Because You Asked - Back to Perfection

My mailbag is like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” or Alexander Godunov in “Die Hard.” You think it’s finished and suddenly it bolts upright in a tub filled with water or somehow removes a heavy iron chain from around its neck after an apparent strangulation.

If it were the Wicked Witch of the East, it would have wiggled out from underneath Dorothy’s house. Could have saved her a lot of trouble.

I tried to empty it six days ago, but here we are again.

Also indestructible are my rules against editing. I make my style clear without needing length to explain it.

And finally, an important reminder that my mailbag deserves its own bobblehead and yours is clogging the basepaths when kids run the bases.

What’s the point of Heston Kjerstad being up?
I thought Ryan McKenna would be called up before Kjerstad because the Orioles needed a right-handed hitting replacement for outfielder Austin Hays, and McKenna is regarded as the better defensive player and runner. Now, they’re both on the roster as backups. That’s fine with McKenna, but yeah, you wonder if it’s doing Kjerstad any good to sit on the bench. He’s the left-handed bat replacing Jackson Holliday, who, if you missed it, was optioned, but there’s a crowd in the outfield and at designated hitter. He’s been in the lineup once since the Orioles recalled him April 30. If you think about it, as I’m sure you have, Ryan O’Hearn seems to be blocking Kjerstad. He started in right field Sunday and has served as designated hitter in 12 games. The Orioles want him in the lineup against right-handers.

With Jackson Holliday back in Norfolk, is there any word on the plan for him? Are they targeting a return MLB date or taking it day-by-day?
No target date and not a day-by-day situation. He’ll be down for a while to get at-bats and regain the approach and stroke that made him baseball’s No. 1 prospect. See more left-handers. Get more reps at second base. But it’s more about his hitting. The Orioles don’t want to keep shuttling him. They want the next call-up to stick.

Is Albert Suárez a potential closing option once Kyle Bradish and John Means are back and if Craig Kimbrel misses significant time?
Suárez would appear to be in line for the role, but Kimbrel is day-to-day. Suárez’s velocity already is good and might tick up in one-inning bursts. He also could be a needed bulk reliever for the bullpen. Tyler Wells would be a good option if he were healthy, but he’s on the injured list with right elbow inflammation. Yennier Cano is better in a setup role. One reliever probably won’t emerge as the full-time closer if Kimbrel is unavailable for a while, which again, might not be the case. Suárez makes sense as one of the options.

Any updates on Seth Johnson's progress and do you foresee him making his MLB debut this season?
Johnson would need a few things to break his way to make his debut after returning from Tommy John surgery and having one career appearance in Double-A before this season. Johnson is getting stretched out with the Bowie Baysox. He’s made four starts and allowed six earned runs, and nine total, in 12 1/3 innings. He’s walked 10 batters. There’s work to do but he’s definitely an intriguing prospect.

Will Kyle Bradish be on any sort of innings limit this year?
We won’t have solid answers on Bradish until he’s reinstated from the injured list. The Orioles might enforce stricter pitch counts early in his return, but he threw 77 in his last rehab game. I don’t think he’d be back if the Orioles had concerns about his workload. His assignment had more time on it. He could have stayed down until mid-May. But also, don’t waste those bullets in the minors.

Do you ever reminisce about the before times, like when Cole Sulser was our closer?
I’m old enough to remember César Valdez. Sulser is still active. He’s made three appearances with the Mets and posted a 9.82 ERA and 2.182 WHIP in 3 2/3 innings.

Mike Baumann, Yohan Ramírez, Jacob Webb. Who’s on the roster come Friday?
Ramírez is the most vulnerable of that trio. All three are out of options. Ramírez never looked like a long-term bullpen solution to me, though performance can alter perceptions. I don’t know whether the Orioles will need to choose between Baumann and Webb. Keegan Akin, for example, has an option. Don’t know how it’s gonna play out.  

Was Yohan Ramírez the player to be named later in the Chad Bradford trade?
Finally, the mystery is solved! OK, no. It was a cash transaction with Bradford, but I love that the joke lives on. What’s next, Ronny Paulino’s car?

Which young Oriole star will be the first to sign an extension?
We’re assuming that at least one will sign? That’s good business. I’d think it would come down to Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson. Scott Boras represents Henderson and Jackson Holliday, and he likes introducing his clients to free agency. However, he’s made exceptions in the past. I’m going to say Rutschman because you put me on the spot.

Is this Ryan Mountcastle, .900 OPS but on a pace for 20-25 home runs, the one coaches always expected?
At a minimum. Give him a full, healthy season and stand back.

