Pushing the prospects, AFL update and Morrow memories

As the Orioles try to plug holes and upgrade in spots over the winter, they figure to maintain their aggressive approach with certain prospects in their system.

They may have to go station to station on the basepaths, but they aren’t afraid to bump minor leaguers a level or push them harder up the ladder.

I like this mindset.

Cedric Mullins skipped high Single-A Frederick after batting .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases at low Single-A Delmarva. He had college experience. The Orioles wanted to test him at Double-A Bowie, where hamstring injuries held down his numbers.

Mullins was limited to 76 games, but the Eastern League didn’t prove too challenging for him. And he could make his major league debut next summer at 23.

Austin Hays swinging grey jersey Os 0918 tall--sidebar.jpgAustin Hays went from short-season Single-A Aberdeen in 2016 to Single-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie and the majors in 2017. Also a former college outfielder. Also put in the fast lane.

The Orioles were prepared to take the same approach with Hunter Harvey before injuries ruined their plans, the most serious, of course, leading to ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. Watch how he’s paced next year if healthy.

Pitchers Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin were selected in the first two rounds last year from college programs with the idea that they could move quickly through the system and impact the major league team. They spent time on the disabled list this summer at Single-A Frederick and they didn’t deliver the results that lead to promotions, but it’s more delayed than denied in the eyes of the organization.

Left-hander Tanner Scott got a taste of the majors in September at 23 and straight from Bowie, where the Orioles continue to bring up guys rather than forcing all of them to touch every level. Hays, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart also skipped Triple-A to make their debuts. Bundy was out of minor league options.

Reliever Ashur Tolliver made the jump in May 2016. Outfielder Anthony Santander and pitcher Jason GarcĂ­a were Rule 5 picks plucked from Single-A.

We’re not talking about rushing someone like Jeff Fiorentino, the outfielder who came up from Frederick in 2005. That one made no sense.

Taken a year earlier in the third round from Florida Atlantic University, Fiorentino had his contract selected after Luis Matos went on the disabled list with a fractured right ring finger. He had reached base in 25 of 28 games, including a 12-game hitting streak. He hit for the cycle in a May 2 game against Winston Salem.

Fiorentino, nicknamed “Screech” for his resemblance to the character from the television series “Saved by the Bell,” was batting .313 with three triples, five home runs and 13 RBIs. He went 11-for-44 with two doubles and a home run in 13 games with the Orioles. His entire major league career lasted 58 games, including 19 with the Orioles in 2006, two with the Athletics in 2008 and 24 with the Orioles in 2009.

The Orioles signed Fiorentino as a free agent in January 2011, four months before the Braves purchased his contract. He played for the independent York Revolution in 2012 and 2013 before retiring.

Outfielder Eugene Kingsale made the same jump from Frederick to the majors in 1996, but he was a September call-up, played in only three games and didn’t have a plate appearance.

Fiorentino’s promotion felt rushed and reckless. It seemed to be more of a reflection on the farm system than the player. The best option in May was a Carolina League outfielder.

* The Orioles’ 40-man roster decisions keep getting more interesting.

They’re doing more than just deciding on catcher Austin Wynns and infielder Steve Wilkerson. There are others, including left-hander Luis Gonzalez, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in 8 2/3 innings with the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.

Gonzalez, 25, has given up five hits, walked one and struck out six. He went 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 36 relief appearances at Frederick and held Carolina League opponents to a .173 average.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a team to take a Single-A player in the Rule 5 draft. Just ask the Orioles, who did it with Garcia in a trade and Santander with a selection. And scouts are getting an extra look at Gonzalez in the AFL.

Imagine their reports on him so far.

Scott had an adventurous inning Thursday night, allowing two runs on one hit and three walks. He struck out two and served up a home run while raising his ERA to 9.00 in eight innings.

Scott has walked nine batters and struck out seven.

* MLBTradeRumors.com projects that reliever Brandon Morrow, who pitched in all seven games of the World Series for the Dodgers, will receive a three-year, $24 million deal from the Rockies. You probably won’t hear his name attached to the Orioles, but that’s already happened in the past.

Former executive Andy MacPhail was interested in acquiring Morrow from the Mariners in February 2008 as part of the package for left-hander Erik Bedard. Center fielder Adam Jones was the centerpiece and the sides agreed on three players before talks seemed to stall.

MacPhail held out for five prospects and came away with Jones, closer George Sherrill, 19-year-old starter Chris Tillman, and pitchers Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler. Few trades have been more lopsided, this one costing Mariners general manager Bill Bavaski his job.

A report out of Seattle in December 2007 named Jones, Morrow and outfielder Wladimir Balentien as likely pieces in the trade. A national writer mentioned catcher Jeff Clement and outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, the latter being part of the Orioles’ camp roster in 2015 before his release. MacPhail wanted infielder Carlos Triunfel, who spent this summer with the independent York Revolution.

Balentien has spent the last seven years with the Yakult Swallows in the Japan Central League. Clement, another bust after being the third overall pick in the 2005 draft out of USC, last played in the majors with the Pirates in 2012 and retired two years later.

Twelve teams reportedly were engaged in talks with MacPhail. The Mets kept offering pitchers Aaron Heilman and Philip Humber and outfielder Carlos Gomez, the later inserted in talks after Lastings Milledge was dealt to the Nationals. I endorsed it until coming to my senses. I underestimated Bedard’s value.

The Reds were willing to include first baseman Joey Votto and pitcher Homer Bailey, and later reports added outfielder Josh Hamilton. The Orioles wanted pitcher Johnny Cueto and outfielder Edwin Encarnacion. Outfielder Jay Bruce was off the table. MacPhail tried to pry outfielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Jonathan Broxton from the Dodgers.

Managing partner Peter G. Angelos didn’t want Bedard traded within the division, eliminating the Yankees and Blue Jays.

I hear Morrow’s name and I still go back to those Mariners negotiations.

* Best news of the day: The Orioles make only one trip to Dunedin next spring.

The Blue Jays released the home portion of their exhibition schedule and it includes a March 9 game versus the Orioles.

It still makes no sense for the Orioles to play only one game against the Pirates in Bradenton, a 20-minute drive from the Sarasota complex, but no one asked for my input.

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