The Orioles might get spoiled with all of these off-days. Two since finishing their homestand on Wednesday.
They left San Francisco yesterday and continue their rare-visit tour with a stop in Milwaukee.
The Brewers swept the Orioles in a three-game set at Miller Park in July 2017, and if you remember that Jayson Aquino started in the series finale, my level of concern for you has grown to the size of Félix Bautista.
More concerning, perhaps, is that Seth Smith led off for the Orioles in the first two games.
This team was in contention going into September?
Anyway, the ballpark’s name changed to American Family Field after 2020. I’ve been there and remember absolutely nothing about it except for the cart with the giant brat on top parked outside the clubhouse entrance. I took a photo, posted it on social media – probably with some stupid pun – and got on with my life.
Let's get to the latest mailbag, which also can be dumb and keeps changing names based on movie sequels.
I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It’s like introducing you to your spouse of 15 years.
The editing will be minimal, but don’t take advantage of my good nature and make me whip out my brevity marker.
Also, my mailbag takes first place on “Top Chef” and yours can’t boil ramen noodles without messing up.
Does Kyle Stowers factor at all into future plans at this point or are they resigning themselves to him having a DJ Stewart type of career?
The Orioles are a long, long way from labeling Stowers or his career. They haven’t bailed on him. Their intent is not to bury him in the minors. They want him to get regular at-bats at Triple-A instead of sporadic playing time with them. And to improve his contact ratio. But it’s also worth mentioning that Stowers has to step up because there are outfield prospects who could blow past him. A very nice “problem” to have if you’re the Orioles.
Has anyone filed a missing person report on Joey Ortiz?
We’re told that Ortiz has been dealing with an illness. Must be more than the sniffles because he’s vanished since the Orioles optioned him again.
Will the Orioles win the AL East this year?
They haven’t boasted about their chances of finishing first. Mike Elias talks in wild card terms. But no one is running away with the division at this point, and the Rays threatened to do so early. The Yankees heated up. Every team in the division is above .500. Don’t come at me with another division that’s in the same class as the AL East.
Any news on the stadium lease agreement?
Nothing since the last mailbag, when I said there was nothing to report. Any talks are likely to remain behind closed doors. The Orioles aren’t providing incremental updates.
Haven't heard a word about the team signing a new stadium lease for quite some time. Do you know if discussions are active or even close to completion?
Still nothing to report since the last question. I’d be shocked if the Orioles and Maryland Stadium Authority were close to an agreement. But I’ll also say again that we have no idea what, if anything, is happening behind the scenes.
Has Ryan Mountcastle ever tried using a 37-inch bat so he can finally hit those third strikes four inches outside the strike zone?
Tough room. Mountcastle tends to chase when he’s struggling. Like a lot of guys. And his on-base percentage had declined every year. But the issue isn’t bat length.
Who is your Most Valuable Oriole if voting ended today?
Has it? Ballots are turned in early. I would have shouted out Yennier Cano’s name, but now I’m less certain. He’s been more hittable lately. Still a wonderful story, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the local and national media has written one. Austin Hays is making a case for it. Adley Rutschman could repeat. Félix Bautista has four blown saves but also a low ERA and ridiculously high strikeout rate. More than 18 per nine innings. Insane. Let’s just be grateful that ballots really aren’t due.
Why did Brandon Hyde have to give Austin Hays the nickname "Haysy"? Nicknames don't usually add syllables.
They do in baseball. Or at least, they add the “y” sound. That’s just how it is. You won’t find anyone who’s “Blue Moon” or “Catfish” or “Oil Can.” And some nicknames do had length. A childhood friend, knowing that "Roch" already sounded like a nickname, occasionally went with "Kaboogianovich." Real happy that it didn't catch on. Then again, I took "Leffel" and made it "Lepeuw." And another childhood friend with the last name "Matthews" became "Trashshoes." Old friends are the best friends.
Have you ever called Hyde "Hydesy?"
Never. He’s “Hyder,” and I don’t call him that, either. A little too personal for me. But players have used that nickname since his first day. It struck me that he has their respect but also is one of the guys. Unlike Vinny Gambini, he blends.
