Because You Asked - Wicked Prayer

The Orioles are in D.C. tonight for the first of two games in a “beltway rivalry” that is more hype than actual substance.

Sure, it’s fun to beat the team down the road. But players would be stretching the truth like Silly Putty if they claimed to have extra motivation. This isn’t a division series.

There isn’t much of a mailbag rivalry, either. Too one-sided over here.

You have questions. I usually have answers, or at least a level of sarcasm that could distract you.

This is the latest sequel to the beloved 2008 original, and it’s better than any Oscar nominated movie this year. I’m giving you information, opinions, and everything everywhere, all at once.

The Academy recognizes the best in editing. I recognize that editing a mailbag isn’t my jam.

Also, my mailbag walks on stage and slaps your mailbag.

How did the clubhouse react to Cole Irvin’s demotion? Sounds like he took it like a pro, but did others in clubhouse seem OK with a veteran being optioned after just three poor starts?
I’m sure it came as a surprise to many, but I didn’t sense or hear any bitterness. Could have been suppressed. There were other circumstances in play beyond his stats, like a taxed bullpen. They needed a long reliever. And having most starters unable to provide length made it much harder to keep carrying everyone. Irvin isn’t expected to stay down long.

I’m feeling like our rebuild has focused on getting top position players. The pitching prospects all seem to be a “work in progress,” with many of them being injured for months at a time. Do you agree?
I agree that position players have been a major emphasis in the drafts. And there have been some unfortunate pitching injuries. Fortunately, Mike Elias inherited Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall and Drew Rom, he traded for Kyle Bradish, Cade Povich, Seth Johnson and Chayce McDermott, and he signed undrafted Noah Denoyer. To name a few.

After DL Hall, who would you say are the Orioles' minor league starting pitchers the organization is most optimistic about?
See above. And there are others. Don’t make me work too hard.

Obligatory John Means update.

Sorry. Any update on John Means?
There ya go. He’s throwing all of his pitches in his bullpen sessions. Feels great. Target month is still July.

The White Sox also are called Chisox or Pale Hose. Come to think of it, why do sports teams insist on having nicknames for their nicknames? The Orioles are O’s, Birds, Flock. The Pirates are Jolly Rogers, Corsairs. The Yankees are Spankees, Skankees …
I know nicknames. I was born with one. I’m waiting for a real name. But alas, this isn’t about me. We live in a world where we must shorten shorter words. Time is precious. Pretty soon, the Birds will become the “Brds”. And while we’re on this rant, or whatever it is, baseball isn’t known for its clever player nicknames. Not anymore. Just insert a “y” sound at the end. Doesn’t really work for Adleyy, though.

Orioles pitching "depth" in minor leagues: Real or a figment of my imagination?
It’s getting better. But infield and outfield are the depth champs.

Any rumblings about Gunnar Henderson being moved to Norfolk to get straightened out?
Zero rumblings. Not saying it couldn’t happen later, but while we’re still in April? Those would be some premature rumblings. The kid had two hits Sunday and drew his 13th walk. Wanna guess who ranks second on the club in walks? The .373 on-base percentage is fifth. The hair flow is at or near the top. Some throws are sailing on him. The kid doesn’t know his own arm strength. But the issues at the plate seem to be more about him pressing, and that won’t last.

Do you think the Orioles are just toying around with other teams early in the season, knowing they can turn it on anytime they choose and be the best in baseball?
A risky little move. But no. Short starts and shaky defense are complicating their mission.

How soon might we expect to see DL Hall with the O's? And as a starter or in the ‘pen?
No ‘pen. You can write that in ink. He’s a starter. Hall is getting stretched out at Norfolk. It shouldn’t be a long process, since he threw 89 in his last outing. He might already be there. If his stuff is good, the Orioles will find a way to fit him into the rotation. Just don’t ask me how.

Have you tried a yard dog?
I have not. I’m told the bark is worse than the bite.

Definitely not your best work.
Agreed, but that’s not a question.

