Because You Asked - Back In The Habit

The mailbag is filled again with the same handful of questions. No sense wasting precious time answering each one individually, only to field 12 duplicates later in the day.

You ask, I answer, you ask again, I answer again. Just don’t challenge me on the whole hot dog/sandwich thing. I still can’t decide.

The meaning of life is much easier. At least it doesn’t come in a bun.

Anyway, here’s the latest sequel:

What’s wrong with this team?
The pitching has been atrocious. It all starts with the starters. Early leads are lost or the Orioles are down big before fans have found their seats. The bullpen is taxed. Relievers aren’t seizing the opportunity to stay. Then again, a good outing that requires too many pitches usually leads to another ride on the shuttle. Key players are hurt, scoring opportunities are wasted. Even the defense has taken a downward turn. In other words, it isn’t just one thing here. But most of the blame falls on the rotation.

What can be done?
Gausman-Delivers-Gray-SIdebar.jpgWhatever it is, it needs to happen fast. This thing can snowball and end a season by the break. Maybe last night is the beginning of the turnaround. The “it’s still early” mantra worked in April and May. We’re two weeks into June and the margin of defeat has been alarming. The Orioles can keep sifting through their starter options in the minors, but I’d be leery of going back to the same well too often. They must check outside the organization, but how many aces are on the table? And what do the Orioles have to offer in return? You want Kevin Gausman optioned? Fine. Who’s his replacement? You want Chris Tillman DFA’d? Not fine. There’s no reason to overreact to that degree. But just to play along ... who’s his replacement?

Why does Buck Showalter get a free pass?
He doesn’t, but that seems to be the perception. Showalter is questioned about his lineup, his in-game decisions, whether a shakeup is in order. Not all of it is captured on camera, but he’s asked. It’s not the media’s job to put him under a hot light and demand different answers. And reporters certainly can’t flip out during postgame interviews as if the sessions are being held at the corner bar. I don’t agree with every bullpen decision, the rope given starters in certain situations, with Hyun Soo Kim’s extended disappearances. But they’re not fireable offenses. That would be the ultimate overreaction. This team was picked to finish last by everyone. At some point, it falls upon the players to perform. Last time I checked, Showalter didn’t groove an 0-2 pitch or swing at a slider in the dirt. And last time I checked, he hadn’t lost the clubhouse. Far from it.

This team has quit and it has no heart.
That’s not a question.

Why has this team quit and why does it have no heart?
OK, that was a reach, but thanks. The Orioles haven’t quit. Not a single player, coach, manager or front office employee. It’s not about a lack of effort or heart or spleen or any muscle or organ. But teams tend to look bad when everything is going wrong simultaneously. If that makes sense.

Do the pitchers miss Dave Wallace this much?
The pitchers are missing their spots more than anyone or anything.

Is it time to fire Scott Coolbaugh and find a new hitting coach?
I firmly believe that it’s time to stop blaming coaches for every failure at the plate and on the mound. It’s up to the players to execute and they’ll be the first to say it. You can lead a horse to water ...

What’s the latest on Zach Britton?
He’s supposed to throw batting practice Thursday. If he needs any tips, he can ask the starters. (I kid, I kid.) He’s scheduled to pitch an inning on Monday for short-season Single-A Aberdeen. The Orioles will decide whether it’s the first inning or later in the game. There haven’t been any setbacks and we’re told he’s “right on schedule.” But let’s face it, blown saves aren’t the issue right now. Taking a lead into the ninth inning would be cause for celebration. However, the entire bullpen would benefit from having Britton back and allowing others to serve in their designated “roles,” especially once Darren O’Day comes off the disabled list.

Why is Ubaldo Jiménez still on this team?
The Orioles haven’t been able to trade him and they’re still reluctant to release him. He can offer length out of the bullpen, but scoreless innings are a necessary accompaniment. Jiménez requires extra time to get loose, which is problematic. The ‘pen isn’t a perfect fit for him, but the rotation wasn’t working for him, either. So here we are.

Which Orioles will make the All-Star team?
Jonathan Schoop, Welington Castillo and Dylan Bundy are worthy of discussion, and I’m sure that Trey Mancini has his share of supporters. The Orioles won’t get four representatives, but every team is required to have at least one. A lot depends on the single reps from other teams and which positions are filled. Castillo’s two trips to the disabled list have hurt his stats and there are a handful of legit candidates behind likely starter Salvador Pérez, but he shouldn’t be ignored. Last night’s grand slam certainly didn’t hurt. Schoop fell out of the top five in voting among second basemen, but he began last night batting .286/.340/.518 with 19 doubles, 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. The position is loaded if you consider current leader Jose Altuve, Starlin Castro, Robinson Canó, Dustin Pedroia, Brian Dozier, etc. But Schoop would be a nice choice. Heck, I’d like to see him get rewarded in some fashion for drawing more walks. How about last night’s free pass to load the bases for Castillo after being down 0-2 in the count? Bundy needs to get back to stringing together quality starts if he’s going to make the AL pitching staff.

