An update and the 40-man

At this hour, the Orioles still don't have a signed contract from John Russell, who would serve as bench coach or third base coach, but they don't anticipate any snags that would still leave two vacancies. This one should get done.

Willie Randolph and Bobby Dickerson remain two of the strongest candidates to fill the final spot. The last I heard, Randolph was regarded as the favorite.

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is flying back to Baltimore today after attending the GM meetings in Orlando.

The next order of business, which comes later today, involves the 40-man roster. It must be set by 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning.

The Orioles already added reliever Jim Hoey, bringing the total to 34. They don't necessarily have to reach 40 and most likely will stay below the limit.

It's important to note that once the roster is set, the Orioles can remove players to make room for someone outside the organization. However, they can't add a minor leaguer who's already in the system.

We were reminded of this rule last winter after the Orioles failed to include pitcher Steve Johnson. The Giants claimed him in the Rule 5 draft, and he eventually returned to the Orioles.

Speaking of Johnson, if he's claimed again this winter - assuming he's not on the 40-man - and the team passes him through waivers rather than keeping him on its roster all season, the Orioles can attempt to take him back. But Johnson has the option of choosing free agency since it would be the second time that he's been outrighted. He isn't obligated to return. He could sign a minor league deal with another club.

Here's the rule in the CBA:

(2) Election of Free Agency-Second Outright Assignment

"Any Player whose contract is assigned outright to a Minor
League club for the second time or any subsequent time in his career
may elect, in lieu of accepting such assignment, to become a free
agent. In the event that such Player does not elect free agency in lieu
of accepting such assignment, he may elect free agency between the
end of the then current Major League season and the next following
October 15, unless such Player is returned to a Major League roster
prior to making such election."

Johnson struggled in the first half at Double-A Bowie, but he led the organization in strikeouts with 128 and went 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA in the second half. He failed to get the win in three games when he didn't allow a run.

The Giants tried to work out a trade for Johnson after taking him in the Rule 5 last winter, but the Orioles wanted to keep him. The Giants won the World Series. The Orioles could lose Johnson this winter if he's not on the 40 and he decides that he'll have a better opportunity someplace else.

The Orioles must add Zach Britton. Other players who would be eligible for the Rule 5 include Billy Rowell, Pedro Beato, Joe Mahoney, Ryan Adams and Matt Angle.

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