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Position Battles Coming Into Focus For Orioles

March 13, 2019
New Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has been thrilled with the level of competition throughout spring training.

With the regular-season opener against the New York Yankees a little more than two weeks away, Hyde still has some tough decisions to make at several positions.

"I think it's pretty open," Hyde said about the battles. "It's a great opportunity for everybody in camp. A lot of jobs to be won. ... It's just going to be a ton of evaluating."

Here's a look at some key matchups to watch during the final stretch of spring training: 

Starting Rotation

Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner are locks for the top three spots. David Hess has made a strong case to get the nod as a fourth starter. Nate Karns has experience, starting 54 games during five seasons, but he's struggled with injuries throughout his career. He has already experienced "general arm soreness" this spring. His inability to be stretched out might force him to the bullpen because Hyde does not want to put him at further risk. 

That means Yefry Ramirez and lefty Josh Rogers, acquired from the New York Yankees for closer Zack Britton, might be in a battle for that fifth spot. Hunter Harvey, the team's No. 1 pick in 2013, was sent to the minors, but he might make an appearance later in the year if he continues to pitch well ... and can avoid another injury.

Prediction: Bundy, Cobb, Cashner, Hess, Rogers 

Bullpen

The Orioles are going to need to get some effective innings from the bullpen. Mychal Givens became the closer when Britton was traded and could remain in that role. Richard Bleier has recovered from a torn lat muscle and will be a key contributor. In addition to Bleier, Paul Fry and Tanner Scott provide left-handed options. 

Miguel Castro has been effective throughout the spring. Pedro Araujo, selected from the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2017, has an inside track to make the Opening Day roster because of that status. Mike Wright might have turned the corner with his development. Branden Kline has pitched well, but he could be sent to the minors for a later call-up. Jimmy Yacabonis, Cody Carroll and Evan Phillips also could emerge as options later in the season.  

Prediction: Givens, Bleier, Fry, Castro, Scott, Wright, Araujo, Karns

Shortstop/Third Base

Rule 5 pick Richie Martin has taken control at shortstop and shown steady improvement with his bat. Drew Jackson was also acquired via the Rule 5 draft and has shown potential. Hanser Alberto, who was claimed off waivers, and Alcides Escobar, the former Kansas City Royals shortstop signed to a minor league deal, are in the mix as well.

Renato Nunez was expected to retain the starting job at third base. However, he has endured some struggles defensively, which has opened the door for Rio Ruiz to make a push for that role. Ruiz provides a left-handed bat for the lineup but does have a minor league option remaining. Jack Reinheimer, Steve Wilkerson and Jackson are also fighting to earn a spot. 

Prediction: Martin at shortstop and Nunez at third, with Jackson and Escobar the reserves because of their versatility

Outfield

Trey Mancini, now one of the elder statesman of the club, will patrol left field and could also spend some time at first base. Cedric Mullins has struggled at times, but the Orioles are confident he will be the everyday center fielder. The biggest competition is in right field where several players have done enough to earn a roster spot. Joey Rickard, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander have been outstanding and caught the attention of Hyde. As a result, there might not be a spot for veteran Eric Young Jr. despite his solid play this spring.

Prediction: Mancini in left, Mullins in center, Rickard, Hays and Santander splitting time in right

Catcher

The Orioles brought six catchers into camp. Chance Sisco has taken advantage of the opportunity and turned a lot of heads with his performance. The Orioles still like Austin Wynns, but he has dealt with some soreness and might not be fully ready for Opening Day. As a result, veteran Jesus Sucre could take his spot because of his experience. Another veteran Carlos Perez is also in the mix. 

Prediction: Sisco and Sucre

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox