“Because You Asked” - Seventh Inning Fetch

The Orioles don’t have a game tonight and it has nothing to do with rain. There’s an open date on their schedule.

Triple-A Norfolk has one, as well, and should savor every second of it.

After today, the Tides have one off-day scheduled prior to the All-Star break. They play on 54 of the next 55 days.

Heath Bell made his Norfolk debut yesterday and retired the side in order on eight pitches, including six strikes.

Fans ask why the Orioles would bother signing Bell, who hasn’t really been good since leaving the Padres following the 2011 season. It was a no-risk minor league deal. A classic Dan Duquette depth signing.

Bell could be Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Tejada, Jamie Moyer or Conor Jackson. Insert your favorite veteran who never made it to Baltimore. Or maybe he’s Nate McLouth, Lew Ford, Freddy Garcia, Steve Tolleson or a host of others who contributed to some degree.

Now that I’ve tackled the Bell question, I’ll dig deeper into my mailbag for the latest sequel to the always popular “Because You Asked” series.

A few of them aren’t baseball-related and shouldn’t be handled by me. I’m not the appropriate person to explain where babies come from or the popularity of the “Happy” song.

Let’s get started.

When will Johan Santana be ready to pitch for the Orioles?

Santana apparently will start another extended spring training game to build up his innings before he’s assigned to a minor league affiliate. He has a May 30 opt-out clause in his contract, but he can agree to move it back. There’s no firm date for his arrival and no guarantee that he’ll ever pitch for the Orioles.

Who comes off the roster if and when Johan Santana joins the team?

There’s absolutely no way for me to answer that one on this date. The roster wouldn’t have the same look as it does today. There are so many factors.

When will Dylan Bundy be ready to pitch for the Orioles?

It’s more important for the Orioles to get Bundy ready to pitch for Double-A Bowie. He’s scheduled to throw one inning Tuesday in an extended spring training game. That’s the next step. Bundy could make it back to the majors in the second half, but again, there are so many factors at work. How’s he pitching? How’s he feeling? Is there a need for him? What about the pitchers currently ahead of him in the pecking order?

Why bring up Kevin Gausman for one start?

So many factors at work (yep, I went there again). Doubts about whether Chris Tillman would make his next start due to soreness in his groin. Uncertainty over whether Bud Norris would be suspended. Miguel Gonzalez may have been needed to take one of those turns. Also, the Orioles wanted to give left-hander Wei-Yin Chen an extra day of rest. And let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of choices at Norfolk. Eddie Gamboa registered the Tides’ third quality start yesterday. That’s it. Steve Johnson wasn’t deemed quite ready, and now he’s shut down with right shoulder inflammation. But, yes, I understand the second-guessing, considering that Gausman made only one start since having pneumonia and was working on short rest and a strict pitch count.

How about making Kevin Gausman the closer?

The Orioles are more focused on making him a better starter. I see the logic in that he’s so dominant the first time through the order, but it’s too early in his career to change his role and shorten him to one-inning stints. Scouts believe that he will be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Let’s find out. And besides, Zach Britton looked pretty good handling that role a few nights ago.

Should the Orioles make Zach Britton a starter?

They’d have to stretch him out. He hasn’t thrown more than 42 pitches in any game this season, and that happened on April 16. He hasn’t thrown more than 17 this month. And he’s way too valuable in the bullpen, whether it’s in his former role or his current one. Check back with me in spring training next year. It may make more sense.

Do you think they’ll play tonight, and if not, would they play a doubleheader tomorrow?

There’s no game scheduled for tonight and it’s not raining, but I see what you did there. Jerk.

Are the Orioles still looking for a catcher?

The short answer is yes. I’ve had too many people from outside the organization confirm it to believe otherwise. The Orioles are satisfied with a platoon of Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph in the short term, but if Matt Wieters undergoes ligament-reconstructive surgery and is lost for the rest of the season, their attempts to find a veteran catcher will intensify. But it’s not like the market is flooded with appealing options.

Why don’t the Orioles option Tommy Hunter?

Because he’s out of options.

Why don’t the Orioles option David Lough?

Because he’s out of options.

Why did the Orioles reinstate Troy Patton?

Because he’s out of options. And he’s left-handed.

When will we see Steve Lombardozzi back here?

Do the Orioles believe that they need an extra bench player for interleague games? If not, well, I don’t know. He’s batting .304. He had an 11-game hitting streak. The Orioles would like another left-handed hitter, and he can bat from both sides of the plate. Manager Buck Showalter likes Ryan Flaherty’s versatility, which includes backing up at first base, but Steve Pearce can do it now that he’s no longer starting. And Lombardozzi has been playing left field at Norfolk to increase his value. Still doesn’t answer your question, but he’ll return at some point.

Speaking of Steve Pearce, has anyone seen him?

I can confirm that he’s still with the club. Pearce has made one start since May 10, with Chris Davis’ return from the disabled list pushing him to the bench. Delmon Young got the start Saturday night against Royals left-hander Danny Duffy. Showalter tries to avoid having players sit for too long, but he’s challenged to find at-bats for both of them. Pearce did an outstanding job as Davis’ replacement and it’s unfortunate that he’s practically disappeared again.

Will Adam Jones ever learn to lay off pitches down and away?

Jones is an aggressive hitter. He comes to the plate in attack mode. He’s not happy about chasing pitches out of the strike zone, but it happens. His approach has enabled him to hit 25, 32 and 33 home runs over the past three seasons. He drove in 108 runs last year. He had a career .281 average with the Orioles heading into 2014. We’re not talking Luis Lopez here. Yes, he needs to give pitchers a reason to challenge him, to actually throw him a strike. The more he chases, the less it’s going to happen. I get it. Too many rallies die on pitches out of the strike zone. A little more patience could go a long way. However, I’m not obsessed over his walk totals. I’ll take the 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs if he can keep delivering them.

What’s that annoying sound that I hear during games at Camden Yards?

Is it a crunching sound? Because Peter Schmuck tends to snack a lot.

That’s not it.

There’s a vendor who works the lower sections and passes underneath the press box saying “Beer, beer, beer.” Makes me long for the days of the shaky lemonade guy.

Will you clap along if you feel like a room without a roof?

No. I’m not that happy. I’m also not up all night to get lucky. But check back with me later.

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