Because You Asked - The Quickening

Tempers have been pretty hot around here lately, but nothing compares to the heat that rises off the hot stove - except during the holiday break. Better wear your gloves if you’re looking to warm your hands.

With the Orioles in wait-and-see mode as we approach the start of 2010, this seemed like a good time to break out another entry that tackles the most popular questions that appear on this blog...over and over and over again.

• Do you think the Orioles would consider bringing back Aubrey Huff for one season?

I can’t imagine any scenario where Huff is strutting through the home clubhouse at Camden Yards wearing only a smile unless he’s taking a joke really, really far. And he’s already burned the retina from my eyes. The Orioles have moved on, and it’s highly unlikely that Andy MacPhail will reverse course with Huff, who didn’t exactly enhance his value on the market during his stint with the Tigers. I hope he finds a home (and a towel) and duplicates his 2008 season, but it won’t happen in Baltimore.

• What are the Orioles going to do about first base?

They’ll put a body over there by Opening Day to keep all those throws from sailing into the dugout and right field.

• I’m looking for names here.

That’s not a question.

• Do you have any names?

We already know that Garrett Atkins could play there if the Orioles sign a third baseman. Or they could sift through their “inventory,” with Michael Aubrey a good possibility until they decide that Brandon Snyder is ready. Otherwise, you’ve got guys like Carlos Delgado - once they’re able to scout him next month - Hank Blalock and Adam LaRoche.

• Any chance they make a run at Adrian Gonzalez?

Any chance I break down crying from this one? The latest reports indicate that the Padres will hold onto him, at least through the break, but that seems to change weekly, so stay tuned. The Padres will want the Orioles’ top young pitching talent. MacPhail won’t surrender the Orioles’ top young pitching talent, especially with Gonzalez two years away from free agency. They didn’t pursue him at the winter meetings and they’re not likely to start offering up their best arms next month. I just don’t see it happening.

• What would it take for the Orioles to get...

OK, I have to stop you right there. It’s difficult to play GM when you’re not sure how the other team views the Orioles’ prospects and veterans. One club might value David Hernandez, for example, more than another club. The Rangers wanted him in exchange for Kevin Millwood, but other executives might not have felt the same. And I’m not holding a list of “untouchables,” so it’s often a guess as to which young players MacPhail is willing to give up.

• Do you have a list of “untouchables?”

Prospects or body parts?

• Nevermind. Why didn’t the Orioles clear a spot for Steve Johnson on the 40-man roster right before the Rule 5 draft?

Once the Orioles set their roster and submitted it to the MLB offices, they could only add players who were acquired from outside the organization. In-house guys were excluded. And they gambled that other clubs would pass on Johnson because he isn’t a power arm. They also believed if he was claimed, the chances were good that he’d be offered back to them.

• Do you think the Giants selected him to get revenge on the Orioles for taking one of their guys with the third pick?

Spit-balling? Absolutely not. John Barr, their assistant to the GM, drafted Johnson when he served as the Dodgers’ East Coast supervisor, so he’s familiar with the kid. And Giants minor league pitching coach Ross Grimsley, the former Oriole, wrote a favorable report on Johnson a few years ago. They did their homework. They also went outside for recess.

• I know it’s a sports network, but will MASN air any holiday programming?

Now that you mention it, I’m pretty stoked about “An Andy MacPhail Christmas.” He dresses up as Santa and lets the market play out while deciding which kids were naughty and which were nice.

• Sorry I asked.

Also not a question.

• Will the Orioles sign another reliever, or are they done after Mike Gonzalez?

It’s just a matter of time before they re-sign Mark Hendrickson, at least from what I understand. He was put on the back burner while they hammered out deals for Gonzalez and Atkins. If I were gambling here, I’d pick Hendrickson as the next acquisition. After that, it’s a corner infielder or perhaps another starter.

• Would that starter be Erik Bedard?

If he’s able to take the ball before August 2014. Actually, I think they’d settle for early May of 2010, but some projections have him being sidelined through the first half. We could debate whether he’d still be worth a small investment, but that would make more sense for a club that viewed him as a fresh arm in the second half who could assist in their playoff push.

• What’s the rotation going to look like if they add another pitcher? Who’s getting left out?

That’s a problem they’ll gladly encounter when it arrives. Too many starters? They should be so lucky. Maybe Chris Tillman, who’s only 21, gets sent back down to Triple-A. Or maybe one of the other members of the cavalry is struggling and needs to take a step back. Or somebody gets hurt. These things have a way of working themselves out.

• MacPhail said the Orioles will be judged more on wins and losses next season. How many is he talking about here?

He didn’t set an over/under. MacPhail wants to see more progress, the kind that shows up in the standings, but he isn’t offering any specific numbers. Staying around .500 after a 98-loss season counts as significant progress in my book. So does running out more ground balls and not letting pop ups fall untouched. And allowing fans to stand during ninth-inning rallies.

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