buck Showalter attempts to guide the Orioles to their third consecutive winning season.

With 13 players out of options on the 40-man roster, Duquette and Showalter will face some difficult decisions while fans will justifiably continue to clamor for some impact additions between now and Opening Day.

Here’s a glance at the current 40-man roster — left-handed pitcher Troy Patton will not count during his 25-game suspension to begin the regular season — with a preview of non-roster spring training invitees coming later in the week:

PITCHERS (22)

LHP Mike Belfiore
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: two
Musing: The southpaw reliever had a few call-ups to Baltimore last season — appearing in one game — but his 1.441 WHIP at Triple-A Norfolk suggests he’ll start the season with the Tides once again.

LHP Tim Berry
Opening Day age: 23
Options remaining: three
Musing: Added to the 40-man roster after a strong 2013 campaign for Frederick, the 2009 50th-round pick can firmly put himself on the club’s radar if he can duplicate or better his 2013 ERA of 3.85 at Double-A Bowie.

RHP Brad Brach
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: one
Musing: Acquired from San Diego in exchange for Devin Jones, Brach has a career 3.70 ERA and has averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in three major league seasons but might be squeezed out of the Baltimore bullpen to start the season since he has an option year remaining.

LHP Zach Britton
Opening Day age: 26
Options remaining: none
Musing: We’ll see if new pitching coach Dave Wallace can work any magic with Britton, who is coming off a poor 2013 season and no longer has age or options on his side in finally realizing his once-impressive potential.

RHP Dylan Bundy
Opening Day age: 21
Options remaining: two
Musing: His Tommy John surgery was one of the more disappointing developments of the 2013 season, but his rehabilitation progress suggests a late-season return to live-game action is realistic and he still has his entire career in front of him at such a young age.

LHP Wei-Yin Chen
Opening Day age: 28
Options remaining: three
Musing: Entering the final season of a three-year, $11.09 million contract that includes a team option for 2015, the Taiwanese southpaw can show the Orioles he’s capable of reaching another level after pitching to a solid 4.04 ERA in his first two seasons despite missing two months with an oblique injury in 2013.

LHP Kelvin De La Cruz
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: none
Musing: De La Cruz has never pitched in the majors and has control issues (4.7 walks per nine innings), but his strikeout numbers (11.3 per nine innings at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2013) are impressive and he’s had success against lefties, which made him a viable project in Duquette’s mind.

RHP Edgmer Escalona
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: none
Musing: The Rockies product posted ERAs of 6.04 and 5.67 in 2012 and 2013 respectively — making the Orioles’ interest in him puzzling — and he figures to face an uphill battle to carve out a spot in the Orioles bullpen but would likely clear waivers to be outrighted to Norfolk.

RHP Kevin Gausman
Opening Day age: 23
Options remaining: two
Musing: Vying for the fifth spot in the starting rotation after spending time in the bullpen during his rookie season, the 2012 first-round pick gained 12 pounds in the winter and hopes his developing slider has improved enough to land him a stable job with the major league club.

RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Opening Day age: 29
Options remaining: two
Musing: His stamina often comes into question with only a 170-pound frame, but Gonzalez has gone 20-12 with a 3.58 in 43 starts in his first two seasons and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the stability he’s added to the starting rotation after being one of the best stories of the surprising 2012 playoff season.

RHP Liam Hendriks
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: one
Musing: The Australian was selected off waivers in December and figures to be a good bet for Norfolk’s starting rotation in 2014 after posting a 6.06 ERA and making 28 starts for the Minnesota Twins over the last three seasons.

RHP Tommy Hunter
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: none
Musing: The favorite to be the new closer, Hunter has the makeup for the ninth, but a tendency to give up the long ball (11 in 86 1/3 innings in 2013) and shaky numbers against left-handed hitters (.294 against him last year) won’t make Showalter comfortable until Hunter proves himself in his new role.

RHP Steve Johnson
Opening Day age: 26
Options remaining: one
Musing: An injury-plagued 2013 was a lost season for the local product, but Johnson remains a candidate for the fifth starter job and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 54 major league innings despite underwhelming velocity that often leaves critics doubting him.

LHP Chris Jones
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: three
Musing: Acquired from Atlanta in the Luis Ayala trade early last season, Jones went 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 31 appearances with Norfolk and is a name to keep an eye on if the Orioles need left-handed bullpen help later in the season.

LHP Brian Matusz
Opening Day age: 27
Options remaining: none
Musing: The 2008 first-round pick still has visions of starting in the big leagues, but it appears that ship has sailed as he’s found a niche as a situational reliever and will be even more valuable with Patton suspended for the first 25 games of the season.

LHP T.J. McFarland
Opening Day age: 24
Options remaining: three
Musing: After being stashed in the bullpen as a Rule 5 pick last year, McFarland figures to be a member of Norfolk’s rotation where he can continue to develop and hopefully justify the Orioles’ choice to hinder their roster flexibility last season.

RHP Bud Norris
Opening Day age: 29
Options remaining: three
Musing: His control issues and 4.80 ERA were a disappointment upon being acquired from Houston last July, but Norris is an excellent bet to win a starting rotation spot and has a career 4.36 ERA in five major league seasons.

RHP Darren O’Day
Opening Day age: 31
Options remaining: player permission only
Musing: The bullpen struggled down the stretch last year with O’Day limited to just two appearances from Aug. 29 through Sept. 18 while dealing with numbness in two fingers, so his return to full strength is critical for a group already needing to fill the void of departed closer Jim Johnson.

LHP Troy Patton
Opening Day age: 28
Options remaining: none
Musing: His suspension for Adderall use would likely have him on shaky footing had it not been for the solid 3.70 ERA he posted last season, but Patton must deal with the reality of how he’ll prepare for the season with Showalter already saying he won’t pitch in many spring games.

RHP Josh Stinson
Opening Day age: 26
Options remaining: none
Musing: Liked by Showalter, Stinson will compete to win a long-relief spot in the bullpen and pitched very well in that capacity late last season, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings of relief after a less-than-impressive spot start made early in 2013.

RHP Chris Tillman
Opening Day age: 25
Options remaining: none
Musing: The 2013 All-Star righty became the ace of the staff last season and was very consistent after a rocky April, but his next goal will be to pitch deeper into games all season like he did late in the year when he completed seven or more innings in six of his final eight starts.

RHP Ryan Webb
Opening Day age: 28
Options remaining: one
Musing: Webb being the Orioles’ best free-agent signing to this point speaks volumes about a miserable winter, but he’s the dark-horse candidate to close out games — if Hunter falters — due to his impressive splits against right-handed and lefty hitters (both hit .244 against him in 2013).

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