Because You Asked - Fury of the Gods

Four more days before Orioles pitchers and catchers are due at the spring training complex in Sarasota. Where has the time gone?

The mailbag already is in the best shape of its life. Bulky but strong enough to handle the extra weight.

You know the routine. You ask, I answer, you trust that I’m in the know, I trust that you won’t fact-check me. And we have our latest sequel to the beloved original.

Please excuse the reckless disregard for editing. We’re informal here. Take off your shoes, unzip your pants. No one is judging you.

We serve brevity by the buckets. You want more clarity? See an optometrist.

Also, my mailbag drives your mailbag into the country, lets it out and speeds away.

What's your best guess as to what five pitchers will comprise the rotation going into 2023?
They Orioles don’t have a true No. 1 starter, but they come with a No. 1 storyline in camp. This is it. The easiest call is Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez. I don’t know how you pull one of the last three out of the rotation. However, the Orioles went to the trouble of transitioning Tyler Wells from reliever to starter and it seems odd to reverse it, especially the way he pitched in the first half. And the club is hoping that DL Hall breaks camp in the rotation. And, get this, it’s still checking on available starters who could be an upgrade. I just don’t know how this is going to work, and that’s why it’s so intriguing.

What's the likelihood of Heston Kjerstad moving to first base? Mike Elias made it a point to find left-handed hitting first base/outfield options for Triple-A, and it seems like Kjerstad fits the bill perfectly if he can move up the ladder this season.
Kjerstad did play three games at first base at the University of Arkansas. He isn’t rated as a plus defender in the outfield. But I haven’t heard anything about changing his professional position. The club has concentrated more on just getting him healthy and regular at-bats to make up for lost time. Maybe there’s some experimenting later. Probably a good idea to see whether he takes any ground balls at first in camp.

What is the big deal about a backup first baseman? Couldn't any of the other infielders do it? Is it just looking for more of the prototypical power-hitting contribution at the plate?
There’s a good chance that the Orioles use Anthony Santander (not an infielder), Adley Rutschman (also not an infielder), James McCann (again, not an infielder) and maybe Terrin Vavra (now he’s an infielder), who’s already taking ground balls to get himself ready. But they want to arrive in camp with plenty of choices, which is why they kept making waiver claims on left-handed-hitting first basemen or signing minor league free agents.

Who is the young international player that you see as a big breakout in two years that few are talking about?
Darell Hernaiz. Too soon? Infielder/outfielder Luis Valdez stole a combined 71 bases last summer between two Single-A affiliates. He posted a .347 on-base percentage in 95 games with Delmarva. He turned 23 in January. I don’t know if any of this qualifies him, but I’m intrigued.

With bigger bases and reduced throws to first base being allowed (per batter), which is more likely to happen? An explosion in stolen bases, a lot more pitchouts, more intentional walks after second base is stolen to keep double plays in order, or all of the above?
I’m going with “D”.

From your past experiences with seeing teams in spring training, how long does it usually take before you start to feel how good (or bad) the team you're covering might turn out? For instance, last year, did you start to get an early sense that the string of 100-loss seasons was about to end?
There were many springs that I flew into Fort Lauderdale knowing that the season also was going south in a hurry. I didn’t need to track every workout and exhibition game. It was pretty easy to be optimistic after the Orioles broke their streak of 14 straight losing seasons and made the playoffs in 2012. The rebuild didn’t offer much hope for contention. I thought the club would show some improvement last year, but not to the point of challenging for a wild card. I didn’t think the pitching was good enough.

Poor off-field behavior aside, I'm completely shocked no team has taken the relatively small $720,000 gamble on Trevor Bauer. Are you aware of any unresolved legal issues, an undisclosed injury, a desire not to play in baseball in '23 or something else preventing even one team from signing him?
As far as I know, he’s healthy and wants to pitch in 2023. I can only speculate that the baggage and potential PR nightmare are major factors here.  

