Early off-days let O's be creative with roster

Club likely to carry 11 pitchers, 14 position players into season opener

Early off-days let O's be creative with roster

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles have until Sunday afternoon to set their roster, and while there are still questions remaining, a lot of the 25-man Opening Day team is already in place.

Left-hander Wade Miley will start the season on the disabled list, along with starter Chris Tillman and outfielder and Rule 5 Draft pick Anthony Santander. Tillman, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, isn't expected back until the end of April, while Miley -- who was slowed with illness this spring -- will come back to pitch the fifth game of the season on April 9. Santander was sidelined by elbow inflammation and recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.

With the O's early off-days, Opening Day starter Kevin Gausman can come back to pitch the fourth game, leaving the Orioles in a spot where they only need to carry three starters. They will have eight relievers, with Tyler Wilson and Vidal Nuno expected to take the last two spots, barring another move.

Because they have just 11 pitchers, Baltimore will go with 14 position players to begin the season. Outfielders Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard have made the team, and Craig Gentry is also expected to join the club in Baltimore, though the Orioles are waiting for their other Rule 5 pick, Aneury Tavarez, to clear waivers, which will open up a 40-man roster spot.

Mancini's two-run double

What's changed since the early Opening Day roster predictions? Plenty. While we knew early on about Tillman, the O's weren't sure until just recently if they'd be able to put Miley on the DL to open the year, a move that gives them much more roster flexibility.

Gentry was a late signing, as was Pedro Alvarez (who will start the season in Triple-A) and both Rickard and Mancini had solid springs. MLB.com predicted that Rickard and Mancini would make the team, though they weren't locks. It's no surprise the O's have found a way to keep one of their Rule 5 picks, though Santander is coming off of surgery and wasn't a surprising DL move.

The club will have some tough roster decisions to make when Miley returns and the clubs decides on a fifth starter, which they won't need until April 15. Dylan Bundy will pitch the second game of the season, followed by Ubaldo Jimenez in the third game.

There's also the decision of what to do with reliever Oliver Drake, who is out of options and could be lost on waivers.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.