Orioles send out Britton, Harris, Tatum (Duchscherer on DL)
The Orioles have made what appears to be their final three cuts of the spring.
Lefty pitcher Zach Britton, who has been the club’s best starter this month, reserve catcher Craig Tatum and infielder Brendan Harris were told that they were being re-assigned to minor-league camp this afternoon.
That means the other players on the roster bubble – pitchers Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and infielder Robert Andino – will all break camp, if healthy, with the Orioles.
It also means utility man Jake Fox, who has hit a major-league leading 10 spring homers, will be the club’s lone back-up catcher.
Tatum is considered better defensively than Fox, but Fox is out of options and Tatum still has a minor-league option remaining.
Tatum hit .216 in 37 at-bats this spring and missed a week after tweaking a side muscle. The 28-year-old catcher made the team out of spring last year, but was sent to the minors in July for three weeks – again primarily due to a roster crunch. He hit .289 with no homers in 43 games with the Orioles in 2010.
Britton, 23, allowed just three runs in 20 spring innings (1.35 ERA) further establishing himself as the club’s best pitching prospect. He has made just 12 starts above Double-A, however, and will start at Triple-A Norfolk. If he stays in the minors for at least 20 days, it will delay his service-time clock, essentially making him eligible for free agency in 2017 instead of 2016.
Harris, 30, was not on the Orioles’ 40-man roster after coming over from the Minnesota Twins in the J.J. Hardy deal. He hit .226 in 53 spring at-bats with two homers and 10 RBIs.
Andino was one of the more intriguing players on the roster bubble. He is out of options and the club did not expect the 26-year-old utility infielder to clear waivers. However, he serves a similar role as veteran Cesar Izturis, who was signed to a $1.5 million deal this winter to be the club’s reserve infielder.
Andino hit .283 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 53 spring at-bats.
Tillman, 22, and Bergesen, 25, were battling for a spot in the Orioles’ four-man rotation. Now, they both likely will make the team, assuming Bergesen (right forearm contusion) feels fine after a simulated game Wednesday.
Either Tillman or Bergesen will start the third game of the regular season on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that hasn’t been determined yet, but Bergesen seems more of an option to pitch out of the bullpen.
The Orioles won’t need a fifth starter until April 10. Tillman or Bergesen could make that start.
The Orioles also put pitcher Justin Duchscherer on the disabled list with left hip soreness. He hopes to be ready to pitch in a big-league game by April 20.
Also, technically on the camp roster is pitcher Rick VandenHurk, who has been put on waivers. The Orioles will know Wednesday whether he has cleared and will go to Triple-A Norfolk. They have not announced the waiver move yet.