Orioles expose organizational depth to strong start to 2023 season | ANALYZE

Amid the Orioles’ rebuild, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias pointed to the “transactional” nature of the Tampa Bay Rays as a reason for their short- and long-term success, suggesting it’s something his organization could aspire to.

Those days have arrived. With improved organizational depth, the Orioles have capitalized on the edges of their roster to get off to a 23-13 start, with their most recent win coming against a Tampa Bay team that is the only American League club with a better record (29- 13). 8) than Baltimore.

“I think this is a season and a 40-man roster where every single person on that 40-man roster is going to come in for us all year long,” Elias said before Tuesday’s game shortly after what Orioles shuffled their bench and bullpen.

With Ramón Urías goes on the injured list with a left hamstring strain, Baltimore replaced one right-handed hitting outfielder with two left-handed hitters, recalling Ryan O’Hearn and Terrin Vavra from Triple-A Norfolk while also designating catcher Luis Torrens for the assignment.

Elias said bringing up the pair of left-handed bats “helps us matchup-wise and depth-wise for those future opponents.” The Orioles have already shown their willingness to platoon not only on the field, but with their roster as well. When Vavra was first sent to Norfolk, it was to bring up pitching prospect Joey Ortiz, a right-handed hitter, before three straight games with left-handed starters. After that trifecta, Ortiz was sent back to Triple-A, with the Orioles bringing in left-hander Kyle Stowers.

Stowers and Ortiz were selected early in the 2019 draft, Baltimore’s first under Elias, while Vavra was among the minor leaguers they acquired in exchange for major league talent during the rebuild. Each was considered a top-15 prospect in Baltimore, and while the organization wants them to have the opportunity to grow, it will need them to fill a role in the majors, even if it turns out to be small or short-lived .

“We still want to develop those guys as regular players and make sure they get playing time every day or a lot of playing time, but we bring them in places to help off the bench or in short bursts.” Elias said. “I think it takes a little bit more of a balance between developing their careers and then maybe getting them some part-time play here, the taste of the major leagues, a little more sporadic playing time in the major leagues, but they” I’ve been brought up to help our team win in places, so I think that part is relatively new for us in the last calendar year, where balance is more at the fore. I’m very happy that this is the situation because it means we’re winning.”

Fifth-year manager Brandon Hyde added, “We’re trying to field a competitive team and win, and we’re trying to put the best roster possible at the big league level. And sometimes that means the younger players have to float or not get beaten day in and day out.”

The Orioles also traded lefty long relievers, optioning Keegan Akin and bringing up Drew Rom for the first time. Rom was well rested, with Elias noting that he was scheduled to start for Norfolk on Tuesday factored into the call-up decision.

Every member of the Orioles’ Triple-A rotation is also on their 40-man roster, giving them the flexibility to make similar moves throughout the season, though Elias noted that it’s important for the organization to maintain depth. rotation even though these pitchers could benefit the team as relievers. Although prospectus no. 4 DL Hall thrived in a relief role with Baltimore over the course of last year, the Orioles opened him up this season as a starter with Norfolk. However, he has since made one big-league relief outing during a brief call-up, and Elias said the team could “definitely” use him again out of the bullpen if needed.

“When we have an injury or we have some matchups in change or the bullpen needs a fresh arm, we tend to be able to make a move to make it,” Elias said. “It’s a long season. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of it for a number of reasons.”

Unlike rebuilding seasons, these trades are made with competitive intent rather than desperation. The Orioles’ rotation has struggled to work deep consistently, but Hyde has generally had enough at his disposal to get by on any given night.

After leading Baltimore since the first full rebuilding season in 2019, he appreciates how far the organization has come.

“I feel like we have a lot of moving parts,” Hyde said. “A lot of our 40-man players are young, so when you want to fit in or need to roster, we go from prospect-type players. This is not always the case. I think it’s exciting, honestly, that we have really, really talented young players in Triple-A that we feel can help us.”

This talent exemplifies the depth of the Orioles, as Norfolk owns the best record in the minors. Many of the players who contributed to that success either spent time with Baltimore or considered doing so at one point. Outfield prospect Jordan Westburg spent nearly a full year in Triple-A, but Elias suggested the Orioles’ efforts to face future opponents meant O’Hearn and Vavra, as left-handed hitters, took priority over a right-handed hitter who Baseball America ranks #5 in Baltimore.

But Westburg is in the organization, and that means at some point this season, he could help the Orioles.

“This year, I consider the whole group to be our team,” Elias said. “We will use every resource we have in the majors and minors as needed.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Jacob Calvin Meyer contributed to this article.


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