baseball

How do Orioles handle first base at Triple-A Norfolk?

The first order of business for the Orioles at spring training is finding 26 players to hop on the charter flight to Boston for opening day. Thirteen pitchers and 13 position players. No more questions about the composition of the rotation and bullpen, and which players join backup catchers James McCann and Ramón Urías or Adam Frazier on the bench.

The camp cuts also enable the Orioles to further stock the roster at Triple-A Norfolk. They have work to do down on the farm.

Lewin Díaz and Ryan O’Hearn were acquired to compete for the backup job at first base, with the latter also providing an option in right field. Two of the many left-handed bats brought into the organization.

The Orioles managed to get them through waivers – Díaz was the real challenge – and remove them from the 40-man roster. They’d be an easy fit with the Tides, who don’t have a first base prospect set to make the majority of starts.

Norfolk’s infield is expected to include Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz and Connor Norby, though they will try to make the Orioles’ roster for the March 30 opener. Colton Cowser, the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft, will be in the outfield and waiting for his inevitable promotion. Robert Neustrom returns, and the Orioles sign Franchy Cordero, Daz Cameron and Nomar Mazara to minor league contracts.

Kyle Stowers made his debut last summer and is expected to stick. Yusniel Díaz is a minor league free agent and Johnny Rizer retired, but the Orioles aren’t hurting the outfielders.

Meanwhile, a vacancy sign hangs on first base.

The position was shared in 2022, with Kelvin Gutiérrez making 40 starts and Patrick Dorrian 37. They’re both out of the organization, with Gutiérrez a free agent and Dorrian traded to the Brewers.

Seven other players were also used at first base. Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson combined for five starts and won’t go back to Norfolk unless they’re on an injury rehab assignment. Jacob Nottingham (23 starts) and Brett Cumberland (nine) signed minor league deals with other clubs. Tyler Nevin (14 starts) was traded to the Tigers. DJ Stewart (five), the former first-round pick, is a free agent.

Cadyn Grenier made 17 starts at first base, the first of his career, but the Orioles drafted him as a middle infielder and he became a utility player in 2022 with 26 starts at shortstop, 20 starts at second base, 19 in left field and 10 at third base.

The highly touted infield prospects kept him on the move.

Coby Mayo, the No. 7 prospect in the system per MLBPipeline.com, is a third baseman who made two starts at first base with Double-A Bowie. His next bump could come with more innings across the diamond, but the Orioles seem committed to developing him at third before considering a position change.

Andrew Daschbach made 77 starts at first base with Bowie, but he slashed .191/.328/.362 in 103 games.

Cordero could handle some of the load at first if he’s a camp cut. He’s raw at the position, clearly more comfortable in the outfield according to people paid to watch him last summer with the Red Sox, but the Orioles hire people paid to make him better.

The Orioles also signed Josh Lester to a minor league deal, and he made 103 of his 311 starts at the position last summer with Triple-A Toledo.

Sounds like another group effort.

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