Lots of good choices for Orioles roster

Lots of good choices for Orioles roster
December 7, 2012, 12:00 pm
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Dan Duquette left the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., with a familiar group. Thanks to the re-signing of Nate McLouth, 32 of the 40 players on the roster appeared in games for the Orioles last season.

Four of the 40 are rookies who’ve never played in the majors: pitchers Mike Belfiore, Zach Clark and T.J. McFarland and infielder Jonathan Schoop.  

Duquette has four additions to the 40-man who played in the majors last year: infielders Alexi Casilla, Yamaico Navarro and Danny Valencia and outfielder Trayvon Robinson.

Tsuyoshi Wada, who was on the 60-day disabled list and didn’t play due to Tommy John surgery last season, is also on the 40-man.

The Orioles have a few players with minor league contracts who also played in the majors last season: Lew Ford, Jason Pridie and Daniel McCutchen. That number may grow if Duquette signs a few more.

So far, 39 players are coming to spring training who played in the major leagues last season.

That means there are lots of players for manager Buck Showalter to sift through, and some hard decisions.

Some of the decisions could get easier if the Orioles trade some of their younger arms for a power hitter. But for now the team has depth.

Longtime NFL coach Bill Parcells used to estimate that he spent 50 percent of his time in training camp thinking about the last players on his roster.

That will probably be the case with Showalter, too.

Even though Taylor Teagarden was re-signed last week, he was injured the first half of 2012. Luis Exposito, who filled for some of last year is still on the 40-man roster, and Showalter said this week he expects the team to add another catcher with major league experience.

Some of his planning is complicated by the World Baseball Classic. Two of the three catchers the team is inviting to spring training, Allan De San Miguel and Chris Robinson, are playing for Australia and Canada and have to leave camp in late February to prepare for the WBC.

Both will be around early in camp to catch the two dozen pitchers expected. Both De San Miguel and Robinson caught for Norfolk last season and neither is a contender to play in the major leagues unless there’s an emergency. The same for Jose Gil, another non-roster catcher.

If Brian Roberts is healthy enough to play, Showalter will use Casilla to back him up. He also has Ryan Flaherty, Navarro, Valencia and perhaps Omar Quintanilla, if he re-signs, to sift through as reserve infielders.

Robinson, Ford, Pridie, Steve Pearce, Xavier Avery, L.J. Hoes and Conor Jackson, who was signed to a minor league deal this week will contend for the final outfield berth.

And most important, if the Orioles don’t trade pitching arms for a power bat, Showalter will have the difficult decision of who he wants for the final spots on the pitching staff.

If Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are set as starters and Jim Johnson, Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Troy Patton and Brian Matusz are in the bullpen, perhaps two spots are up for grabs.

Showalter raved about Wada’s progress, and if he’s ready, he’ll get a spot. Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, Steve Johnson and McFarland will contend for the other. With outstanding spring trainings and an injury or two, Belfiore, Clark or McCutchen could get  a shot.

Spring training begins in just over two months, but it’s remarkable how many more quality players are on hand than there were a year ago.