Because You Asked - The Last Wish

SARASOTA, Fla. – Two off-days in one spring training? This must be how the other half lives.

I’d ask why the Orioles usually don’t get multiple breaks in their schedule, but I’m here to supply answers. That’s supposed to be my contribution to the mailbag.

You remember the mailbag, of course. Sequel after sequel to the beloved 2008 original. Informative, mildly entertaining, never edited except for your crude profanities.

I’m not worried about length. It’s the freakin’ internet.

Your style is fine with me, though I’d lengthen those shorts.

An important reminder that my mailbag is chosen to “Spring Breakout” and your mailbag has a face that breaks out.

Orioles' outfield has three rookie contestants: Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser, Kyle Stowers. Who travels north?
It’s a testament to the organization’s improved talent and depth that this is a valid and difficult question, except for the part about Stowers being a rookie. He is not. But it would have been a clean sweep in past years. I really like Cowser’s chances based on how he’s hit and his ability to play all three outfield spots. He's earned a job. Otherwise, I don’t know if the Orioles are willing to carry a fifth outfielder. I would have put Kjerstad ahead of Cowser back in January. I wouldn't have expected Stowers to lead the majors in home runs, including three yesterday. That’s why we don’t go directly from the Birdland Caravan to the regular season. I feel somewhat safe in saying Cowser and Stowers are ahead of Kjerstad.

Is Ryan McKenna being edged off the roster in favor of Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers?
I’ve noticed that McKenna’s status is a hot topic in these mailbags. Cowser’s production and ability to back up in center, and Stowers' home run binges and ability to mash against lefties, aren’t helping McKenna. However, McKenna is out of minor league options and provides speed and defense off the bench, so this isn’t an easy decision for the club.

Where does Errol Robinson start this season, Double-A or Triple-A?
“Every day Errol” has 136 games of Triple-A experience and spent parts of the 2019, ’21 and ’23 seasons at that level. The Norfolk Tides would make sense.

If Cedric Mullins is not hitting in the next couple weeks, what happens? Is the trade window still open and is it time for Cowser or someone else?
Spring training results don’t matter with Mullins, only his health. He’s the Opening Day center fielder. You couldn’t watch but he ran down two balls Saturday that elude many other center fielders.

What is going to be Jackson Holliday's number? Not 87. One or 15?
He said it’s probably between 1 and 15. You may have to purchase two jerseys to be safe.

I just realized Ryan O'Hearn has an option left. I don't know if he's an Opening Day lock.
He’s an Opening Day lock. Manager Brandon Hyde has said it. O’Hearn knows it. The American people know it. They also know that wasn’t a question.

Over the last few years, the O's have loved having that "veteran" influence somewhere on the infield. Can you see a scenario where both Jackson Holliday and Kolten Wong make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster?
Thanks for specifying “Orioles,” so I didn’t think you meant the Reds. I won’t say it’s impossible. Unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible. I can see one or none more than I can see both. The Orioles would have to eliminate someone like Jorge Mateo and go with Holliday, Wong, Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Ramón Urías, Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn as their seven infielders. And they’d have to carry four outfielders, losing Mateo as a backup in center and left.

What possible reason could the Orioles give for reassigning Jackson Holliday?
Well, they could say he needs more reps at second base and at-bats at the Triple-A level. They could hit the pause button on ignoring stats and point to his two walks and 14 strikeouts, which isn’t at all typical of Holliday. But I am not offering a prediction. He’s looked good at second and he’s batting .300 with an .883 OPS, three doubles, two triples, a home run and five RBIs. People from outside the organization offer different opinions. A scout seems convinced that Holliday should go north. Another talent evaluator saw the walk-to-strikeout ratio as a red flag – not for Holliday’s career, of course, just bringing him to Baltimore this month.

Would you put mayo (the condiment) on a hot dog? Follow up, would Coby Mayo put mayo on a hot dog? Does he even like mayo?
I don’t put mayo on a hot dog but have used the sour cream, salsa, cheese and jalapeño peppers at the nacho station at Camden Yards. It’s my version of running with scissors, except putting out an eye isn’t the real risk. I asked Mayo about mayo, because I’m here for you. (I warned him that it was a really dumb question and he was too nice to call me out for it.) Mayo happily shared that he likes it on his subs and puts a thin layer of it on a cheesesteak. No hot dogs, though. The conversation had Holliday and Wong chuckling at their lockers. I felt my face turning red.