Why didn’t Dan Duquette address the rotation in the offseason?
He acquired Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher, Miguel Castro and Jordan Kipper to improve the depth. Like everyone else in the organization, he was banking on improvement from Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Jayson Aquino and Chris Lee, to name four. Plus, the usual from Tillman and the necessary next step from Gausman. The Orioles aren’t going to spend big on pitching - the free agent market was underwhelming - and they don’t have the surplus of prospects to land someone like Chris Sale, which isn’t breaking news. They gambled and so far they’ve lost.

Can he pitch?
Are you talking about Duquette?

Can he pitch tonight?
Oh, you mean the players who were drafted this week. Or any position player that I reference. I get it. The pitching is a problem and you’re frustrated by it.

Can you pitch?
A fit, depending on the amount of trolling on my timeline.

When does the selling begin?
I wouldn’t look for the Orioles on Craigslist. I still don’t think they’re going to deal guys like Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Adam Jones. I’m not sure why Schoop’s name is suggested. He isn’t even arbitration eligible and he’s getting better. I get that his value is at its highest right now, but that’s also true for the team he plays for, so hold onto him and hope that he continues his rise to stardom. Let’s check back where the Orioles stand at the non-waiver deadline. They haven’t given up on 2017 and certainly not on 2018. Some of the ideas I’ve read would put this team in full rebuild mode like in the days of Andy MacPhail.

When are the Orioles going to give J.J. Hardy his gold watch and get a new shortstop?
After 2017? They’re not looking to cut him loose now, especially with no obvious successor in the system and how much manager Buck Showalter values his steady play and leadership. Check the minors. Ryan Mountcastle can flat-out hit, but he’s at Single-A Frederick and the organization is still deciding whether he’s at the right position. Manny Machado could move over, but he also could leave after 2018. And he’d leave a gaping hole at third base if he switched. The Orioles didn’t tumble down the standings because of J.J. Hardy. Check elsewhere.

Anyone jump out at you from this week’s draft?
North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth, who could have been J.J. Hardy’s replacement, but they passed on him and the Blue Jays pounced one pick later at No. 22 - just as Baseball America predicted. The Orioles went with left-hander DL Hall. A high school pitcher doesn’t sound ideal on the surface for a team that needs immediate help, but this kid is special. He’s regarded as a steal at No. 21 and apparently is expected to move quickly. To really answer this question, I’ll say 36th rounder Tyler Coolbaugh, a shortstop out of Angelo State University and the son of hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh. I watched him take batting practice in Houston. He was squaring up from both sides of the plate. Only batting practice, I know, but he was impressive. I had no idea who he was and texted someone with the Orioles to check whether they signed a new player.

Any updates on an extension for Manny Machado?
I haven’t heard a word. And no, I don’t believe that he suddenly could be kept at a bargain price because he’s off to a slow start. Means nothing in the big picture. And nothing to a big pitcher. I’m sure Mark Hendrickson would agree.

Does Chris Davis need glasses?
No, but he could use a new oblique. Do they make one that’s strain-proof?

Have the Orioles thought about checking Chris Davis’ eyes?
Yes. He still has both of them.

Let’s try this again: Have they thought about getting his eyes examined?
The thought crossed their minds right around the time that players were undergoing eye examinations as part of their spring training physicals. When Davis says that he’s not seeing the ball, he doesn’t literally mean that he can’t see it. He’s just late identifying the pitch, most likely due to head movement from a more open stance. He’s worked to correct it.

Why David Washington?
Why not? He’s a left-handed power-hitting first baseman replacing a left-hander power-hitting first baseman. And he was red-hot at the plate. Unlike Pedro Álvarez, if we’re making comparisons. May as well take a look at him. Not like the Orioles and Washington are joined at the hip. They can remove him if they decide to try someone else. I understand the concerns over bringing up another high-strikeout guy, but he was doing more than just hitting home runs and whiffing at Norfolk. Anyway, we’ll see how it works out.

Why does Buck hate Hyun Soo Kim?
“Hate” is such a strong word. This isn’t about hatred. It’s about Mancini earning the chance to be an everyday player and Showalter believing that Kim is best utilized in a more limited role. Last year, it was in a strict platoon. This year, it’s when Kim finds his hidden uniform. No, seriously, Showalter is just picking his spots with Kim. And I think Kim deserves more of an opportunity somewhere else if he isn’t the right fit on this club. We’ll see if Chris Davis’ stint on the DL opens up a spot.

Is it a good sign that Kim started last night?
Seth Smith is dealing with a “physical issue,” as Showalter worded it last night to reporters. That probably worked in Kim’s favor. And the White Sox are starting left-hander David Holmberg today. Doubt that you’ll see Kim.

Can the Orioles keep Anthony Santander next season?
Yes, but he’s still going to hold Rule 5 status if he doesn’t make the active roster for 90 days. So far, he’s at zero.

Does this mean the Orioles won’t choose anyone in the Rule 5 draft because they’ll already have Santander?
Oh, come on. The over/under is still set a two.

Can he pitch?
I’d rule it out.

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