Seth Johnson on offseason workouts and knowledge of new team

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The version of Seth Johnson that didn’t undergo ligament-reconstructive surgery in his right elbow was projected by some outlets to reach the majors next summer. He might have finished this season at Double-A, shortening his climb onto the Orioles’ active roster.

Johnson made seven starts at High-A Bowling Green before the injury, and prior to the deadline trade that sent him from the Rays to the Orioles. He didn’t pitch after May 20 and had his procedure on Aug. 3, which threatens to keep him away from an affiliate until 2024.

A throwing program is set to begin in the middle of January and the Orioles will get a clearer read on his progress. Johnson is hoping at a minimum to pitch in the Florida Complex League before the minors shut down.

The road to Sarasota already has been traveled. Johnson is cleared for weight training, which he’s done at the spring training complex except for a short period when it closed for some renovations.

Johnson has mostly kept his offseason on a normal trajectory other than the whole pitching thing.

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Timing of trade "a little weird" for Seth Johnson

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The timing of the trade was so good that Seth Johnson didn’t dwell as much on the oddity of his circumstances.

Johnson had just arrived in Dallas on Aug. 1 for the surgical repair of his right elbow that would be done two days later. Waiting for his father to join him at the rental car counter, Johnson received a phone call from the Rays informing him of the three-team trade involving the Orioles.

“With the Rays, you get traded pretty quick and stuff happens kind of fast with them,” he said yesterday, “but it was still kind of a shock just because everything you’ve known goes out the window because you’ve got a new organization to learn.”

A coincidence weaved its way into the introduction.

“It actually worked out nice because later that night I was planning on going to the Orioles and Rangers game anyway, so I got traded like four hours before that game and got to go see the new organization play that night,” he said. “So, that was pretty neat.”

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A few notes on impact of minor league options

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The most recent Orioles transaction remains the outright of catcher Mark Kolozsvary to Triple-A Norfolk on Nov. 17, two days after they selected the contracts of pitchers Grayson Rodriguez, Drew Rom, Seth Johnson and Noah Denoyer and infielder Joey Ortiz to protect them in the Rule 5 draft. The 40-man roster remains frozen at 38 players, but probably not for much longer.

The Winter Meetings begin next week in San Diego, where the Orioles could land the starting pitcher or hitter that they’re targeting, if it doesn’t happen before their contingent boards its flights. At least one selection is anticipated in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which also will impact the 40-man.

A trade could be made that doesn’t touch it, with rival teams expressing interest in prospects who aren’t eligible for the Rule 5. Those talks are among the many happening behind the scenes.

Over the last few days, I’ve written about additional front office decisions that are pending and questions pertaining to a bullpen that could undergo some tweaking.

I've moved on to nuggets, and here are a couple worth tucking away:

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A few questions relating to Orioles bullpen

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The Orioles are concentrating on upgrades for their rotation, but they also could acquire at least one new reliever on a major league or minor league deal. They don’t usually bring back the exact same unit while expecting the exact same results. That's a dangerous little game.

If nothing else, they can increase the camp competition.

The trust that the bullpen instilled in manager Brandon Hyde keyed the 2022 turnaround. Leads didn’t dissolve like teaspoons of sugar in water.

The Orioles were 60-2 when ahead after the sixth inning, 64-3 after the seventh and 71-3 after the eighth. They kept deficits manageable and allowed for late comebacks.

The ‘pen’s 3.49 ERA ranked ninth in the majors. The Orioles were last in 2019 and 2021, and 27th in 2018.

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A few more front office decisions

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Armchair general managers stayed busy in the early days of the offseason. Imagine how hectic it’s become with the free agent and trade markets wide open and the Winter Meetings approaching.

Your mistakes can’t cost you a job that you don’t actually have, which makes it a sweet gig.

I already posed five questions: whether you’d re-sign first baseman Jesús Aguilar, whether you’d pick up Jordan Lyles’ $11 million option (the Orioles didn’t), whether you’d trade an outfielder, whether you’d stay in-house for a backup catcher, and whether you’d attempt to re-sign Rougned Odor.

Here are two more:

Would you stay in-house for a shortstop?
Four of the top five free agents are shortstops, according to the MLBTradeRumors.com rankings – Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson. The cheapest contract projection is Swanson’s seven-year, $154 million deal.

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Because You Asked – Holiday Heist

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The fatigue that I keep blaming on tryptophan, which makes no sense because I use the excuse year-round, limits how much heavy lifting I can do in one day.

The mailbag isn’t a priority compared to daily workouts, but I decided to empty it this morning while it’s still relatively light.

While I don’t need relatives to assist me.

This is the holiday sequel to the beloved original. You ask, I answer, you ask again, I answer again. Why do I still feel the need to explain it? You get it by now.

Also, my mailbag is in charge of carving the turkey, while yours is stuck washing the dishes.

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Leftovers for breakfast

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Baseball’s regular season ended on Oct. 5. The World Series finished exactly a month later. The Arizona Fall League wrapped up two weeks ago.

There’s still the annual game of seeing how far the Thanksgiving leftovers can be stretched. And its spinoffs.

Does this smell right? Didn’t that used to be gravy? If that's a mushroom, why is it moving?

The sport has its own leftovers. Delicious nuggets from the Orioles’ public relations staff.

I’ll heat up another batch this morning.

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Reasons to be thankful on the designated day

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Today is a day to find the best in a world that can be uncooperative throughout the search.  

To be thankful for more time in it.

Sure beats the alternative.

That actually should be done every morning when our feet hit the floor, but the fourth Thursday in November has become the official date.

The pressure builds if coaxed into expressing it at the dinner table between bites of stuffing, but the rest is gravy.

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A few random Orioles facts from 2022

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An area of improvement that can’t be predicted or counted upon in 2023 is the Orioles’ success in close games.

A better bullpen deserves much of the credit.

Eighty-three were decided by two runs or fewer, the fifth-most in the American League and ninth-most in the majors. Manager Brandon Hyde would playfully remind everyone that there were no rules prohibiting big early leads and coasting to victories.

His club went 43-40, which tied for the fifth-most wins in the AL and sixth in the majors.  

Flip back to 2021 and you’ll find that the Orioles played 63 games decided by two runs or fewer, tied for the least amount in the majors. Their 24 wins were the second lowest.

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Orioles working to convince another catcher to come to Baltimore

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The Orioles are keeping two openings on their 40-man roster as they get closer to the Thanksgiving holiday shutdown.

This isn’t a mandated quiet period. It just typically works out that way.

Thanksgiving 2005 was an insane exception. The Marlins traded Carlos Delgado to the Mets and Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox for Hanley Ramírez, Aníbal Sánchez, and two others.

Reporters covering the Marlins almost tossed their turkey.

(The judges also would have accepted “yacked their yams”)

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Revisiting news of tendered Orioles contracts

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An immediate takeaway from Friday night’s announcement that the Orioles tendered contracts to their six arbitration-eligible players:

No one in the group was non-tendered, and there were some questions surrounding pitcher Austin Voth based on projected salary and uncertain role.

MLBTradeRumors.com has Voth’s contract rising from $875,000 to $2 million. He’s got to make the club out of spring training and he’s out of minor league options.

Will the Orioles run out of room in their rotation?

Voth could make a simple transition to bulk relief/swingman if he isn’t starting every fifth day. He’s worked out of the bullpen, including 19 times with the Nationals before the Orioles claimed him off waivers. And he’s a poster child for the benefits of the team’s pitching instruction.

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Denoyer on making the 40-man roster and enjoying the journey

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The Orioles had four prospects they intended to place on the 40-man roster by Tuesday’s deadline, and an undrafted pitcher trending upward who couldn’t be denied.

Wasn’t worth the risk of losing him.

Noah Denoyer probably felt like the fifth of five players protected in the Rule 5 draft behind pitchers Grayson Rodriguez, Drew Rom and Seth Johnson, and shortstop Joey Ortiz. A foursome that is found within the top 20 prospects in the system, per MLBPipeline.com’s rankings.

Denoyer didn’t spend much time breaking it down or reflecting on its meaning, whether he should appreciate the honor more given his circumstances.

“My goal is always to just make the big leagues and do as well as I can for as long as I can, and help a team to win a World Series,” he said during Thursday’s video call with local media.

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Taking another look at Orioles' offseason interests

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The business conducted by the Orioles can be brought out into the open, whether from the outset or at its conclusion, or held behind closed warehouse doors. The public finds out about decisions made on the 40-man roster and in arbitration talks without knowing all of the mechanisms.

Negotiations with free agents and executives usually are kept private, as least by the club. Too much leaked information can wash away the progress made, with other teams perhaps using it to their advantage.

The Orioles were occupied yesterday with tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Jorge Mateo, Dillon Tate and Austin Voth, and the non-eligible group on the 40-man roster. They can negotiate contracts until Jan. 13, and if unsuccessful, head to hearings.

But there’s always something else going on beyond what we see.

Catcher Mark Kolozsvary passed through waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, a process hidden until the Orioles announced the outcome. It was significant because only one catcher remained on the 40-man roster, and the overall number of players dropped to 38.

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Orioles must address six arbitration-eligible players by tonight's deadline (updated)

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The Orioles have reached another deadline tonight, this one a few weeks earlier than the norm. They must tender contracts to their six arbitration-eligible players or risk going to hearings.

This is a day-long exercise for some media. Reporting the agreements, maybe the terms. Update after update, or just one lump summary.

The perceived importance needs to be balanced against the reality that these players are under team control. The Orioles are just setting the salaries.

Whether a player signs for $1.1 million or $1.2 million means little if you're not the one cutting the check. But I digress …

Outfielders Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays, shortstop Jorge Mateo and pitchers Dillon Tate and Austin Voth are getting raises under a system that pretty much assures them. The only way to avoid it is to non-tender.

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Ortiz lands on Orioles 40-man roster as more than a defensive shortstop (note added)

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Joey Ortiz never wanted the defense-first label pinned to him. The pride that he took in his glove work was offset by the notion that his bat might be a liability. That teams would have to settle for a light-hitting shortstop in order to benefit from the runs saved.

A more common tradeoff many years ago.

Not one that Ortiz was comfortable hauling into the present.

The Orioles knew that they were getting a plus-defender in the fourth round of the 2019 draft out of New Mexico State. Ortiz knew that he could prove scouts outside the organization wrong who viewed him more as being a one-dimensional player, and he did it this summer.

Ortiz batted a combined .284/.349/.477 with 35 doubles, six triples, 19 home runs and 85 RBIs in 600 plate appearances. He really took off after his promotion to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 29, slashing .346/.400/.567 with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs and 14 RBIs in 26 games.

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This, that and the other

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Grayson Rodriguez celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday by hopping on a video call with some members of the local media.

One big wish had already come true for Rodriguez. The Orioles selected his contract on Tuesday, placing him on the 40-man roster at the deadline prior to next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Rodriguez referred to it as “an honor,” while others in the industry viewed it as a foregone conclusion.

Baseball’s top pitching prospect expressed his disappointment at failing to make his major league debut after recovering from a grade 2 lat strain, settling for rehab starts and a return to Triple-A Norfolk before the Orioles shut him down.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has noted the expectation that Rodriguez will break camp next spring in the rotation. Rodriguez is ready for it.  

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Looking back on yesterday's Orioles news

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A week of Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards announcements makes a stop tonight at Cy Young.

Each ballot had room for five candidates. None of the Orioles are expected to make an appearance.

The winner will come from a group consisting of Chicago’s Dylan Cease, Toronto’s Alek Manoah and Houston’s Justin Verlander.

The Orioles’ dry spell, dating back to Steve Stone in 1980, continues for at least one more year.

Yesterday brought us to an intersection of announcements – players added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft and Brandon Hyde finishing runner-up to the Guardians’ Terry Francona for American League Manager of the Year.

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Hyde is runner-up for AL Manager of the Year by BBWAA

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The Orioles’ rise from 110-loss team in 2021 to playoff contender this summer, their record settling above .500 to shock the industry, couldn’t launch manager Brandon Hyde toward another award.

Hyde was runner-up tonight to the Guardians’ Terry Francona for the American League’s Manager of the Year in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He finished first last month in The Sporting News balloting.

In his fourth season with the Orioles, Hyde guided the Orioles to an 83-79 record for one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history. He received nine first-place votes, nine second and seven third for 79 points.

Francona, who won the AL Central with the youngest roster in the league, received 17 first-place votes and nine second for 112 points. The Mariners’ Scott Servais was third with one first-place, eight second and 14 third.

Dusty Baker, whose Astros won the World Series, was fourth with three first-place, three second and seven third. The Yankees’ Aaron Boone was fifth with one second and one third. The Rays’ Kevin Cash, who won it the past two seasons, was sixth with one third-place vote.

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Orioles adding players today to 40-man roster

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The shuffling of the 40-man roster, with some cards tossed out of the deck, grows louder with today’s deadline for setting it prior to the Dec. 7 Rule 5 draft in San Diego.

The Orioles have met multiple times this week to finalize their list. They’ve created six openings, with the freedom to fashion more as they seek to add players from outside the organization via free agency and trades.

Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez and shortstop Joey Ortiz, the No. 8 prospect in the organization per Baseball America, are simple additions. Those internal talks must have lasted two seconds.

Rodriguez is expected to be in the rotation on opening day. Ortiz could compete for the shortstop job in spring training after batting .346/.400/.567 with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs, 14 RBIs and nine walks in 26 games with Triple-A Norfolk after his promotion from Double-A Bowie.

Left-hander Drew Rom, 22, is a strong candidate to be protected. The fourth-round draft pick in 2018 struck out 144 batters in 120 innings between Bowie and Norfolk, and he surrendered only 10 home runs.

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Rutschman's ranking in rookie voting revealed tonight (updated)

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The next round of awards are handed out this week, starting tonight with Rookie of the Year from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman is a finalist in the American League with Cleveland’s Steven Kwan – his former college teammate – and Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez.

Rodríguez already was chosen by The Sporting News, Baseball America and his peers in the Players Choice Awards. He won a Silver Slugger Award last week. He’s just waiting to hear from People Magazine on the results for “Sexiest Man Alive”.

The BBWAA isn’t expected to veer away from Rodríguez, but we’ll find out tonight on MLB Network beginning at 6 p.m.

A first- or second-place finish for Rutschman would give him a full year of service time under the new collective bargaining agreement. That’s a year closer to arbitration and free agency. And it’s why some writers were uncomfortable with the ballot or declined to vote.

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