On the same day the Orioles revealed the fourth member of their starting rotation to begin the 2016 season, the status of outfielder Hyun Soo Kim remained in limbo.
Manager Buck Showalter announced Thursday that right-hander Mike Wright would start the fourth game of the season, but that news was trumped by reports indicating that Kim will not accept an assignment to the minor leagues. Signed to a two-year, $7 million contract, Kim posted an anemic .411 on-base plus slugging percentage in 48 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League, but he must give his consent to be sent to the minors as part of the original agreement reached in December.
He has started just once in the last 10 games.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this week that Kim was unlikely to make the club to begin the season, citing a need for him to get further acclimated to a new country and a higher level of competition. However, the Orioles will be forced to either carry the 28-year-old South Korean on the 25-man roster or to release him and be on the hook for $7 million over the next two years if he does not agree to go to the minors.
The Orioles have until noon on Sunday to set their 25-man roster for the season opener.
Wright will start the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 8 after he pitched to a 4.79 ERA in 20 2/3 innings in the Grapefruit League. The 26-year-old allowed just four earned runs over his last three outings covering 14 innings this spring.
Showalter cited Wright’s spring performance as well as his 2.22 ERA in 81 innings at Triple-A Norfolk in 2015 as evidence that he was ready for the opportunity. The Orioles released veteran starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on Thursday, opening an additional spot in the rotation to the one vacated by the injured Kevin Gausman.
Wright made his major league debut last May, storming onto the scene with 14 1/3 shutout innings in his first two starts. However, he struggled mightily after that, posting an 8.90 ERA in his final 30 1/3 innings at the major league level.
Fellow right-hander Tyler Wilson will also begin the season on Baltimore’s 25-man roster as a member of the bullpen. He remains a candidate to pitch April 10 when the Orioles need a fifth starter for the first time.
Wilson finished the spring with a 2.60 ERA in 17 1/3 innings this spring and posted a 3.50 ERA in 36 innings in the majors last year.
The Orioles announced Thursday evening that right-handed relief pitcher Oliver Drake was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Drake pitched nine scoreless innings this spring and remains on the radar as quality bullpen depth for the 2016 season.
Thirty-eight players now remain in major league camp, a total that includes six non-roster invitees.