Bar soap or liquid soap?
Bar soap for most of my life but I made the switch a few years ago and won’t go back unless I run out of liquid. But use a wash cloth. Don’t just squirt it in your hand.

Do the Orioles still have interest in Walka?
I’m assuming that you mean Michael Wacha. Walka really is an unfortunate name for a pitcher. Like Hank Error for a position player. Anyway, the fact that the Orioles are open to bringing in another starter if he’s an upgrade makes it seem possible that they haven’t … wait for it … walked away from Wacha. But he’s reportedly interested in a multi-year deal and I don’t think they’d go there. That demand or whatever could wane the longer he’s on the market.

Have you ever written and published a book? If you were offered a tall stack of cash to write a book and could choose your topic, what would that book be about?
I’ve had a few publishers over the years try to convince me. I’d have to be retired, or at least off the beat, to truly have fun with it. And go into hiding.

Do you think Mychal Givens is the setup man or is it still Cionel Pérez?
They need more than one. Givens, Pérez, Dillon Tate, Bryan Baker, someone else who’s trusted and available. Félix Bautista worked in a setup role before becoming the closer.

What year did you cover a team the most like this one?
I don’t think I’ve done it. My first season was 1997 and the Orioles went wire-to-wire after being a wild card the previous year. You know what happened next. Fourteen straight losing seasons. They made the playoffs as a wild card in 2012 and again were expected to keep winning. The bottom fell out in 2018 after the September fade of the previous season. This club is unique to me in that it’s coming off a surprisingly competitive and winning 2022 but didn’t make the playoffs. There’s a heavier reliance on homegrown players, some of the top prospects in the organization and in baseball. It just feels different.

Who you got in the Super Bowl?
Eagles and Chiefs.

Jerk. Who do you think wins?
These conversational mailbags are hurtful. The week off was good for Patrick Mahomes ankle, but I don’t think he’s suddenly back at full strength. Not that quickly with a high sprain. Also, the Eagles are just a complete football team. Not sure why some fans/critics still question them and point to an “easy” schedule. They put points on the board and bury quarterbacks. They make big plays on both sides of the ball. Mahomes better be ready to run. I’m not rooting for it, but the Eagles win by 10. John Means has his hometown Chiefs winning by the same margin.

What do you think of a six-man rotation?
I loved a four-man rotation in 1971. I’m fine with six if it’s a quality six. The Orioles certainly have the depth for it. But as Mike Elias pointed out, the setup weakens the bullpen with just seven relievers. Is that robbing Peter to pay Paul? I’ve heard that expression somewhere.

Do you feel confident the O’s will stay in Baltimore after all you have reported?

Mullet or Manbun?
Mullet and bad mustache back in the day. I don’t recommend either one now, but some people can pull off a manbun. It just works for them. Dean Kremer is one example. But don’t try it at home.

Which non-roster player has the best chance to make the club?
He might not be here yet. Otherwise, I’m thinking a left-handed-hitting backup first baseman, which brings us to Ryan O’Hearn (who also plays the outfield), Franchy Cordero (who also plays the outfield), Josh Lester (who also plays third base and the outfield), and Lewin Díaz (who’s just happy to go more than a week without changing teams).

What other mailbags are out there, and how do you know that your mailbag is the best mailbag? Did your grandkid put stickers on it or something?
Good one. I go for informative and fun. Learn but also laugh if I’m on my A game. Today probably isn’t a good example, but you get the idea. Doesn't have to be strictly baseball. And I really try to have an answer for you, or at least provide a solid guess. Otherwise, why post it?  Plus, it amuses me to keep promoting this one as the best. It’s become part of my schtick. Did it once and decided to keep it going. If you rip me for it, well, schticks and stones can break my bones but ...

Is there one thing you'd like to see added to the scoreboard at OPACY to make it the best in MLB?
Height and length. It’s just too small. One of the few outdated features.

