With spring games drawing to a close, many teams have some last-minute roster moves to make, and the futures of some notable veteran players who were non-roster invitees hang in the balance.
The season begins Sunday, and a few of those veterans have left their respective front offices with a particularly difficult choice to make. Whether it’s due to injury or good spring performances, let’s examine each one:
Craig Gentry, OF – Baltimore Orioles
In his prime, Gentry appeared to be a budding elite center fielder with the Texas Rangers, but following his 2013 campaign – his last great season – he suffered lower-back and knee issues, and eventually broke his hand being hit by a pitch. After a concussion sidelined him for the remainder of the 2014 season, it appeared Gentry’s career was in danger. The Los Angeles Angels gave him a shot at platooning with Daniel Nava in left field, though that quickly ended, as he once again found himself on the disabled list.
Now, though, Gentry appears to be making a resurgence. In 52 at-bats this spring, he’s slashing .327/.435/.538 with seven stolen bases. Also helping his Opening Day case is the fact that the Orioles’ alternatives don’t seem that appealing. Their current option in left field appears to be Seth Smith. Smith would be one of the few left-handed-hitting options in the Orioles’ lineup – which could work against the right-handed Gentry – though perhaps a platoon makes the most sense. The only player standing in the way of a Smith-Gentry platoon in right field would be 25-year-old Joey Rickard. Staying in-house might end up making the most sense for the Orioles, but perhaps Gentry’s spring enticed another team to take a flier on him in the event of his release.
Bronson Arroyo, SP – Cincinnati Reds
The 40-year-old Arroyo hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since before Kris Bryant made his first plate appearance. In 2014, as a 37-year-old veteran, Arroyo was shelved with an elbow injury and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. That’s a difficult surgery for any pitcher to come back from, and it appeared Arroyo’s career might be over.
Enter the Reds. The team Arroyo spent eight seasons of his prime with invited him to spring training with a chance at a major-league spot. Over 7 2/3 innings with the club this March, he didn’t exactly dazzle, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and two walks. However, that hasn’t stopped Reds manager Bryan Price from committing to Arroyo, saying recently that he doesn’t “have any doubt at this point in time that (Arroyo is) going to pitch in the big leagues for us,” according to Zach Buchanan of Cincinnati.com. While that’s a nice vote of confidence, Arroyo hasn’t completed the comeback yet, and the path to becoming the Reds’ fifth starter depends on some extended spring outings.
Dillon Gee, SP – Texas Rangers
The 30-year-old Gee hasn’t managed a full starting workload since 2013, but could wind up with a starting job with the Texas Rangers after his performance this spring. In 19 2/3 innings, Gee has posted a pretty solid 3.20 ERA despite a 1.42 WHIP. He’s coming off of an abysmal campaign with the Kansas City Royals as a swingman in 2016, though, in which he posted a 4.68 ERA and 5.25 FIP.
Giving him more hope is the fact that the Rangers might not have another option for a fifth starter. With Andrew Cashner, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Tyson Ross all out with pretty serious injuries, the team’s hands might be tied. There are certainly worse options than Gee, and examples like this are precisely why non-roster invitees exist.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)