Was anyone worried about the Rays’ 13-0 start going into the weekend?
No. Hyde found it amusing that someone asked if he was concerned. He noted the number of games left and said, “We have a long way to go.” Yeah, it’s only April. And Tampa Bay lost its next two games. Also amusing is anyone who said the Rays weren’t that good this year. They’re always good.

With the extraordinary circumstances of Heston Kjerstad’s health holding him back for years, and the fact that he is an older prospect, how soon could we expect to see him in the majors?
2023 is not out of the question. 2024 is a lock. He hasn’t stopped hitting since his first day in the Arizona Fall League. A beast with a bat. I just wonder how long until he’s in Triple-A. He was supposed to be a fast mover when the Orioles drafted him.

Does your mailbag prefer hash browns or home fried potatoes with Eggs Benedict?
Hash browns over fried potatoes every time. On any plate. It isn’t even close. And I’ll count tots.

Do you sense any difference in the clubhouse minus Odor and Chirinos, and with Gibson, Irvin and Frazier?
Odor and Chirinos can be described as larger personalities. Gibson and Frazier are quieter, but also leaders. No doubt. Irvin is a character. Not sure if that answers your question. It’s still a close unit and they love their celebrations. You’re hosed if you don’t think so.

With Jimmy Yacabonis returning to MLB, are the O’s looking to trade Ubaldo Jiménez to the Mets now?
Talks with the Mets about Nate Karns are ongoing, per an industry source with direct knowledge of my imagination.

Does the team stay in D.C. when it plays the Nats, or do they bus back and forth so players can stay in their own beds?
The team stays in D.C. but players have the option of driving rather than getting on the bus. It’s only one night so I assume they just agree to stay. Would one night home make that much of a difference, especially with the Thursday off-day followed by another homestand?

With a small payroll, can you see Mike Elias making a play for a starting pitcher like Philly’s Aaron Nola?
I’m not confident in the club’s comfort level with that kind of an investment after what we saw this past winter. Maybe the spending increases this winter beyond arbitration raises. Don’t know.

Did the O's ditch the home run siren at OPACY? I hope so. That thing was awful.
There was a home run siren? I’m not sure that I even noticed it. Man, I’m really locked in during games. My wife mentioned how the Orioles always played “All I Do Is Win” after victories and I had no idea what she was talking about. Guess I was so busy filing my story immediately after the final out and racing downstairs for Brandon Hyde’s presser. And I stayed there, and I stayed there, and I stayed there.

Your attempt to seem cool?
Shut up. At least you put it in question form ... but shut up.

Is the Dominican facility finished yet? What's the holdup?
Construction is progressing on the academy and the team expects a winter completion. Tell a friend.

I think I will try this once a year. Can you get the O's to consider using a bird tweet after one of our pitchers gets a strikeout similar to the stupid whistle the Yankees use?
Nothing can be more annoying than that darn whistle. I love the tweet idea. I will tweet the link to this mailbag and see if that helps.

When there is an injury during play, how is it decided which trainer comes out? Do the trainers each have an area of expertise - hand injury, back, hamstring, head? When Ramón Urías was hit in the head Saturday, I expected to hear that Brian Ebel went to him, but the radio announcers said it was Mark Shires. Does that mean that Shires is the concussion protocol guy?
You ask a lot of questions for a guy from New Jersey. Sorry, couldn’t resist. RIP Gilda Radner. I’ve often wondered about this. And by the way, apologies to Mark, from the entire beat crew on the trip. We wrote that Brian came out to check on Urías. The press box is up the right field line. There’s our excuse. Anyway, it isn’t an area of expertise and Shires isn’t the drilled-in-the-head expert. It can be based on availability – the other athletic trainer, and let’s make that distinction from just saying “trainer” – could be busy. Or it’s just determined earlier that one guy will handle the on-field injury that inning. They’re all trained to treat any injury. It’s not like M*A*S*H when Hawkeye got all the serious chest wounds. But since you asked, I promise to dig deeper into this topic. I didn’t get a chance Sunday.

Thanks for the concise response.
Conversational mailbags, bringing the sarcasm since 2008.

Who do you think will finish second to Adley in the AL MVP? And don’t say “your mom.”
I’d never! Shohei Ohtani.