Has Hyde ever almost called you "Rochy," then stopped?
Has a topic ever been worn out in this mailbag?
What the heck does Jordan Westburg have to do to get a callup?
Stay healthy and keep hitting. It’s coming, folks.
When is Colton Cowser due back? "Lingering quad discomfort" doesn't tell us much.
Sorry, this is an old one. We kept hearing days instead of weeks. Like we hear weeks instead of months for Cedric Mullins. These timelines tend to be vague. Cowser returned Saturday and had four hits in two games, including a double and home run. This guy can't be stopped unless his quad is sore. He just keeps hitting.
Who had a worse personality, Erik Bedard or Scott Erikson?
Bedard was terrific with the media, and certainly with me, while he was in the minors. And that includes while rehabbing from an injury. Later, he developed the short-answer, smirking shtick. A couple of beat writers found it amusing. I remember one member of the organization high-fiving him after a particularly brutal session. I found it disrespectful and a waste of my valuable time on deadline, which is why I’d step away from the scrum after one or two questions. But that was the extent of it. Erickson had a genuine disdain for the media dating back to his Twins days, and he especially hated me for reasons I never fully understood. Me: “Hey Scott, do you have a minute?” Erickson: “Not for you.” But he was at his locker after every start. Didn’t duck us. So, we had that going for us.
Is there any chance at all that the Orioles bring Jackson Holliday to the majors?
There's a better chance that they bring Jackson Holliday to Circuit City. It isn’t going to happen this summer. A jump from low A ball to the bigs? Come on. But what’s wrong with 2024, especially at his age?
When the MASN web site crashes, like it did a few nights ago, do flashing lights and an air raid siren go off in the press box?
Just in my head. Fortunately, the issue that was noticed immediately after the final out was resolved by the time I returned from the clubhouse. They fixed the glitch, professor.
Nice “Office Space” reference. Wait, nice “Office Space” reference, wasn’t it?
Nice recovery. And thanks.
Did the Orioles have to pry Aaron Hicks away from training for the PGA tour to return to baseball, or did he come willingly?
Willingly. The PGA tour is a childhood dream of his, as he told us after signing, but then he added: “I think my wife, after I’m done, wants me to stay at home and help her with the kids. I’m going to go ahead and do that.” Smart man.
Are you a scratch golfer?
Only in the sense that when I played, I used to scratch myself after teeing off. Most likely a pants issue.
Do we have any kind of timeline on Dillon Tate's recovery, and should he have just had that surgery?
No timeline. The Orioles rarely put one in concrete. Too many factors can alter it and make them look foolish, so it’s safer to go conservative. Mike Elias didn’t think the setback was severe, but Tate has to shut down, begin throwing again, return to an injury rehab assignment, and build the innings necessary for the Orioles to trust that he’s ready. And he was transferred Saturday to the 60-day IL. So, a lot has to be processed and done before we speak about surgery, whatever kind “that” is.
Will the splash zone continue into October? Is there an opt-out?
Talking about opt-outs makes me uncomfortable. I’m clause-trophobic.
At least you didn’t go a long way for that dumb joke.
Yeah, I can’t even call you out for not phrasing it in the form of a question. The splash zone runs through the end of the season, whenever it arrives.
Who has the best gums on the beat?
Guns? That would be me. Oh, “gums.” Let me chew on that one. (Pauses to let applause die down.)
Have you visited your dentist to discuss early-stage gum disease?
I see we’re still referencing A-Rod. I go to the dentist every six months, or more if I lose a front tooth. Thanks for checking on me.
Are trade rumors swirling yet?
It’s early for that, and certainly none that are legit. We're at the stage where we speculate which teams might be willing to trade starters.
Should the Orioles trade for a top starting pitcher or someone like Fernando Tatis, Jr.? I think they should go for a big-time bat and hope their pitching holds.
