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In Addition To Starting Pitching, Orioles Have Other Positions To Fill

December 4, 2017
As the Orioles continue their search for starting pitchers, there are other positions they'd like to improve. Here are three of them:
 
Left-handed Relievers
 
Of course, Orioles closer Zach Britton is a left-hander, and it doesn't look as if the team will be moving him soon. They also have Richard Bleier, whose 1.99 ERA was a nice surprise.
 
However, Donnie Hart, who had a standout debut in 2016 (0.49 ERA in 22 games), was not as effective in 2017. Hart had a 3.71 ERA, and the Orioles sent him to Triple-A Norfolk three times.
 
In 2016, Hart held left-handed hitters to a .132 average, but this past season lefties hit .273 against him.
 
A 2018 roster spot is hardly guaranteed for Hart, and he'll face stiff competition. The Orioles gave Tanner Scott a brief audition late in the season. Scott may not be ready for full-time big league duty, however, and his future could be as a starter.
 
Norfolk tried Chris Lee in relief this past season, and though he was a disappointment (5.11 ERA in 20 starts, seven relief outings), he remains on the 40-man roster.
 
The Orioles announced 14 minor-league signings Nov. 28, and three of them were left-handed relievers.
 
Josh Edgin, Ryan O'Rourke and Joely Rodriguez were added. Edgin is the most accomplished of the group. He had a 3.49 ERA in 177 games with the New York Mets in five seasons and has held left-handed hitters to a .223 average in his career.
 
O'Rourke, who had a 4.98 ERA in 54 games with the Minnesota Twins in 2015 and 2016, had Tommy John surgery in May and won't be available to start the season. Rodriguez had a 5.40 ERA in 38 games with the Philadelphia Phillies the past two seasons.
 
The Orioles signed five additional pitchers to minor league contracts Dec. 1. Two of them were left-handers, Jason Gurka, who was drafted by the Orioles in 2008, and has pitched in 18 major league games with the Rockies and Angels, and Luis Lugo, who's never pitched above Double-A in seven minor league seasons with the Cleveland organization.
 
Utility Infielders
 
For the past six seasons the Orioles' primary utility infielder was Ryan Flaherty, and the team is searching for his replacement.
 
There's no candidate currently on the 40-man roster, though the team announced five infield signings this week. Four of them had previously been in the organization.
 
The most prominent name was Ruben Tejada, who filled in at shortstop while J.J. Hardy and Flaherty were injured. Tejada played in 41 games and hit .230 before he was outrighted in mid-August when Flaherty returned.
 
Luis Sardinas, who was picked up on waivers in May from the San Diego Padres, will also be back. He's played 174 games with the Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners the past four seasons, but he never got the call to join the Orioles from Norfolk last season.
 
Sardinas and Tejada both play second base, shortstop and third base. Tejada hits right-handed, and Sardinas is a switch-hitter.
 
Erick Salcedo, a switch-hitter who plays second base and shortstop, also returns. Salcedo hit .260 for Double-A Bowie last season.
 
The Orioles also re-signed longtime Bowie favorite Garabez Rosa, but he's not considered a plus-defender. Angelo Mora, a switch-hitter who plays second, shortstop and third, was signed from the Phillies' organization.
 
Steve Wilkerson, a switch-hitting infielder who was not added to the 40-man roster after hitting .305 in 112 games for Class-A Frederick and Bowie, may also get a shot.
 
Left-handed Hitting Outfielders
 
The Orioles have two left-handed hitting outfielders on their 40-man roster in Anthony Santander, who's a switch-hitter, and Jaycob Brugman, who was added Nov. 22.
 
Santander, who was a Rule 5 draft choice, must spend the first 44 days of the season on the active roster to end his Rule 5 status. He got into 13 games after he was activated from the disabled list in mid-August.
 
The Oakland Athletics traded Brugman for a player to be named later or cash. Brugman hit .266 in 48 games for the Athletics. He plays all three outfield positions and is expected to compete with Joey Rickard for a reserve outfield spot.
 
Cedric Mullins, a switch-hitter, and DJ Stewart, a left-handed hitter who was the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2015, both played for the Baysox this past season and may get a look in spring training. They're expected to start the 2018 season in the minors.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox