Because You Asked – Like Father, Like Son

I’m away from the Orioles while they play on the West Coast, but my mailbag never leaves my side.

This is actually a lie. I’ve gone on vacation without it.

This is also a lie. I’ve sat in the exit row and strapped the bag to a seat in the back of the plane.

Anyway, I’m sorting through the questions and counting how many are fresh, how many are repeats, and how many are real. Put them together and we have our latest sequel to the original mailbag.

There is no editing for length, style or clarity. We welcome brevity with open arms. We invite it to dinner and insist that it bring only an appetite.

Also, my mailbag dates your mailbag’s sister.

How long does Brandon Hyde expect starters to have to pitch limited innings? What are the plans to keep the bullpen fresh over the full 162 if starters are continually throwing five or less?

The Orioles aren’t the only team using shorter leashes on starters after a truncated camp. We’re seeing a gradual climb in innings and pitch counts. Tyler Wells apparently will work in a tandem arrangement through the summer, but Hyde gladly will extend other starters. He’d love to do it with John Means. He was counting on it with Means.  

What’s the latest with Means?

Means is getting other opinions. Doctors’ schedules didn’t line up in ideal fashion, so there’s been some dead time. The Orioles aren’t announcing a final decision because it hasn’t been made. They’re trying to get as much of a consensus as possible. Probably early next week.

What’s going on with Kyle Stowers and Terrin Vavra?

Stowers felt some discomfort in his side Wednesday during batting practice. He didn’t seem too concerned and felt like he nipped it in the bud, but the Orioles aren’t ready to downplay it until they get more information. Vavra was removed for a pinch-runner and placed on the injured list with a right hamstring strain.

Are Spenser Watkins and Chris Ellis staying in the rotation?

They haven’t given any reasons for their removal. Watkins starts Saturday in Anaheim and Ellis Sunday.

Who is the guy you see in the dugout with the magnificent, almost Rollie Fingers-esque mustache? Is he an athletic trainer?

Nice reference. That’s Justin Bucko, the assistant strength coach. I hear players use the mustache to do chin-ups. But that hasn’t been confirmed.

Who will be the SOR punching bag now that DJ Stewart is no longer around? And don't say "your mom."

I'd never! I have confidence that the crew will latch onto someone else. Chris Davis retired and no one missed a beat. I think the rotation was on a roll just to avoid the criticism.

Do you think the organization should let DJ go back to his college batting stance? It was funky, but it worked for him.

Stewart isn’t in the organization after the Orioles designated him for assignment. Either way, I wouldn’t expect him to bring back the exaggerated crouch. It worked at Florida State, but that’s a long way from the majors.  

Did Robinson Chirinos really leave Wednesday’s game with a face confusion?

It was a contusion. Not confusion. A contusion.

Oh, that’s different. Never mind.

Next question.

Any chance we see any of these Norfolk hitters who are hot right now come up? Namely Nevin or Bannon or Vavra?

We could see most or all of them in 2022, but … you know what’s coming here … the Orioles won’t rush them. Nevin played in six games last summer, but they didn’t need an extra corner infielder/outfielder breaking camp and wanted him to get more Triple-A at-bats after he hit .227/.305/.392 last summer in 453 plate appearances. He’s off to a really nice start this month. Let him build on it and hopefully stick around after his next opportunity. The season is very young. Bannon plays second and third, so he isn’t a true utility player. That makes it tougher for him right now, but he certainly could get a shot later. You already know about Vavra if you’re reading this in order.

Why is Tyler Nevin's walk up song “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival?

Is it? His father is former major league player and current Angels third base coach Phil Nevin. Get it? I hear Ryan Ripken was subjected to the same song.

What would be your walk-up song? Sorry if has been asked previously.

I’ve been asked about my entrance song as a closer: “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister. Guess it also works as a walk-up song.

Why does Ryan McKenna keep getting pinch-hitting opportunities when the reason he is on the team is for his defense?

He isn’t swinging a wet newspaper. He has a .354 on-base percentage in six minor league seasons and batted .307/.423/.683 with 11 home runs last year in 27 games with Norfolk. His real value to the Orioles are found in his speed and outfield defense – trusted at all three spots – but there are some matchups late in games that will prompt manager Brandon Hyde to call upon McKenna’s right-handed bat.

Given Ryan McKenna's struggles hitting, will we see Kyle Stowers sooner than later?

Man, tough crowd. McKenna helps in other ways - and he had a single and sacrifice fly yesterday. But what’s important here is that Stowers won’t debut until the organization is convinced that he’s ready. It won’t be because a player is struggling and they need someone, anyone, to replace him. If Stowers is here, you’d think he’d be a regular in the lineup rather than a bench player. And if you’re reading this in order, you now have an update on Stowers.