The Padres have Tatis on the market? How much salary are they eating? And are they willing to settle for only a couple of top prospects? The more realistic strategy is pursing a starting pitcher and a reliever. And if they can’t get a starter at their price who’s a real difference-maker, they should really go in hard for bullpen help. Try to shorten the games, like they did in 2014 with Andrew Miller.
Why sign Mychal Givens? That hasn’t exactly worked out.
Because he was a durable setup man with a lengthy track record, and I get the irony, since he’s had two injuries. I think that’s irony. I know rain on your wedding day is more of a coincidence. Also, it made more sense after we learned at spring training that Dillon Tate was hurt and guaranteed to go on the injured list. The club knew in November. We were told in February, after interviewing him about the World Baseball Classic at one of the Birdland Caravan stops. Givens was a veteran, ground ball inducing substitute. And then, well, knee and shoulder issues.
Julio Rodriguez has his own cereal, called JuliOs. What names would you choose for the Orioles?
Adley Crunchman. Cereal Pérez. Jorge MateOs. Yennier CanOs. Kyle Branish. That's just off the top of my head. I don’t want to milk it. And you can skim it if that’s too many.
I’d say two percent of this mailbag is worth reading.
Your words are hurtful. And not in the form of a question.
Wasn't Cole Irvin acquired for the rotation? Now that G-Rod has been demoted, it would seem that Irvin isn't even considered as a last resort. Have the Orioles given up on him?
They have not. He wasn’t throwing strikes. He needed to work on that in Triple-A, though the hitters down there aren’t necessary an accurate gauge for whether major league hitters will react the same. For a time, the Orioles didn’t have a spot for him. Now they do, and he could fill it after his minimum 15 days are up.
How long do you think Aaron Hicks will be on the team? Until Colton Cowser comes off the IL in Norfolk?
Cowser has been reinstated from the IL. Hicks might determine how long he’s on the team. If he’s hitting and getting on base like he did Wednesday, and like yesterday, when he collected two more hits, including a triple, he won’t be rushed out of town.
Does your seat in the press box have your name on the chair and how long have you been in that seat in the press box?
I have a name tag on the counter or whatever it’s called. Not the chair. I moved down to that spot from the second row during the pandemic and decided to stay. I used to be in the front, behind home plate, with The Sun and chose to move directly behind them when I joined MASN and MASNsports.com. More line drives come to my area at my current location, so that’s a hazard.
Why do so many want us to call up prospects from Triple-A and in the same breath want the G-Rods and Gunnars of the world to be sent down because they are not flourishing at the MLB level? Do they not see the madness in this logic?
They do not. I get the eagerness. Totally understand it. But you really can’t have it both ways. Can’t crush the organization for keeping guys down and then scream for demotions at the first sign of struggles. Well, you can, but it’s contradictory.
Papusas? Fan or not?
Yes, but they aren’t readily available to me. So, I’ve had limited exposure to them. What’s not to like?
Could we see Jorge Mateo in center field?
Mateo is an option but not immediately. Hyde didn’t sound like he was considering it. But it’s good to know that Mateo can play it.
Is center field cursed? Cedric Mullins gets hurt, Austin Hays misses a game because he’s sick, Aaron Hicks has muscle cramps in his first game.
Purely coincidental. But, well, there’s that time Luis Matos squared to bunt in a May 2005 game, wrapped his hand around the bat and broke his right ring finger. Brady Anderson had appendicitis, but somehow was able to heal without surgery. Don’t try this at home.
Why didn’t you choose San Francisco this time?
Others had the same question. Why Milwaukee? It just worked out that way. I wasn’t doing both, and Steve and I are basically working, for now, on an alternating basis. I’ve been to San Francisco. Like I’ve been to Wrigley Field. The novelty wears off. And the First Lady of SOR noted how, before our recent Virginia trip, I hadn’t experienced a weekend off since before spring training.
Will Grayson Rodriguez stay in the minors a lot longer than the last time? And what did you think of his latest demotion?
