A few lingering Orioles questions

The Orioles haven’t been swept in their last 75 multi-game series. The streak could end this afternoon.

If the rain does.

They will try to play and win, board their flight to Seattle and resume the countdown until their final road trip of the regular season.

They’re down to only three – Seattle, San Diego and Oakland; Arizona, Anaheim and Boston from Sept. 1-10; Houston and Cleveland from Sept. 18-24.

The questions about this team never run out. I’ve got a few more.

Who is the first outfielder removed from the 26-man roster?

Cedric Mullins is expected to be done with his injury rehab assignment and return to the Orioles’ lineup Friday night in Seattle. That was the vibe yesterday.

Aaron Hicks is right behind him, with two games coming in Jacksonville with Triple-A Norfolk before joining the Orioles in San Diego. That was the way Hicks explained it yesterday.

The Orioles could option Ryan McKenna again with the heavy dose of opposing right-handed starters, though Mullins bats from the left side. They value the speed, defense and dugout energy, but the space crunch is working against him again.

If Colton Cowser stays, he remains vulnerable to an option with Hicks’ reinstatement.

Putting Cowser on the shuttle might pain the Orioles, but there isn’t a clear alternative and he’s batting .117 with a .420 OPS. Jorge Mateo has played some center field with Mullins and Hicks out, and the experience makes him a backup candidate.

The roster is deeper, more talented, than previous years. A blessing and maybe a little bit of a curse if you really reach.

Exactly how much do the Orioles value Mateo’s speed?

The question comes up after manager Brandon Hyde talked about Mateo’s ability to be a weapon down the stretch and in the playoffs.

“When he gets on base, he scores. He’s a major, major factor for the other team because of his speed, and so we’re hoping to get him going a little bit,” Hyde said.

“Every team that’s looking to make postseason pushes is looking for speed, and a guy that can play defense anywhere, and Jorgie can do that. Like I said, he gets on base, he scores, so if he’s not starting and he pinch-runs for somebody, it’s a big-time threat in a close game. Just trying to keep all options open with him.”

Reminds me of having Quintin Berry on the roster in 2014 just to steal bases.

Is this sufficient reason to keep Joey Ortiz at Triple-A? Well, along with Mateo’s ability to play the outfield?

Defense at shortstop shouldn’t factor into it, since Ortiz is a plus glove. And there’s nothing wrong with Ortiz’s bat, judging by his .353/.401/.567 line, 24 doubles, four triples and eight home runs in 66 games with Norfolk before last night.

Ortiz went 1-for-4 with an RBI in Jacksonville.

I know that International League pitching isn’t the same as major league pitching, but this is how we normally decide on promotions. Put up the numbers and get the call.

The Orioles might not need the extra coverage in center after Mullins and Hicks return. Austin Hays is very good in center – and essential in left with the extra ground to cover and the quirks.

Will we see Joey Krehbiel again?

Krehbiel appeared in 56 games last season, a high-leverage arm and integral part of one of the most improved bullpens in baseball during the first half, with his 2.18 ERA and 0.970 WHIP in 33 innings. But he posted a 6.20 ERA and 1.581 WHIP in 24 games after the break, was optioned on Sept. 28 and didn’t return until two weeks ago.

The gap is surprising, considering how often the Orioles make changes to their ‘pen. And Krehbiel had a 3.00 ERA this year in 25 games with Norfolk, though he also averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings.

That might explain why we saw Logan Gillaspie multiple times, and Eduard Bazardo, before Krehbiel finally walked through that door.

Krehbiel faced five batters in two appearances before the Orioles optioned him yesterday. He retired all five of them, striking out two.

I’m sure it went 100 percent unnoticed Tuesday night following Kyle Tucker’s grand slam off Félix Bautista, but Krehbiel entered after the Orioles’ closer threw 30 pitches, and he needed one to induce a popup from José Abreu.

Now, he’s gone again.

Another reliever can be carried on September’s expanded roster, but man, it’s gonna be crowded. DL Hall could be a high-leverage power arm as he resumes his relief role. Tyler Wells and John Means are coming back, and the rotation won’t have seven starters. Mychal Givens, Keegan Akin and Austin Voth are on injury rehab assignments with Norfolk and apparently remain in the picture. Bryan Baker was optioned, but another chance could be around the corner.

Baker surrendered a two-run homer last night in the eighth inning in Jacksonville.

Nick Vespi and T.J. McFarland are two lefties at Norfolk who could be summoned, the latter returning to the organization because he saw an opportunity.

These things have a way of working themselves out.

I just don’t know how.

Could Grayson Rodriguez pitch in a postseason rotation?

It feels like the Orioles are trying to win games and simultaneously hold auditions for playoff starters.

Rodriguez is an innings-limit concern, and he isn’t the only one, but check out what he’s done since coming back from his reset. He’s completed six innings in two of his last three starts after failing to do so in the first 12. He has a 3.45 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in five outings since leaving Triple-A.

We know that Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty are pitching in the playoffs. We were assuming, with good reason, that Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer would join them. There was a time in the first half when we referred to Wells as the ace.

Now, it’s a ball of confusion.

Too many starting options isn’t a curse, but it’s a situation that must be resolved. Including who drops into the ‘pen.

This is why failing to land another reliever at the deadline might not come back to bite the Orioles. But they’ll need sturdy middle relief in the meantime. It comes and goes.

They’ll also need Yennier Cano to hold up and look more like the staring, straddling beast of the first half.

But back to Rodriguez …

“I thought he looked really good,” catcher Adley Rutschman said after a recent start. “I always think he looks good, but it seemed like he knew more of what he wanted to do, had a little more confidence. And I think that just comes with time and experience.”

And what could Rodriguez mean to the rotation?

“Just adds another weapon,” Rutschman said. “When he does his thing, it’s really fun to watch. He’s a valuable pitcher, and I love having him around the clubhouse.“

Houston offense muscles up and they can sweep the ...
Hays home run isn't enough to prevent Orioles' 8-2...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/