NRI’s – The other guys at spring training

It’s done every year by every team in major league baseball – invitations are given to players within the organization who are not currently on the team’s 40-man roster to attend spring training with the hope – however slight – of making the team’s 25-man opening day roster. And while it may not happen often, it does occasionally happen.

But the simple truth is that while it is a tremendous honor for a young minor leaguer to receive a non-roster invitation to major league camp, the odds of making it to The Show – at least the first time around – are astronomical at best.

To the surprise of no one, 21-year-old Dodgers number one-ranked prospect Cody Bellinger is attending his second consecutive major league spring training camp as a non-roster invitee.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

So what, then, does a manager and his coaching staff do to try to encourage these young ballplayers and instill confidence in them when so very few NRI’s make it onto the opening day roster?

“Our front office and development went through a lot of different reasons and there’s reasons why each [non-roster invitee] is here,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think that for me – the message from me, the coaches to these guys – is to enjoy it. When you see major league players work, that in itself is a win.

“But they’re going to go out there and impress, but I think for me, the coaches, it’s good to put eyes on Trevor Oaks and different guys that we haven’t really seen and we’ve heard a lot about, and even guys like Willie Calhoun and [Alex] Verdugo who we’ve seen a little bit,” Roberts added. “But they’re going to go out there and they’re young, they’re energetic but just go out there and learn and watch.”

2017 Dodgers Non-Roster Invitees

Ralston Cash
Fabio Castillo
Steve Geltz
Brandon Morrow
Trevor Oaks
Josh Sborz
Patrick Schuster
Yaisel Sierra
Madison Younginer

Jack Murphy
Wynston Sawyer
Bobby Wilson

Stetson Allie
Cody Bellinger
Willie Calhoun
Charlie Culberson
Ike Davis
Darnell Sweeney

O’Koyea Dickson
Tyler Holt
Henry Ramos
Alex Verdugo

On the other side of the coin are veteran major leaguers who, for the most part, are on the downhill side of their careers – guys who may have once held a full-time MLB roster spot but were not re-signed as free agents or outright released from their previous team but were later signed to minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp in hopes of resurrecting their careers. Although it may be more common for one of these guys to make it from NRI to the major league roster than a raw minor leaguer, it is still an enormous challenge for these veteran players.

The guy who immediately comes to mind in this regard is Jamey Wright, who successfully made his respective team eight consecutive seasons as a non-roster invitee, including once with the Dodgers in 2012. (Note: Wright signed with the Dodgers again in 2013 but was given a major league contract, thus breaking his consecutive NRI streak. He would eventually return to the Dodgers as an NRI in 2016 but retired from the game after not making the team. He did so at a remarkable 41 years of age).

But miracles do happen and occasionally a non-roster invitee actually does make the opening day roster. And sometimes there are even miracles on top of miracles when it happens. It’s impossible not to notice that 27-year-old / four-year MLB veteran Charlie Culberson – a 2016 Dodgers NRI who made the team – is again a non-roster invitee this spring; and we all know what Charlie Culberson did on September 25, 2016.

Culberson went from non-roster invitee to an opening day roster spot holder to a division-clenching walk-off home-run-hitting hero. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

Yes, occasionally miracles do happen. But even if one doesn’t happen this spring, I can absolutely positively guarantee you that there isn’t anywhere that this year’s 22 Dodgers non-roster invitees would rather be than in the major league clubhouse at Camelback Ranch right now.

Let the miracles begin.


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7 Responses to “NRI’s – The other guys at spring training”

  1. Respect the Rivalry says:

    Has anybody picked up Joe Blanton yet?

  2. oldbrooklynfan says:

    It would be nice to see one of these NRI’s make the team. It would seem awkward, in a way, if Culberson doesn’t make it.

    • Respect the Rivalry says:

      They do need a SS. As much as I like Kiki I think Culby is a better choice.
      Just remember though, that was only 1 HR. Though it will live forever in Dodger lore he can’t ride it for a career.

      • SoCalBum says:

        I like Culberson but Kike has an advantage at the start of ST as he can play so many positions, including an adequate CF when Dodgers face a tough LH pitcher. IF Kike demonstrates in ST that he has improved his approach to hitting by using the whole field rather than trying to pull every pitch for a home run, then he will secure a spot on the bench.

        • Respect the Rivalry says:

          Kiki hasn’t hit since that 10 TB game vs. Bummer. I hear he was just as helpless in winter ball. If he was going to get it back again he should have by now.
          His presence in the clubhouse and on the bench was an asset, but rosters aren’t big enough to carry a cheerleader. If he doesn’t start producing this spring he has no place.

  3. Bluenose Dodger says:

    These guys aren’t NRI’s but have been signed to minor league contracts with the Dodgers.

    RHP Tim Shibuya returns. RHP Colt Hynes returns to the fold having last been with the Dodgers at AAA in 2014.

    On the flip side personal favorite LHP Jeff Malm has been signed by the Rangers.

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