Rodriguez came back after one start because of the line drive that slammed into Kyle Bradish's foot. Special circumstances. He gets more than one start after returning to Norfolk. And especially with off-days allowing the Orioles to skip a fifth starter. And with the other starters healthy, which keeps Rodriguez down for the minimum 15 days. As for my feelings on his demotion, I was surprised because it wasn't a string of disastrous starts. Pretty much every other one was poor. But he wasn't pushing past the fifth enough times even when he turned in a "good" one. That's tough on the bullpen. My main issue is that I don't know what he gains by dominating Triple-A hitters again. He tossed six scoreless innings Saturday with one hit allowed and six strikeouts. So what? Now, you can point to the five walks and say he still needs to work on commanding his fastball, sharpening the other pitches. Stuff that's easier done below the majors. But he still can't prove that he's able to get big league hitters out on a regular basis until he's here doing it. And I'll admit, I could go the rest of my life without watching another opener and bullpen game.
Plane, train, or automobile: What's the best method of transportation when you're covering a road series in Philly or New York?
Train 100 percent of the time.
Any idea who the Orioles will draft with the 17th pick?
Life was a lot easier when the club chose first or second. I had five capsules written last year, knowing which players were on the board, and just did a quick cut-and-paste when Jackson Holliday’s name was called. At 17? A whole lot harder. I can say it will be the top-rated player still on the board and it won’t be for need. MLB.com’s Jim Callis ran his first mock draft in May and had the Orioles selecting Florida prep third baseman Aidan Miller, whose stock slipped after he missed most of the spring with a hamate injury. A month later, Callis projected Miller going four picks earlier to the Cubs and had the Orioles taking University of Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep. So, that’s a prep third baseman and college pitcher. Looks like they could go in many directions. The pitcher certainly would be a shift in Mike Elias’ draft tendencies.
Which band had the best debut album in rock history? I went with Van Halen, but then someone else brought up Guns ‘N Roses’ “Appetite For Destruction. And then there's Alice In Chain's “Face Lift.”
Van Halen is a great pick, but my first thought is Pearl Jam’s “Ten.” Stone Temple Pilot’s “Core” must be included in this discussion or there’s something horribly wrong with it.
It is June 2. Any signs of a stadium deal? We are just five weeks away from the All-Star break.
Still no. But again, I don’t know what’s going on in private. I barely can keep track of what’s happening in public.
Do you get fed in the press box? If so, what's your go-to?
Media dining was stopped during the pandemic and brought back. There’s no real go-to. You eat what they serve. You don’t choose from a menu. I don’t crave any of it. It’s fine. They’ve dialed it up a bit this season with a new vendor. The beef bourguignon was superb. And it feels weird even typing that sentence.
Will the Orioles sign Adley Rutschman to an extension?
Today? No. Later this season? Highly doubtful. Before he reaches free agency? I’d say it’s a definite maybe.
Repeating my question that didn't make the cut last time, why is Gunnar's walk-up music “Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani? Did he lose a bet?
I’ll be sure to ask next time I see him, so I can escape this question.
Are you now sold on Adam Frazier?
I was never unsold. A one-year deal and an upgrade over Rougned Odor. He just seems to find ways to contribute without overwhelming stats. And he’s a nice clubhouse fit. Can keep him through the summer or flip him if there are issues with finding space for, say, Jordan Westburg. I don’t think the contending Orioles are crafting their Frazier strategy in early June. They’re just happy to have him and a left-handed bat that is a nice counter to Ramón Urías.
Where do the Orioles rank in turning double plays?
They were first after arriving in San Francisco and they remained first after the first game. The infield combination doesn't seem to matter. This isn't Brooks, Belanger, Grich/Davey and Boog. Can be a different third and second baseman on many nights. Not the same as the regular crew in 2022. And they're still turning two.
Would MLB expansion to Mexico add another Steve Melewski required road trip?
Not right away. Let’s see how much whining I do first.
What's happening with the rotation after the Monday off-day?
Kyle Gibson starts Tuesday night in Milwaukee. Everyone stays in line. The Brewers are starting Freddy Peralta, future Oriole Corbin Burnes and Colin Rea.
This is probably a good place to stop.
What's the deal with waffle fries? Are they waffles or fries?
Yeah, this is definitely a good place to stop.