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2017 Orioles Spring Training Preview: Position Battles

February 15, 2017
See Also: Injury Report  |  Projected 25-Man Roster  |  Who Comes Next?  

When it comes to position battles, the most interesting choice will be the final spots in the Orioles' bullpen. Oliver Drake and T.J. McFarland are out of options, and it's unlikely both will be kept.

Logan Verrett, Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright can both start and relieve, and that's an advantage.

Verrett replaces the departed Vance Worley, who was a swingman last year, but he was non-tendered and signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals.

Wilson and Wright were in the rotation early last season, but both spent a lot of time in Triple-A Norfolk. Since Verrett, Wilson and Wright all have options, expect to see them in Baltimore and Norfolk this season.

Logan Ondrusek is an interesting addition. He was surprisingly signed last July after he left Japan dissatisfied with his role there, and the former Cincinnati Reds right-hander was supposed to be effective against left-handers.

Ondusek wasn't and was eventually outrighted to Double-A Bowie and declared for minor league free agency. In another surprise, Ondrusek was given a major league contract for 2017 with a 2018 option.

Expect to see Ondrusek, who has an option remaining, with the Orioles at some time this season.

It's long been assumed Caleb Joseph would be the Orioles' backup catcher in 2017, and with Francisco Pena designated for assignment Feb. 10, that looks to be the case.

Because Joseph, who had 66 at-bats without an RBI before his injury, and 66 more without one afterward, is such a good defensive catcher, last year's offensive deficiencies were somewhat overlooked, but they're going to need much more from him offensively this year.

Wellington Castillo hasn't played as much as Matt Wieters did in his prime, and it's likely his understudy will have to play perhaps twice a week instead, and a skilled backup will be necessary. So the Orioles will need offensive production from Joseph. 

Barring injuries, the infield is set. The Orioles signed second baseman Johnny Giavotella to a minor league contract, but he's far less versatile than Ryan Flaherty and would make the team only if Jonathan Schoop was injured.

Robert Andino was a late sign just before spring training began, but the 2011 Orioles hero will probably start the season as Norfolk's shortstop.

As for the outfield, Rickard, who was a Rule 5 draft pick last season, now has options and can be sent down if needed.

But Rickard can play center field, and Adam Jones needs an accomplished backup.

The Orioles have kept a Rule 5 pick in four of the last five years, and it's a decent bet Aneury Tavarez at least begins the season with the Orioles.