BALTIMORE -- The Orioles finalized their Opening Day roster, selecting the contract of outfielder Craig Gentry. The Orioles created a spot on the 40-man roster for him by allowing Rule 5 outfielder Aneury Tavarez to return to the team they drafted him from, the Boston Red Sox.
Right-handed pitcher Gabriel Ynoa and left-handed pitcher Jayson Aquino were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Right-handed reliever Oliver Drake will be the eighth pitcher in the bullpen for now.
A player will have to be dropped when left-handed starter Wade Miley comes off the disabled list. Another will too when a fifth starter is added.
“If we had to do it now, we’d know what we’d do, but some variables could play into it, weather and health,”
manager Buck Showalter said.
For now, the Orioles have Gentry, Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard as extra outfielders.
The Orioles could, with creativity, maintain 14 position players and 11 pitchers on the roster by often optioning a pitcher to the minor leagues. Because so many of the pitchers the Orioles have in the majors and the high minors have options, and there are many of them who feel they can pitch in the majors, there’s a chance for them to pull off this maneuvering..
“It takes some imagination,” Showalter said. “There’s a way to do it with 11 and still have seven in the pen. There’s a way to do it, but it’s going to take some foresight and imagination as we go. It was really tough to do it last year. It’s easier to do it this year, but you’ve got to stay on top of it.”
As for the batting order, Showalter won’t reveal it until Opening Day. There’s curiosity about who will be the leadoff hitter. Outfielders Seth Smith and Hyun Soo Kim are the leading candidates.
“I’ve got an idea, a good idea,” Showalter said.
The Orioles thought Tavarez wasn’t ready for the majors, but they weren’t able to make a deal with the Red Sox, so Boston gets to have him for their system.
“We tried to work out a trade and didn’t want to really trade Manny [Machado] for him,” Showalter said.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said due to the emergence of outfielder Cedric Mullins, who played in 14 spring training games, keeping Tavarez wasn’t as important.
“He might be able to do the job that we had in mind for Aneury Tavarez later in the season. You never know,” Duquette said. “When we what saw what Mullins could do, it wasn’t as urgent for us to acquire a player of similar ability. That’s why we returned Tavarez back to the Red Sox.”
Mullins will begin the season at Double-A Bowie.
Drake, who is out of options, has been one of the best relief pitchers in the minor leagues in recent years, posting an ERA less than 3.00 in each of his last two seasons in Norfolk. It’s his first Opening Day with the Orioles.
“Oliver Drake has an established track record of success,” Duquette said. “He didn’t pitch that well in spring training, though he did have a couple of good outings in the end, and we thought he earned a spot.”
Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman gets the Opening Day start, and he can’t wait.
“I wish it had already gotten here today,” Gausman said. “Obviously, excited, ready to go. I want to get the season off to a good start.”
Showalter emphasized to the team that getting off to a good start is important. It’s not just games in August and September that are vital.
“There were some really good things we did in April and May last year that made us more connected,” Showalter said.
It’s Showalter’s seventh Opening Day with the Orioles.
“You have all these rehearsals, which is what spring training is,” Showalter said. "It’s almost like a play … and then it’s opening, there’s a lot of different acts to a season.
Tomorrow starts Act 1. But we don’t get up the next morning and read the reviews to see if we’re going to stay open.”
NOTES: Miley (upper respiratory infection), right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman (right shoulder) and Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander (elbow) were placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to March 30.
Tillman’s April 1 bullpen session went well. He’s scheduled for another
Darren O’Day, who stayed in Sarasota, Fla., because of flu-like symptoms, is recovering and Showalter hopes he’s ready to pitch for the opener.
Dariel Alvarez, who is being converted from the outfield to pitching, will report to Class-A Delmarva. Righty Jason Garcia was transferred from Norfolk to Double-A Bowie.