SARASOTA, Fla. — The end is in sight.

As spring training winds down with just one week of games remaining before a flight to Boston to face the Red Sox on opening day, the Orioles’ roster is taking shape. The main contributors have been locks throughout the spring, and several of the fringe players have made strong impressions.

But there remains time to jockey for positions before the final decision on an opening day 26-man roster is finalized.

“I think we’re going to be waiting for the last day on a bunch of guys,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think we’re going to let these guys get as many at-bats as possible and let some of these guys throw until the very end.”

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How the roster looks on opening day can — and likely will — be different from Baltimore’s contingent come October.

Last year, Kelvin Gutiérrez started at third base on opening day; he only played 12 games for the Orioles before he was optioned and later released. Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson weren’t in the 2022 opening day lineup, and other prospects are sure to appear throughout the 2023 season and play large roles.

The opening day roster is a starting point, however. And here’s how we project the roster to look come March 30.


Heston Kjerstad (75) celebrates with his teammate Franchy Cordero (16) at LECOM Park after scoring in the sixth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on 2/28/23. The Baltimore Orioles lost to the Pirates, 7-4, in their Florida Grapefruit League matchup. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
Opening day rosterProjected final cuts
Adley Rutschman (C, DH)Franchy Cordero (1B)
James McCann (C, 1B)Ryan O’Hearn (1B)
Ryan Mountcastle (1B)Josh Lester (1B)
Adam Frazier (2B)
Ramón Urías (3B)
Gunnar Henderson (3B, SS)
Jorge Mateo (SS)
Terrin Vavra (Utility)

Entering the spring, the largest competition was for the backup first baseman role. And yet, it’s entirely possible none of the offseason additions make the opening day roster, with those who decide not to opt out of their contracts serving as depth in the minor leagues.

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The difficulty, though, is that those players have performed well. Entering Tuesday, Franchy Cordero hit .515 with a 1.394 OPS in 33 at-bats. Ryan O’Hearn hit .375 with an 0.986 OPS in 24 at-bats. Josh Lester has nine RBIs and 13 hits in 39 at-bats. Lewin Díaz had five knocks and a homer in 20 at-bats, but was optioned on Monday.

They were all solid. And yet, the roster configuration might not find room for any of them. Ryan Mountcastle will be the everyday first baseman, and while Cordero or O’Hearn could also slot into the corner outfield and serve as designated hitter, there are others who could fill in at first base, such as Anthony Santander, James McCann and Terrin Vavra.

Second baseman Adam Frazier hasn’t enjoyed the strongest of springs, but after signing for $8 million, there’s little doubt he’ll be a key figure in Baltimore. Henderson established himself at the end of last season and Ramón Urías earned a Gold Glove award for his work at third base. Jorge Mateo, despite his bat lagging behind his defense and baserunning, is also a regular.

Rutschman and McCann are the undisputed catchers as camp reaches a close. That leaves one infield/utility role off the bench.

Vavra has done more than enough this spring to warrant a place in Baltimore, hitting .355 entering Tuesday while also expanding his defensive capabilities to include third and first base.

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Outfielders Daz Cameron (41) and Colton Cowser (76) jog off the field at Ed Smith Stadium after the seventh inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins on 2/25/23. The Baltimore Orioles hosted the Twins for their home opener as the Florida Grapefruit League started on Saturday. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
Opening day rosterProjected final cuts
Cedric Mullins (CF)Daz Cameron (OF)
Anthony Sandander (RF, 1B, DH)Colton Cowser (OF)
Austin Hays (LF)Heston Kjerstad (OF)
Kyle Stowers (OF, DH)Nomar Mazara (OF)
Ryan McKenna (OF)

The eye-popping springs from Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad are intriguing, but the likeliest starting place for them is the minor leagues. They might not remain there long, should they continue the output they began in spring training, including 13 walks and a 476-foot homer for Cowser and a 1.254 OPS for Kjerstad.

But until they break through to the majors, the starting outfield configuration has long been known: Cedric Mullins in center, Austin Hays in left and Santander in right. That hasn’t changed this spring.

The murkier areas come between Kyle Stowers and Ryan McKenna, the latter of whom could lose his spot should the Orioles opt instead to carry a true backup first baseman.

Stowers comes off a rookie season in which he hit .253 in the majors. He can play the corner outfield positions well and in center if there’s a major need. Plus, Stowers and Santander are contenders to rotate as the designated hitter.

