The Orioles made three roster moves March 29 -- and in doing so, they essentially locked into place their Opening Day 25-man roster.
The Birds optioned right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman, left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland and infielder Jemile Weeks to Triple-A Norfolk following their rain-shortened exhibition against the Tides. Gausman and McFarland will both likely begin the season as part of the Norfolk starting rotation.
Both pitched well during spring training -- a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings for Gausman, and 3.72 in 9.2 innings for McFarland -- but both entered camp as long shots to crack the Opening Day roster. The Birds are giving the highly touted Gausman a bit more development time in the minors, and stretching out McFarland as a starter after he spent the entire 2013 season in relief.
Weeks, who entered camp as a strong candidate to claim the starting second base job or a utility spot, struggled offensively during Grapefruit League play. He batted .171 (7-for-41) with one extra-base hit and was pushed aside by the sizzling spring of second base prospect Jonathan Schoop.
The three March 29 transactions brought the Orioles' camp roster down to 32 players. Seven of those players are slated to begin the season either on the disabled list or the restricted list, which brings the active 25-man into focus.
Schoop won a place on the team with his outstanding offense during spring training, batting .385 with seven extra-base hits in 39 at bats. Entering camp, most thought the O's planned to send Schoop to the minors for more seasoning, but his hot spring was presumably too good to ignore.
Additionally, Steve Pearce and Delmon Young -- who had been competing for a role as a right-handed designated hitter and bench bat -- will both make the team. Out-of-options hurlers Zach Britton and Josh Stinson will be part of the bullpen, along with surprise non-roster veteran Evan Meek, who allowed one run and two hits in nine innings this spring.
The Opening Day roster -- barring any last-minute developments -- will be as follows.
C Matt Wieters, 1B Chris Davis, 2B Jonathan Schoop, 3B Ryan Flaherty, SS J.J. Hardy, LF David Lough, CF Adam Jones, RF Nick Markakis, DH Nelson Cruz
C Steve Clevenger, IF/OF Steve Lombardozzi, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, OF/DH Delmon Young
STARTING PITCHERS (FIVE):
RHP Chris Tillman, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Bud Norris
RELIEF PITCHERS (SEVEN):
LHP Zach Britton, LHP Brian Matusz, RHP Evan Meek, RHP Darren O'Day, RHP Josh Stinson, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Tommy Hunter (closer)
The 2014 Opening Day roster includes 13 new players and 12 holdovers from the 2013 Opening Day roster.
The O's will need to make a few more procedural moves before finalizing their roster by 3 p.m. March 30. The Birds will place third baseman Manny Machado, outfielder Nolan Reimold, Rule 5 infielder Michael Almanzar, right-handed pitcher Edgmer Escalona, outfielder Francisco Peguero and non-roster southpaw Johan Santana on the disabled list. They'll also place left-handed pitcher Troy Patton, who will be serving a 25-game suspension for a failed drug test in 2013, on the restricted list. The Birds will also need to clear two spots on the 40-man roster to purchase the contracts of non-roster invitees Young and Meek.
Comparing the Orioles' Opening Day roster with the one I predicted in February, it looks as if I didn't fare too well -- 18 correct out of 25. In fairness, I made that prediction before the Orioles acquired Jimenez, Cruz and Lombardozzi. I missed on those three, along with Schoop, Pearce, Young and Meek, and my prediction incorrectly included Machado, Reimold, Peguero, Henry Urrutia, Alexi Casilla, Alfredo Aceves and Kelvin De La Cruz.