Orioles set 28-man roster; Baltimore area native Bruce Zimmermann to start home opener

Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Bruce Zimmermann throws a pitch to the New York Mets during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Baltimore Orioles have tentatively set their roster for Friday’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, with Ellicott City native Bruce Zimmermann making the club’s rotation and lined up to start Monday’s home opener.

Zimmermann, a 27-year-old left-hander, made his debut during the fanless 2020 season but was able to pitch in front of his loved ones at Camden Yards in 2021, a season in which he had a 4.83 ERA before going on the injured list in mid-June. He’ll follow John Means, Jordan Lyles and Tyler Wells in the rotation, with manager Brandon Hyde saying Wednesday morning the fifth spot would be open for now.

Hyde said the decision to start Zimmermann in the season’s fourth game wasn’t made with the intent of giving him the home opener, but it worked for the Loyola Blakefield product.

“I think obviously it adds a little extra something,” Hyde said. “It’s extra special being from the area. He’s gonna have a lot of friends and family there, but it was cool to give him the news he’s gonna [start] the home opener. That’s a special moment.”

The Orioles used their two open 40-man roster spots — created when they traded relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Miami Marlins over the weekend — to add utility man Chris Owings and backup catcher Anthony Bemboom, Hyde said as he announced the roster in piecemeal ahead of Thursday’s noon deadline to do so.

They made seven cuts to drop their camp roster to 28, with infielder-outfielder Tyler Nevin the only player on the 40-man roster still in camp who did not make the club. Jacob Nottingham and Beau Taylor will remain with the organization after competing with Bemboom to be Baltimore’s backup catcher. Nonroster pitchers Spenser Watkins, Chris Ellis and Travis Lakins Sr., all of whom spent time with Baltimore in 2021, did not crack the season-opening group, nor did infielder Richie Martin.

The club was expected to carry 15 pitchers into the season, with Major League Baseball providing teams two additional roster spots into early May because of the shorter spring training coming off the league’s lockout. But after they optioned rookie left-hander Zac Lowther on Saturday, the Orioles would have needed to add Watkins, Ellis or Lakins to the 40-man roster to reach that mark.

Infielder Jorge Mateo (sore right hand) and reliever Dillon Tate (sore throat) were both deemed healthy enough to break camp with Baltimore. DJ Stewart and Ryan McKenna both made the team, providing outfield depth off the bench, with Owings and Trey Mancini also possibilities to fill in there for starters Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander.

The entire group of young starting pitchers still in camp made the club; Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Mike Baumann could join Zimmermann in the rotation, but with uncertainty over how much starters are built up entering the year after the shortened spring, they could be needed before that fifth game. It’s important to note that as other clubs make their cuts, players will be made available on waivers, and the Orioles, by virtue of their last-place finish in 2021, will have first dibs.

“There’s a lot of guys in play for that fifth spot,” Hyde said.

Baumann, Akin, McKenna and Bemboom are all on their first opening day roster, as are Félix Bautista, Bryan Baker, Joey Krehbiel and Kelvin Gutiérrez. Bautista’s first appearance will be his major league debut. Hyde said sharing the news with Bemboom, 32, was particularly special.

“Bemboom’s been in this game a long time, and for him to be told that he’s made the team, that was emotional for him,” Hyde said. “Those conversations were fun.”

The roster could still change before Friday’s game and certainly before the Orioles’ first home contest Monday. The Orioles would need to clear a 40-man spot, and likely a 28-man spot, for any player they claim.

Following is the Orioles’ tentative 28-man roster:

Catchers (2): Robinson Chirinos, Anthony Bemboom

Infielders (7): Trey Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle, Rougned Odor, Chris Owings, Ramón Urías, Jorge Mateo, Kelvin Gutiérrez

Outfielders (5): Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart, Ryan McKenna

Starting/bulk pitchers (7): John Means, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann

Relief pitchers (7): Paul Fry, Dillon Tate, Jorge López, Félix Bautista, Bryan Baker, Joey Krehbiel, Cionel Pérez