Does Gunnar Henderson win MVP, Silver Slugger or Triple Crown? Or all three?
Why would you want to set limits? You left out Gold Glove. What did he do to hurt you?

Is Ryan McKenna in the doghouse again?
McKenna was never in Brandon Hyde’s doghouse. I can’t speak for the fans. But I know many of them are still chafed over a dropped fly ball in the second game of the 2023 season. The second game … of the 2023 season.

I noticed on the minor league rosters there’s several players listed on a “development list.” What does that mean? Are they actively playing, or is that code for a demotion and it’s something similar to a practice squad player on an NFL team?
They aren’t on an affiliate’s roster and are working out in Sarasota.

Is the grass at Camden Yards ever painted green for aesthetic or other purposes? Understood of course that things like logos are painted on the grass.
Are you trying to tick off Nicole Sherry? No one in her crew is using paint. There’s a sod farm behind the center field fence for replacement patches. But that’s a gorgeous field. Sherry doesn’t need to disguise brown grass.

How do you fit Kyle Bradish and John Means into the rotation?
With a crowbar. Or rib spreaders. But a crowbar is easier to find. If they’re in the rotation, you have to assume that Albert Suárez and Cole Irvin are not. The only other solution would be to go with six-starters or put Means in the ‘pen. Gonna be fun to watch this one play out.

There has been criticism that Mike Elias didn't do enough to build the bullpen in the offseason. What has he said about his efforts to add to the team and the cost?
He signed Craig Kimbrel and maintained lines of communication with agents and teams regarding other relievers. He traded for Matt Krook and Kaleb Ort in February and signed Andrew Suárez a month earlier. He won’t rest. He’ll keep checking on available arms, especially ones that can make an immediate impact.

When will Baltimore get another All Star game?
Not before 2027. Major League Baseball already made commitments to Arlington, Texas this summer, Atlanta’s Truist Park in 2025 and Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park in 2026. Ballpark renovations will make it a lot easier to sell MLB on Camden Yards.

Does it annoy you having to go to the park when you could be there all day due to weather?
Everything annoys me, including you on my lawn.

Who do you think we sign for the next year we can contend in 2025, since losing a series to the A's clearly ended our season?
Good one.  The sky is falling, so seek shelter immediately.

What is your opinion on Coby Mayo forcing his way onto this season's roster? If yes, where does he play? I've already ruled out catcher, second base and shortstop.
You don’t see him covering ground in center field? Mayo will deserve a promotion based on production, but finding a spot for him is complicated. The Orioles were committed in spring training to developing him at third base, but Mike Elias said this on Friday: “We’re having to do a bit of thought about where to concentrate his defensive efforts because his defensive home, especially for a big-bodied guy like he is, is naturally behind his bat. We’ve got some options there and it’s something that we talk about and kind of examine in the context of our team on an ongoing basis. But when you’re in Triple-A performing well, you’re close, you’re in the conversation. But I will stress as we just experienced here how significant this jump from Triple-A to the majors is and you can’t just look at somebody’s Triple-A stats and imagine those stats in the majors and that’s how it’s going to go.” So, maybe not third base? Jordan Westburg is going to occupy third a lot more after Jackson Holliday returns to play second base. Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn have dibs on first base. And DH tends to be for O’Hearn, Adley Rutschman or Anthony Santander to keep their bats in the lineup. Who are you pushing aside for Mayo?

Thanks for not saying “hold the Mayo.”
You’re welcome. And that isn’t a question.

When can we expect robo umpires in the majors?
Something needs to be done. Maybe I’m just paying closer attention lately, but the strike zone seems more like a suggestion. I think we’ll see a system implemented like the one in Triple-A, where teams can challenge a call and the video appears on the scoreboard, which happened during the Spring Breakout game in Bradenton. It won’t be visible at Camden Yards, but let’s stick to one rant. I heard a rumor that MLB wanted to introduce a robot Ángel Hernández but he kept short-circuiting and causing the power to go out. But he was great at dusting off the plate like a Roomba.

Pre-mixed/packaged cocktails: abomination or acceptable modern convenience?
Acceptable. Don’t drink ‘em if you don’t like ‘em. The Jack and Cokes, for example, are nice if you’re bringing a cooler to a neighbor’s house and sitting in their driveway or if you’re tailgating. But I’ll mix my own drinks at home. Also, nice use of “abomination.”

