Who rules in Rule 5 protection?

With the Winter Meetings fast approaching, the Orioles must set their 40-man roster by Friday while determining which players to leave exposed in the Rule 5 draft.

The roster currently holds 38 players. I'll publish the list at the bottom of this entry.

Keep in mind that once the Orioles finalize the roster, they can't add other players from within the organization before the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 8. They can, however, add players obtained from other organizations, which would necessitate clearing another spot if they're already at 40.

I recall being asked quite a few times in December 2009 whether pitcher Steve Johnson might be included later, after the Orioles created a bit of a stir by leaving him off the roster. It was too late, and the Giants selected Johnson in the draft before eventually offering him back to the Orioles.

The Orioles must decide whether to place Johnson on the 40-man this week.

One team official estimated that 30-40 players are eligible to be taken in the draft because of their service time in the minors. The Orioles will try to determine which ones are more likely to be chosen and which ones would probably be offered back to them, which lessens the need to protect them.

Any team that selects a player must keep him on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back. The Mets kept reliever Pedro Beato this season. The Brewers returned reliever Pat Egan, who's again eligible for the draft.

Teams passed on former first-round pick Billy Rowell last winter, and he'll likely remain off the 40-man. I don't envision a scenario where the Orioles suddenly feel the urge to protect him.

Pitchers Tim Bascom, Oliver Drake (Navy), Cole McCurry and Sean Gleason, catchers Caleb Joseph and John Hester, and second baseman Greg Miclat also are eligible for the draft. Those are some of the more prominent names.

Bascom was named the organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year after going 9-4 with a 3.11 ERA at Double-A Bowie.

Miclat stole 50 bases at Bowie. Gleason had 32 saves at Single-A Frederick, but he's been roughed up in the Arizona Fall League.

Hester would be a candidate to back up catcher Matt Wieters if he stays in the organization. Somebody has to replace Craig Tatum.

(Speaking of the Astros, who claimed Tatum off waivers, they signed former Orioles infielder Scott Moore to a minor league deal yesterday.)

Here's the current 40-man roster, which includes 21 pitchers, one catcher and 38 names total:

Pitchers:
Jake Arrieta
Brad Bergesen
Jason Berken
Zach Britton
Dylan Bundy
Willie Eyre
Kevin Gregg
Jeremy Guthrie
Tommy Hunter
Jim Johnson
Brian Matusz
Darren O'Day
Troy Patton
Zach Phillips
Clay Rapada
Jo-Jo Reyes
Alfredo Simon
Pedro Strop
Chris Tillman
Rick VandenHurk
Pedro Viola

Catcher:
Matt Wieters

Infielders:
Ryan Adams
Robert Andino
Josh Bell
Chris Davis
Pedro Florimon Jr.
J.J. Hardy
Joe Mahoney
Mark Reynolds
Brian Roberts
Brandon Snyder

Outfielders:
Matt Angle
Kyle Hudson
Adam Jones
Nick Markakis
Nolan Reimold
Luke Scott

Hudson and Florimon were surprise September call-ups, and the Orioles might have wanted to take a quick look at them before deciding whether they should be protected.

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