Does Holliday like holidays?
I didn’t ask, but let’s assume he does.

Jorge Mateo has only played a few games in center field. Have they given up on him being a backup for the position?
Nope. But he’s only made two starts and I thought he’d get more action out there. Sort of like young, single Roch in Fort Lauderdale. Less than expected. But he works out in center before games.

Is the order of the rotation set? Most here seem to think it's Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin and Tyler Wells.
Brandon Hyde wasn’t ready to announce his No. 2 starter Friday in Port Charlotte, let alone the rest of the rotation. Those five are the favorites and I see the logic in putting the lefty in between Kremer and Wells.

Does Ryan Mountcastle like castles?
Please stop.

If Jackson Holliday makes the club, does that mean Coby Mayo won’t make it? Any impression of Enrique Bradfield? Seems like a good bunter and fast, but seems like an overwhelmed hitter.
There are other roadblocks for Mayo, but yeah, his chances lessen if Holliday is on the team. And not because they play the same positions. Bradfield’s speed is ridiculous. That’s 80-grade, my friend. I’d fine him every time he hit the ball in the air. Slap it and sprint. He’s got work to do with the offensive side of his game. No one claimed that he was a polished hitter. But the speed and defense are elite.

What do you think the Opening Day lineup looks like? And don't say "your mom."
I'd never! First, I need to know what the 26-man roster looks like. Holliday is probably in the lineup if he’s on the roster. That could put Jordan Westburg at third base instead of second. Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander would go left to right in the outfield. Ryan Mountcastle would be the first baseman. And get this, Adley Rutschman will be catching Corbin Burnes. You heard it here first.

Who’s the designated hitter?
There’s no pleasing you.

Will Austin Hays play more center field this year, assuming Ryan McKenna doesn’t make the team?
He’s gonna have to, though Colton Cowser can do it if he’s on the roster.

The Simpsons or M*A*S*H?
Two totally different shows. Loved them both but they hung on too long.

Will the club wear a Brooks Robinson No. 5 patch this season?
I haven’t heard about any plans for it. The Orioles wore a patch last season after he passed away.

If you were the general manager and had approval of ownership, would you sign Jordan Montgomery to a very large contract, which is what we assume he's asking for?
Why wouldn’t I? It isn’t my money, and I was given the green light to do it.

Does Jacob Webb have his own Webb-site?
Someone shoot me.

Did Cionel Pérez ever have surgery or is his arm still a worry if he didn’t have surgery? If not, then the Astros totally conned him out of $3 million after signing him as an international free agent.
Pérez played at three levels of Houston’s farm system in 2017 and kept plugging away. Whatever the Astros saw during his physical didn’t lead to reconstructive surgery. But it isn’t uncommon for teams to do this if they have concerns.

Does either Suárez make the club?
I think it’s still a long shot for Andrew and Albert, especially with the latter having a bad inning in each of his last two appearances. Just can’t afford it. But his velocity is impressive and I can see how he’d help out of the bullpen. Andrew is in that left-handed relief mix and he can be painted as a dark horse, but I think Keegan Akin and Nick Vespi moved ahead of him. Great competitions in camp.

Do we really have to play the rest of the practice games? Let’s just move up Opening Day.
I appreciate your enthusiasm, or your disdain for exhibitions. The batters would happily break camp early, but the pitchers require six weeks. Here’s Brandon Hyde on the topic, which came up yesterday: “It needs to be for the pitchers, for sure, so I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how you make that adjustment. But definitely want to try to build up your starters and your bullpen guys as healthy as you possibly can and give them enough time to prepare for the season. For the hitters, I think you could cut it a week or two.” Admit it, this is more than you bargained for when you submitted your question.

Is Keegan achin’?
Dear God. No, his back is fine and he’s having an outstanding camp. And I’m pretending not to notice what you did there.

Kyle Bradish is progressing, but potential contributions from John Means and him seem tentative at this point. Why don’t you think the Orioles have pursued another starter, someone like Mike Lorenzen? They can't be happy with their current pitching depth, can they?
They don’t seem panicked over it. That’s for sure. I’m not ruling out the acquisition of another starter if it’s the right deal. I don’t see a blockbuster here, but I’ve been wrong before. I also think Means’ contributions are more than just tentative.

Are the Orioles adamant about limiting the number of rookies on the roster to just one or two? I could see at least three and maybe even four.
I’m taking the “under” at four. And I’ve never heard that the team is dead set against having more than one or two.