Has the club soured on Kyle Stowers or was his demotion a numbers game? To be honest, he played so irregularly, he never had a chance to break out.
Fair point. I wouldn’t say they soured on Stowers, no matter how catchy that sounds. I’ll admit to some confusion over the plan with him. Break camp with Stowers and then option him because he needed regular at-bats. I get the succession of left-handed opposing starters and how Terrin Vavra and his high-contact bat and versatility brought more immediate appeal. But I had Stowers as pretty much a lock to go north, which he did, and to get at least semi-regular playing time, which he did not. He’ll be back.

Hyde seems to be using a lot of relievers for one-inning appearances. Does he not consider any of the relievers to be long men who can go two, three, four innings to cover these short starts?
They have a few – Spenser Watkins and Austin Voth can provide the most length. Well, Watkins can't anymore because he was optioned yesterday without pitching for the Orioles. Others can be nudged further, like Logan Gillaspie and Mike Baumann. Baumann tossed two scoreless innings Sunday. He’s a keeper. But Hyde has been trying to limit the workload as much as the situations allow early, with fewer innings, and also keep some guys available for the following game. But I also know that the more you pass the baton, the more likely that someone drops it.

What does "touch and feel" mean in reference to pitching?
Not throwing with maximum effort. As it infers, just getting a feel for the ball in your hand again in a light bullpen session.

How will the Orioles market the Homer Hose?
Not sure that they will. I wouldn’t look for it in the team store. But if I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

Of course, not intended to reveal any of your trade secrets, but can you give us your "routine" when covering the O's away? Arrive at the stadium to leaving the stadium. After leaving, how do you access late breaking news, like Irvin's late option to Triple-A? Appreciate.
My routine is a source of amusement on the beat because I tend to arrive at the ballpark unnecessarily early. I walked through the media entrance at Guaranteed Rate Field Saturday morning and the people working there thought they weren’t supposed to open for another 30 minutes. Not according to the email I received! I’m just wired to think that it makes more sense to work out of the press box than my hotel room after a certain point in the day. Like working at my gate before a flight instead of at my house or hotel. But it’s also nice to be set up in the press box if the club announces a roster move or tweets the lineup. I need therapy. As for leaving, I pride myself on filing fast – the original story and the write-through. My former editors at The Baltimore Sun were most appreciative. And as for late-breaking news, it can happen anywhere and at any time. Irvin came to me while I was sitting on my couch preparing to watch “Top Chef.” Didn’t seek it but had to get confirmation. Gunnar Henderson’s promotion unfolded while I sat at a hotel bar and worked on my morning article. Kyle Bradish’s promotion came as I was finishing up the last version of a game story at Yankee Stadium and rushing to catch a train home. I also can discover news breaking from other outlets in similar settings. It happens both ways. Like finding out that the Orioles were going to option Grayson Rodriguez while I was in the MASN booth for the last exhibition game. Scrap the planned open and pivot to another topic. You make calls, you get tips when you least expect it, you get beat and scramble for confirmation. It’s a living, and a weird one.

Give me a hot take related to covering baseball on the road?
I’d rather go to Guaranteed Rate Field than the beloved and legendary Wrigley Field. So much easier. Nothing about Wrigley is media friendly.

Will Ramón Urías go on the concussion injured list?
Check back later today. He showed significant improvement on Sunday, according to Brandon Hyde. A bruise and welt behind the left ear. Could have been so much worse. Looked so much worse when it happened. I think it’s the scariest sight in sports besides an offensive lineman’s butt crack. Any pitch, but especially a fastball, hitting a player in the head. The crowd gasps. The press box gasps. And then you hold your breath while you feel your heart rate increasing. It’s awful. And Urías was holding his head with both hands. Can’t get that image out of my own head.

Have you ever found a possum in the press box?
Once. And it was delicious.

Do you return unused questions if the asker provides a self-addressed stamped envelope?
This seems like a good place to stop.

If you eat a frozen corn dog, is it considered a popsicle?
This is definitely a good place to stop.

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