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Five Observations From The First Half Of Orioles Spring Training

March 5, 2018
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Spring training is halfway finished for the Baltimore Orioles, and while there are many questions still to be answered, here are five impressions from the first three weeks of camp.
1. The Manny Machado move to shortstop is a non-story.
When manager Buck Showalter announced at FanFest Jan. 27 that Machado, as expected, would move from third base to shortstop, there were questions about how he would handle the move. There were also many questions about how Tim Beckham would adapt to playing third.
Both have done well, and, offensively, Machado has sparkled this spring. He's batting .643 (9-for-14) with two homers and 10 RBIs in six games. 
"I've got to slow down a little bit and try to get some of this for April and May and June and July," Machado joked. 
2. There are probably three genuine candidates for the fifth starter's job.
Mike Wright has allowed a run on four hits in four innings during his two starts. The right-hander is competing with another right-hander, Miguel Castro, who is trying to move from the bullpen to a starting role.
Castro, who has been slowed by tendinitis in his knees and a sore lower back, threw two innings in a "B" game March 2.
Another contender is left-hander Nestor Cortes, one of three Rule 5 picks. Cortes has allowed two runs on five hits in four innings.
Wright and Gabriel Ynoa, another right-hander, are both out of options. Ynoa, who was already behind, didn't help himself when he allowed six runs on seven hits to Boston in his March 4 start.
3. The Orioles aren't finished acquiring players from outside the organization.
Since spring training began, the Orioles have added six longtime major leaguers as free agents: right-handed starters Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, outfielders Alex Presley and Colby Rasmus, first baseman/designated hitter Pedro Alvarez and corner infielder Danny Valencia.
There are still top-shelf free agents available, including starters Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay as well as infielder Neil Walker and former Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette continues to look for additions, especially with players like this available at cut-rate prices.
4. The Orioles may have three Rule 5 draft picks on the Opening Day roster.
Besides Cortes, who has an advantage because the team has no other legitimate left-handed starter, the team has been impressed with right-hander Pedro Araujo, who has no real experience above Class A.
Araujo allowed his first hit in three Grapefruit League outings March 4. He's thrown three scoreless innings.
Jose Mesa has had a rocky spring, and is unlikely to make the team, but the Orioles also have to carry outfielder Anthony Santander, who still needs 44 days of major league service to no longer be affected by Rule 5 status.
5. There are still jobs to be won.
Besides the fifth starter, there are three jobs available in the bullpen. If Araujo and two of the losers of the competition for the fifth starter's job are sent to the bullpen, there's no more room.
But, Showalter could opt for another left-hander in addition to Richard Bleier. It seems as if Donnie Hart's stock has fallen sharply. He'll have to fend off non-roster hopefuls Josh Edgin, Andrew Faulkner and Joely Rodriguez to make the team.
If Rasmus makes the team as expected, and Santander is also carried, that leaves room for one extra outfielder, and the choice will come from Presley, Craig Gentry and Joey Rickard.
Gentry, Presley and Rickard can each play all three outfield spots. Presley is the only left-handed hitter, and the Orioles are desperate for them. Rickard is the only one of the three with options.
When Valencia was acquired, it complicated the team's infield situation. The Orioles don't seem enthralled with utility candidates Luis Sardinas, Ruben Tejada and Engelb Vielma. Valencia could make it as an extra right-handed bat or the Orioles could keep looking.
Caleb Joseph's backup catcher should come from rookies Chance Sisco, Austin Wynns or veteran Andrew Susac.

Follow Rich on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB 

Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/Gary Sousa/PressBox