Does Kolten …
I’m gonna stop you right there.

Does Kolten Wong have a chance to make the team?
Sorry. Yes, he does. He’s still in camp and he’s still a veteran left-handed hitting second baseman with two Gold Gloves.

Will Johan Santana break camp with the team?
He’s getting old enough to break a hip. Santana was a fun story in spring training in 2014. Such a flurry of moves, too, with Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, plus those pesky Kendrys Morales rumors.

What kind of impression did Samuel Basallo make on you?
Not much of one. He wasn’t able to catch because of his elbow injury and he didn’t get more than a handful of at-bats. But he’s an imposing figure. I hadn’t met him until last month. Big kid, loads of talent. Too bad he couldn’t show it off.

Has there ever been a follow up to Henry Urrutia's pants heist? Many people are wondering.
Don’t know that I’d call it a “heist.” He showed up in camp a few years ago to pick up a pair of uniform pants that were left behind. I saw him and immediately thought the Orioles re-signed him. I was panting at the thought of getting a scoop. I actually saw Urrutia again last month. He was watching the workouts on the back fields and called me. We took a selfie. He wore pants.

Should we be worried about Ryan Mountcastle’s durability?
Don’t worry but keep an eye on it. There was vertigo and a shoulder injury last summer, and a brief illness and neck soreness this spring. The lineup is much more imposing with him in it. And he's expected to start Tuesday in Dunedin.

I’ve heard no mention of what used to be a mainstay of Orioles spring training. Is Ping Pong still a big deal? I remember J.J. Hardy fighting for bragging rights. I hope it didn’t go the way of pies in the face.
The Orioles had a tournament last spring and Dean Kremer beat Ryan O’Hearn in the finals. It was cancelled this year because too many players had left camp. But guys still play. There have been some spirited matches between Jackson Holliday and Heston Kjerstad.

Where is Jackson Holliday going to be on Opening Day in your opinion, Baltimore or Norfolk? And will you refer to him again as “Jackson” on second reference in any articles?
Give me another week and maybe I’ll have an answer for you. And yes, at least once. Bet on it.

The Yankees are having a George Costanza bobblehead night. Any chance the Orioles will have an Elaine Benes night as a companion piece?
That would be marvelous. The answer is “no,” but it would have my full approval. I think she’s bobblehead worthy.

Is the AL East the beast or is the AL West?
The Red Sox need to pull their weight or the West might take over. Of course, the Athletics drag it down hard. I’ll always consider the East to be the most treacherous but there’s a growing argument for the Astros/Rangers/Mariners trifecta.

Of the recent rules changes - pitch clock, batters clock, runner at second base in extra innings - which do you like or not like? If you could make one change to the current rules, what would it be?
Go back to seven-inning doubleheaders. I like the clocks and the “ghost runner.” Sorry, purists. Speeds up the game. Lessens the odds of going 17 innings and burning out an entire pitching staff. And there’s more strategy with a runner in scoring position. I know it ain’t for everybody.

Which NRI is MVP?
That’s “non-roster invite” for you novices. And it’s got to be Coby Mayo, right?

Does Cole Irvin’s improved velocity give him a leg up on staying in the rotation once John Means is back? We could definitely use Tyler Wells in the bullpen.
This will be an interesting decision for the Orioles. It could be as simple as whether Irvin or Wells are pitching better. The Orioles might want to control Wells’ innings to keep him fresher, which puts him back in the ‘pen, though he definitely wants to be turned loose and worked the entire offseason to make it happen.

What was Plan B if this sports thing didn’t work out for you many years ago?
Who said it worked out? I don’t know what else I would have done, but I fear that it would have involved a video camera, a tripod and a consent form.

Were the San Diego players given in the Dylan Cease trade better than what the Orioles supposedly offered? I kind of find it hard to believe, since the Padres also didn’t give up their best prospects.
Sorry, but I don’t know the details of the first offers or whether the Orioles circled back again recently. I was under the assumption that getting Corbin Burnes took the Orioles out of the running for another starter who’d cost them multiple prospects. I know which players Mike Elias was most adamant about keeping, and that the White Sox initially wanted prospects, their future children and another relative to be named later, which led many people in the industry to think he wouldn’t be traded.

What are the difficulties in identifying the source of individual free will inlight of the deterministic theories of neurochemical medicine and modern behaviorists psychology?
This seems like a good place to stop.

Does Bryan Baker like to bake?
OK, this is definitely a good place to stop.


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