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McKenna’s performances at the plate have belied his value, entering Tuesday hitting .194 this spring after batting .237 last year. The 26-year-old made his mark in 2022 as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, and his .270 average against left-handed pitchers offered a strong split should Mullins fall into trouble in left-on-left matchups again.

Starting rotation

Right-handed pitcher Kyle Bradish (39) walks off the field with Adley Rutschman (35) at LECOM Park in the middle of the first inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on 2/28/23. The Baltimore Orioles traveled to Bradenton on Tuesday as part of the Florida Grapefruit League during their spring training session. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
Opening day rosterProjected final cuts
Kyle GibsonSpenser Watkins
Cole Irvin
Dean Kremer
Grayson Rodriguez
Kyle Bradish

The Orioles opened camp with 12 rotation candidates. That has been whittled down to eight. Left-hander Drew Rom was reassigned to minor league camp, right-hander Mike Baumann is transitioning to a bullpen role, left-hander Bruce Zimmermann was optioned and left-hander DL Hall won’t be ready for an opening day starting role due to a back injury slowing his buildup.

There are still immensely difficult decisions ahead for executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson, signed this offseason for $10 million, was one of the few locks for the rotation. With 14 innings pitched this spring and only two runs against him, Gibson is making a strong claim for the opening day starter honor. Left-hander Cole Irvin, who the Orioles acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, is another definite in the rotation.

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More questions surround the remaining three spots — particularly right-hander Grayson Rodriguez. One of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Rodriguez has struggled in the fourth inning of each of his last two starts, outliers from the dominance he has shown in his other innings. Elias made his intention clear this offseason that he hopes Rodriguez will make the opening day roster, and a few spring training scuffles shouldn’t change that.

And despite strong springs from Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins and Tyler Wells, the final two spots in the rotation could belong to right-handers Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish.

Kremer starred for Israel in the World Baseball Classic and held a 3.23 ERA last year. And Bradish, after settling into his rookie year, produced a 3.28 ERA in July and beyond.


Cionel Pérez (58) delivers a pitch during batting practice at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on 2/22/23. The Baltimore Orioles’ Spring Training session runs from mid-February through the end of March. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
Opening day rosterProjected final cuts
Cionel PérezDL Hall
Félix BautistaMike Baumann
Mychal GivensReed Garrett
Bryan BakerEduard Bazardo
Keegan AkinJoey Krehbiel
Andrew Politi
Tyler Wells
Austin Voth

A forearm strain for right-hander Dillon Tate changes the bullpen equation somewhat, leaving Tate sidelined for at least another month. There have been several definite relievers among the eight open spots apart from Tate, though, including right-hander Félix Bautista, left-hander Cionel Pérez and right-hander Mychal Givens.

Despite a rocky spring for right-hander Bryan Baker (nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings), Hyde remains confident in the 28-year-old based on his strong 2022. And with six scoreless innings this spring for left-hander Keegan Akin, his place in the bullpen seems secure.

Wells established himself as a starter last year, but with so much competition in the rotation and his previous experience out of the bullpen, a redirection to a relief role wouldn’t be a shock. The same goes for Voth, despite a rocky spring (6.75 ERA in 10 2/3 innings).

Voth is out of options and signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He proved his value as a starter or long reliever last year, posting a 3.04 ERA in 83 innings for Baltimore. Those three factors likely secure him a place in the pitching staff again.

And while there’s a potential for Watkins, Baumann or right-hander Joey Krehbiel for the final spot, Rule 5 Draft selection Andrew Politi could claim it. There’s a potential for him to be returned to the Boston Red Sox (it’s happened before with a Rule 5 selection, when the Orioles returned right-hander Mac Sceroler to the Cincinnati Reds in 2021).

Politi has amassed a solid spring, too, apart from a March 9 implosion in which he gave up four runs in 2/3 of an inning. Besides that, Politi has recorded six scoreless innings.

Krehbiel ran into trouble late last year after Baltimore traded away closer Jorge López. From Aug. 6 to Sept. 27, his final appearance before he was optioned, Krehbiel allowed 15 runs in 19 1/3 innings. This spring, Krehbiel allowed eight runs in his first two outings, although he has compiled four straight scoreless appearances since. Still, he might be an odd man out.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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