Who do you think wins the 24th, 25th and 26th man competition if it’s between Ryan McKenna, Kyle Stowers, Terrin Vavra, Lewin Díaz, and Ryan O’Hearn?
I’m predicting that none of the non-roster players make it. However, you have the right idea to include Díaz and O’Hearn in your question. Two left-handed hitters who can back up at first base. O’Hearn also plays the corner outfield. Díaz is a good fielder.

Have all the big questions on the 26-man roster been addressed or are you expecting a late impact signing/trade before opening day?
On the surface, the biggest ones appear to be addressed. We’re down to competitions for rotation/bullpen/bench. However, Mike Elias isn’t done looking into signings and trades. He’s going to keep checking the waiver wire as teams make cuts. So, don’t get too comfortable.

What are the things you enjoy the most (and least) when attending spring training? And don't say "your mom."
I'd never! Let’s start with the weather. And Sarasota feels like a second home now, which makes sense when you spend so many weeks there. I know my way around, I have my favorite spots. I even pay for a six-week membership to LA Fitness. I get into a routine. There are three stages of me, as my wife pointed out: spring training Roch, regular season Roch and offseason Roch. Not many jobs divide a person like this. I stress over it and ultimately make a smooth transition. However, it ain’t all rainbows and unicorns. I'm not at spring break, and I cringe when people get the two confused. The work is daily and usually requires an early wakeup. No one wants to hear you complain because you’re watching baseball in Florida, but it’s a grind, and especially if you’re doing it right. Also, six weeks is a long time to be away from home. I’m actually flying back to Maryland for four days about halfway through, something I’ve never done, because I can’t go that long without seeing my granddaughter. It would destroy me.

Do you expect Henderson, Mateo, Urias, and Frazier to all make the roster?
Way to get us back on track. And yes, absolutely. There seemed to be an outside chance that Mateo or Urías would be dealt, but I’d be surprised if it happened.

Has there been any rumor of the Orioles trying to do any sort of extension with guys like Adley or Gunnar?
Haven’t heard anything concrete. Wet or dry. Adley would be first in line, but I don’t think the Orioles have gone there yet. Not that they’d broadcast it.

If a Chinese spy balloon were flying over OPACY, how many throws would it take Adley Rutschman to strike it and knock it from US airspace? (This is a trick question as everyone know that the answer is one throw.)
So, you don’t need my help here. Next question.

Does Austin Voth’s $1.85 million contract automatically put him in the rotation?
It does not. He’s in the competition, among the 12 that Mike Elias counted. But the Orioles could do a lot worse than having him cover innings out of the bullpen and make the occasional start if needed. Long relief is important, too. So, in conclusion, Voth has a chance to start, but his contract shouldn’t influence it.

Which of Givens, Gibson or Irvin will the maturation of the Baby Birds force out in a trade deadline move?
I think Irvin, with his team control and being a lefty, is a keeper. Of course, the lefty thing isn’t as important after John Means returns and if DL Hall is in the rotation. But Gibson and Givens would seem more likely to go if we’re just talking about this trio. Maybe Gibson because of age, being on a one-year deal, and how a young starter could be pushing hard. However, being a contender might change how the Orioles would approach it.

Mike Elias proudly proclaimed "no foam" on the video of him pouring a beer at EVO. Why didn't EVO train him that a proper beer pour has a 1-inch head?
It’s in litigation.

You really went there.
That’s not a question.

Who wins the Jake Fox award this spring?
Lewin Díaz has to rank among the favorites. He’s had some impressive home run totals in the minors. Just don’t swing away with a 3-0 count and the game well out of reach.

Do mustard, ketchup and relish train in the offseason?
This is probably a good place to stop.

Should the Orioles replace their padded outfield walls with trampoline fabric for improved player safety and also because balls hit off a trampoline wall would be fun to watch fielders try to chase them down?
This is definitely a good place to stop.

Do you read the blog?
I’m out.

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