Orioles begin hopeful spring training in Year 2 of rebuild

RICH DUBROFF
FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, Baltimore Orioles manager Brandon Hyde watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Baltimore. Hyde enters his second spring training as manager of the Baltimore Orioles with the same goal as last year: to oversee the rebuild of a last-place team that lost more than 100 games. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A year ago, Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde were in their first spring training together as Baltimore Orioles general manager and manager. After a season of 108 losses, they're back for Year 2.

The Orioles have 67 players on their spring roster, and Elias said that he likes the group that the Orioles have.

“Going over the 40-man roster and looking at the players that are here, we’ve got hopes for all of them, and they’re all talented, and they have things to like about them, so we definitely feel like it’s coming together," Elias said. “It’s a part of a longer process, but it’s moving in the right direction.”

Baltimore's biggest issue is trying to construct a starting rotation. Last season, 18 pitchers started for the Orioles, and they had a horrifying 5.57 ERA.

In December, Baltimore traded right-hander Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels for four minor league pitchers. Bundy was one of the Orioles' most accomplished starters.

In the rotation so far, Baltimore has left-hander John Means, who finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and Alex Cobb, who started just three times a year ago before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. Cobb is in the third year of a four-year, $57 million contract.

Other candidates to start include right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who was 4-8 with a 4.92 ERA in 17 games in the second half; veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who was signed to a minor league contract earlier this month; and right-hander Kohl Stewart, who was the overall No. 4 draft pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2013. Stewart was signed as a free agent in December.

David Hess, who was 1-10 with a 7.09 ERA and Rule 5 draftees Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker are also possibilities.

Elias said the team could sign another free agent starter.

“We’re working on it,” Elias said. “I can’t really handicap it right now. There are players out there. There are free agents out there that are good pitchers that would either be upgrades for us.. Guys that can come in and compete for depth purposes, so we’re working on it. We’ll just see.”

Hyde said at the winter meetings he wanted at least eight candidates for the rotation.

“The amount of really good arms we have in camp is impressive,” Hyde said. "We want those guys to take some valuable experiences they had last year and build off them and roll it into this year.”

Reliever Miguel Castro, who was the victim of an armed robbery in the Dominican Republic last month, reported on Tuesday. Castro was robbed at gunpoint of a gold chain, but the alleged robbers were found, and his jewelry was returned.

Castro said it took two or three weeks for him to get beyond the incident.

“For a while, every time I went to bed, I kept reimagining everything that happened,” Castro said through a translator.

Hyde was eager to talk with his right-hander to make sure he wasn't still troubled by the robbery.

“Really scary, concerned for his safety," Hyde said. “We feel real fortunate that things worked out real well for him.”

NOTES: The Orioles claimed INF Ramon Urias on waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals and outrighted INF Pat Valaika to Triple-A Norfolk. ... OF DJ Stewart, who went ankle surgery in October, was among those position players to report.

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