Do you feel like Ramón Urías makes it all year with the O’s?
I wasn’t convinced that he’d be tendered a contract because I thought the Orioles would consider Joey Ortiz as a cheaper utility option. I thought there was a chance Urías would be traded before Opening Day. I haven’t had much of a feel for Ramón Urías, to be honest. He could be moved to make room for an infield prospect, but please consider my Ramón Urías track record before wagering.

How soon is too soon when shopping to strengthen the bullpen for a contending team like the O's?
Never too soon. I’m predicting at least one deal for a reliever at the deadline, and they could find one earlier.

Will this season be the last one where we see MASN as we've known it for the last two decades?
No one knows what lies ahead for the network. Give me a heads-up if you hear anything.

Why bring up young prospects to rot on the bench? Right now with Heston Kjerstad, but also last year with Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers. You can't get into a groove averaging three at-bats a week. And second, why not bring up Connor Norby or Coby Mayo when demoting Jackson Holliday, as they have much more Triple-A polish to them?
So, you want them to rot? There isn’t an everyday spot for Kjerstad. I don’t recall Cowser doing much rotting last summer. Norby and Mayo are working on their defense in Triple-A, and the Orioles already have Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo as right-handed hitters for second base, which doesn’t help Norby. I know it’s frustrating, but there’s a logjam, or impressive depth. Your choice of terminology.

Why do the O’s want to hang onto Ryan McKenna forever?
Geez They designated him for assignment in spring training. He’s the 26th man, though Heston Kjerstad is giving him a run for his 26th man money. McKenna basically is the replacement for Austin Hays, also a right-handed hitting outfielder.

With new ownership in place, what changes have you noticed if any with the teams operations? Does David Rubenstein have a presence?
Nothing noticeable. He wasn’t gonna come in and start rearranging the furniture, though a desk ended up at shortstop for a brief time. He definitely has a presence. He sat in the stands again Saturday and posed for photos.

What song did the Orioles deejay play Sunday while Albert Suárez warmed in the first inning?
Led Zeppelin’s “South Bound Suarez” from the album “In Through the Out Door.” And it hurts my soul that you didn’t know that.

Will they ever bring back FanFest or stick with the traveling Caravan before spring training?
I don’t know whether new ownership impacts the winter fan experience. As of now, I haven’t heard anything about FanFest’s return. The Orioles want to reach more people by coming to them.

Which minor league starting pitchers are closest to potentially joining the big league team?
Keep an eye on Cade Povich, who has a 1.03 ERA, 0.759 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings in five starts with Triple-A Norfolk. But we already know that finding room for starters isn’t a simple task around here.

Hey Roch, today is the 36th anniversary of the Orioles snapping their 0-21 start on April 29, 1988, beating the White Sox, 9-0. Where were you when this game happened?
I received this question yesterday, as you probably figured out by the date. Laying in bed in my Randallstown home, watching on television and wondering how they’d give up 10 runs in the bottom of the ninth. I wasn’t a beat writer back then. I attended the welcome home game at Memorial Stadium.

What is the plan for the closer role?
Craig Kimbrel after he stops being day-to-day. Otherwise, as I’ve said, it could be a committee. Minus Dillon Tate, who was optioned.

Tate is sitting 92-93 mph. Pre-injury he was 96-plus with movement. Is there an issue?
Hyde was spreading out Tate’s appearances early in the season, but he pitched in 11 games and went back-to-back over the weekend. If the decline was health related, he would have gone on the injured list instead of the team using up an option. But the lowered velo was noticeable. Maybe after not pitching in 2023?

What part of OPACY would you like named after you when you ultimately retire? And don't say "your mom."
I'd never. I want dibs on the press box at Ed Smith Stadium.

Are fans instructed to not bother Cal at the game?
I’ve seen him approached at times but ushers make sure that a line doesn’t form and block the view of other fans. And keep him from enjoying the game. He’s around a lot more these days.

I was going to ask if we could see old pal Bryan Baker at some point for a fresh arm, but then I noticed his Triple-A ERA is 9.72, so never mind.
Also not a question. The format isn’t that complicated! Baker has strung together four scoreless appearances in a row. I think we’ll see him at some point this summer.

Have Colton Cowser and Corbin Burnes discussed an intervention date to confront Cole Irvin on proper beard grooming etiquette?
Not that I’m aware. And this is probably a good place to stop.

Have you ever thought about doing the pregame without a shirt to increase female viewership?
This is definitely a good place to stop.

Another O's win that had Gunnar Henderson's impact...
Henderson homers again and Coulombe closes out Ori...

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