They've sold tickets and hot dogs for 1992 prices. When is 1992 Priced Beer Night?

That one isn’t happening, but let’s keep hoping for Disco Demolition Night. What could go wrong?

What is Keegan Akin doing differently this year to be having so much success in the ‘pen? Do you think they put him back in the rotation or don't mess with a good thing?

Akin is farther removed from his core surgery, and he’s in attack mode on the mound. No nibbling. Trusting his stuff and pounding the strike zone. Make them put the ball in play. Stuff that works in a rotation. But it’s also working really well in the bullpen, and the Orioles aren’t inclined to mess with a good thing. Let Akin keep building confidence while getting out hitters. He’s serving an important role as a multi-inning reliever on a staff where the starters are on stricter pitch counts. And yes, I’m aware that he served up a home run yesterday. A hiccup.

Got an update on Yusniel Diaz?

The left hamstring is much better. Doing normal progression activities. He’s hitting in the cage, throwing, jogging, all that stuff.

Any update on Kyle Brnovich beyond the elbow sprain?

There’s no downplaying it. This is a legitimate elbow injury, unfortunately. The Orioles don’t have their arms around it completely yet. It usually takes a couple weeks.

Hey Roch, do you ever get sick of everyone replying to your lineup tweets with, “Wow, that’s not a very good lineup”?

Gotta admit, it beats “Start printing those playoff tickets.” If I’m forced to choose.

Is Jorge López gone at the deadline if he continues to pitch well in high leverage situations?

See, this is why we can’t have nice things. As soon as an Oriole gets on a roll, he becomes a theoretical trade chip. Anyway, if a team makes a can’t-resist trade offer, López is a goner. He isn’t untouchable, and he’s making $1.5 million. Teams wanting a late-inning, high-leverage guy are going to be sniffing around him. It just depends on the return.

Who are the two players in the most jeopardy of being cut to get us from 28 to 26 players?

You’re talking about May 2.

I know what I’m talking about.

This is the problem with conversational mailbags. Right there. Anyway, you won’t see a 15-man pitching staff on a 26-man roster. I’d check the bullpen first. Any vulnerable relievers could be toast.

Has anybody actually ever seen Heston Kjerstad? Seriously, what is his status?

Many years ago, a woman asked a friend of mine about my status and he proceeded to tell her what a great guy I was, that I knew how to treat women. She meant my marital status. But I digress … Yes, Kjerstad has been seen and he’s working out in Sarasota. Throwing, on a hitting progression. The Orioles are being careful with that hamstring, but he’s getting better every day.

How many members of the Orioles' starting lineup will end the season with fewer hits than Paul McCartney?

Let it be. Runs have been scarce, but hey, guys are getting on base and eventually the clutch hits should come. Keep setting the table and it gets cleared. They scored four runs yesterday. Felt like an eruption. The pitching staff has recorded three shutouts. Let’s come together on that.

What is your take on the left field wall?

I can take it and baseballs can’t leave it.

Do the players have any fun names for the new left field wall? We've coined it the “Camden Canyon.”

I haven’t heard any nicknames floating around the clubhouse. Full disclosure: It didn’t occur to me to ask. I’ll get on it. The wall juts out to a 90-degree angle, right? So … Jabba the Jut? Never mind.

Has any thought been given to officially retiring the numbers 7, 44 and 46?

The retired Orioles numbers belong to Hall of Famers Earl Weaver (4), Brooks Robinson (5), Cal Ripken Jr. (8), Frank Robinson (20), Jim Palmer (22) and Eddie Murray (33). Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is retired throughout baseball. But the Orioles have been known to withhold a number rather than assigning it to a new player, even if it isn’t officially “retired.”

Which of the Spice Girls is your favorite?


That’s not a Spice Girl.

I suggest sprinkling it on deviled eggs or cream cheese stuffed celery.

Still not a Spice Girl.

Still not a question. Next?

My attendance has been poor lately, but what's up with Adley? Any chance he gets back on the field this month?

Rutschman is nearing a return to games. He’s catching some bullpen sessions and doing defensive work, and he’s taking live at-bats (the dead ones are useless.) So yeah, there’s daily progress and pretty soon he should be getting game action. But not immediately at Triple-A. This will be an injury rehab progression that sends him to the lower affiliates. Again, the key word is “soon.” The box scores will dictate how quickly he moves.

How many different factors do the O's take into account with their defensive shifts and positioning? The count, batter against pitcher, batter against certain pitches, runners on or not on, the score, and weather are a few I can think of.

All of them solid reasons to shift, though the weather might rank last on your list. Maybe that’s why you buried it. Also, you left out astrological signs. Virgos get an extra infielder on the right side, Geminis on the left.

This is probably a good place to stop.

That’s my line.

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