Quiroz named backup; other races open
With backstop job settled, decisions loom at short, No. 5 hurler
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Orioles settled one of their few remaining roster vacancies on Wednesday, when they tabbed offseason acquisition Guillermo Quiroz as their backup catcher. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said that decisions on his fifth starter and shortstop could come as soon as Saturday, leaving one open spot at the end of the bench.
Trembley may not have all his plans made out, but he has settled on a few names that won't make the roster. Veteran Minor Leaguers Chris Roberson, Eider Torres and Chris Heintz will all travel north with the team but will be reassigned for Opening Day, and Oscar Salazar will play in Viera, Fla., on Thursday and will then be reassigned to the Minors on Friday.
"They'll go to Baltimore with us, be at the FanFest, be part of the exhibition game [and] work out with us on Sunday. And then Monday they'll report to [Triple-A] Norfolk," said Trembley, speaking of his last round of cuts. "Salazar will go with us tomorrow to Viera, and then Friday, he'll be reassigned to the Minor League camp in Sarasota, [Fla.]"
Heintz was the last standing challenge to Quiroz, who signed a big league deal with the Orioles at December's Winter Meetings. Baltimore had also brought in former first-round pick Ben Davis to flesh out the competition in Spring Training, but Quiroz, a former Venezuelan bonus baby, impressed Trembley with his all-around game.
"I like what he brings to our team," Trembley said Wednesday. "And what I'm probably going to do with him is pair him up catching [Adam] Loewen. I like how he establishes the pace of the game and the way he calls the game. [Hitting coach Terry Crowley] thinks that when he gets on a better routine of hitting in the cage, his bat will come. He's going to get the opportunity here as a backup catcher on this club. He's going to know when he's going to play."
Now that that's been established, Trembley is looking to shore up the last few spots. He has a two-man competition at shortstop and for his fifth starting job, and the losers in that derby will likely be backups. Trembley has said that he'll need a defensive reserve that can play shortstop, lending hope to both Luis Hernandez and Brandon Fahey.
The same theory holds true for Matt Albers and Brian Burres, both of whom have served as swingmen in the past. One member of that pair will break camp as a starter, but the other one will probably serve as a long reliever. Still, Trembley stressed that Opening Day designations aren't permanent and that roles will change once the year begins.
"I'm probably not going to say anything on who the Opening Day guy is until we get on the plane," he said of shortstop. "Just because you start Opening Day with 25 guys on your roster doesn't mean that's the way it's going to be. ... It's just a starting point for us. I'm assuming that at certain points and times along the way there will be adjustments."
The addition of Quiroz also clarifies the rest of the bench picture. Baltimore is committed to carrying 12 pitchers, which means there will be just four dedicated reserve spots. Quiroz gets one and reserve outfielder Jay Payton gets another. One more will be reserved for a utilityman, leaving Scott Moore and Tike Redman to battle for the final spot.
"That's a very good assumption, and I think that will be clarified after the game [Thursday] in Viera," said Trembley, confirming the lay of the land. "With all due respect to everybody, today is the day for waiver claims and all that stuff goes through, so we'll see what happens off that. But it comes down to those two guys, I would think."
One other factor is Jay Gibbons, who's supposed to spend the first two weeks of the season suspended for the purchase of performance-enhancing drugs. One published report has stated that his suspension may be overturned due to ongoing discussions between league owners and the players association in reference to the sport's drug agreement.
The Orioles will likely be responsible for the $11.9 million remaining on his deal either way, but cutting Gibbons would allow a player like Moore to make it to the Majors and begin his growth process. Baltimore would have two weeks to make that decision if Gibbons remains suspended, but a few days to make it if his penalty is overturned.
Salazar, who spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons playing in Mexico and Italy, improved his position by hitting .290 this spring. Trembley said the veteran will likely play second base, third base and the outfield at Norfolk.
"He's an interesting guy for me, and I told him that this morning," said Trembley. "I told him this morning [that] when it comes to the National League portion of the schedule for us, I'm going to keep him in mind. He's a right-handed hitter that can play anywhere, and he looks like he'll be a real good pinch-hitter off the bench. He had a great spring for us."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.