Five Orioles predictions for 2023

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Pitchers and catchers report next month. Somewhere in the middle of it. A long way from Opening Day on March 30 in Boston, but the distance is shrinking.

The holiday themes are over unless I’m suddenly motivated by Valentine’s Day. Nothing so far about Cupid’s arrow, but I decided this morning to take a stab at some 2023 predictions.

Here are five, because any more or less would be breaking the sportswriters’ law – which I’ve often done as a nod to my rebellious side:

Will Grayson Rodriguez be in the Opening Day rotation?
The Orioles have practically guaranteed it. He reports to camp with a spot waiting for him. He would have been starting last summer except for the Grade 2 lat strain.

Rodriguez was healthy and ready to pitch in September, but the Orioles didn’t select his contract. He’s on the 40-man roster, and he’s expected to be on their staff on March 30.

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A new year and old questions about Orioles roster

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I’m finally done with 2022 except for those occasions when I reference it in relation to the upcoming season. Like, can the bullpen be as good or better than it was last summer? Can Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer pick up where they left off? Can Ramón Urías win a Gold Glove at a different position?

Will I break my record set last year for most times eating orange chicken in the press dining room?

The last Orioles transaction before Saturday night’s Tyler Nevin trade to the Tigers was the Dec. 23 trade of first baseman Lewin Díaz to the Braves for cash considerations. The Braves designated him for assignment less than a week later.

I woke up Saturday again wondering what the heck happened to Nevin. The Orioles designated him for assignment on Dec. 22 while acquiring catcher James McCann from the Mets. Still no news on the outcome.

I theorized that the Orioles were trying and struggling to find a trade partner. Otherwise, it’s the waiver process and either a claim or outright. Should have been done.

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Remembering some remaining 2022 moments as a new year arrives

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Happy New Year. Hope you remembered to hydrate before going to bed.

You’ll know if it wasn’t enough.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to order a water with every alcoholic beverage. You can thank me later.

Do people still use a designated driver, or have Uber and Lyft made it obsolete?

Anyway, the year 2022 is officially behind us and I can begin referring to it as “last season.” But I want to take a final glance. Never can say goodbye.

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More memorable Orioles moments from 2022 season

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The countdown has started. Get ready to raise a glass, and your expectations for the 2023 season if you dare.

I’m still looking back at 2022. I’ll make my resolutions, and my spring travel arrangements, at a later date. My personal and professional lives slamming together as usual.

Here are a few more memorable Orioles moments to go with yesterday’s post:

* Gunnar Henderson made his major league debut on Aug. 31 in Cleveland, with news of his promotion breaking late the previous night.

I might have been enjoying a beverage or two at the hotel bar, but there was room for my laptop. Didn’t spill a drop.

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Some memorable Orioles moments in 2022

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We’re only a few days away from moving past 2022, leaving behind the good and the bad. The personal and professional triumphs and the failures.

This is a time for reflection on the Orioles beat. Certain moments stick with everyone. Others might have gone unnoticed by most or happened during one-on-one interactions.

I’ll share some of mine, in no particular order, over the next few days.

* Manager Brandon Hyde revealed on March 16 that catcher Adley Rutschman was shut down with a strained right triceps, an injury that surfaced during an intrasquad game in Sarasota. On the same day that Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, strained his hamstring while chasing a line drive in left field that resulted in Rutschman’s inside-the-park home run.

We didn’t know whether Rutschman had a chance to break camp with the team prior to reporting, but the injury removed the drama. He was staying back at extended spring training.

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Checking on some competitions while waiting for camp information

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“When do you head down to spring training?”

I was asked again this week during dinner with some friends. I smiled, shrugged and offered the usual time frame.

Major League Baseball hasn’t shared the report date for pitchers and catchers, which coincides with my report date. We usually know months ago.

The Rays arrive on Feb. 14, with their first workout held the following day. But they’re in upheaval after Hurricane Ian hit Port Charlotte hard in late September.

Every March home game will be played at Tropicana Field. The Orioles visit on the 5th.

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More questions about the rotation, Lowther and margins

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I’d have a bunch of non-sports questions if I were flying for the holidays.

“Why is this line so long? Why isn’t it moving? Where are my bags? Where am I supposed to sleep?”

"Do I dare try the sushi?"

Here are a few more relating to the Orioles:

Which free agent starting pitcher could sign with the Orioles?
Rich Hill is off the board after agreeing to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Pirates.

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Needing more answers about the Orioles

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Tyler Nevin was designated for assignment on Wednesday and we still don’t know whether he’s staying in the organization as an outright or joining another team via a trade or waiver claim.

I have a few more questions before 2022 turns into 2023.

How will a new double play combination impact the proficiency in turning them?
Adam Frazier could get most of the starts at second base or he might be busy switching between the infield and outfield. He’s signed for one season and could get bumped over the summer for one of the prospects. But he’s here right now and his main position is second base.

Gunnar Henderson is expected be the third baseman despite Ramón Urías winning a Gold Glove in 2022. Henderson also will be used at shortstop. Urías will move around the infield, with his primary landing spot to be determined.

Rougned Odor is gone after contributing to a defense that turned 150 double plays, the second-most in the American League and fifth-most in the majors. Odor had his deficiencies, but this was one area where he seemed to excel.

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What's done and what remains for Orioles

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The week between Christmas and New Year's tends to be a dead zone in baseball. Silent nights until after the last champagne cork and aspirin are popped.

The ball drops, jokes are made about teams that can’t field, and the next round of business commences.

Oh sure, there are exceptions.

The Orioles, for example, signed pitcher Kohl Stewart on Dec. 29, 2019. He opted out in 2020, citing underlying conditions that put him at risk during the pandemic, and he didn’t appear in another major league game until 2021 with the Cubs.

Free-agent pitchers Miguel Tejada, Paul Demny, Jon Link and Brooks Kieschnick signed minor league deals on Dec. 28, 2017, Dec. 27, 2015, Dec. 28, 2011 and Dec. 26, 2005, respectively. Small stuff, of course. Dinner didn’t get cold while the media filed stories. But it happened.

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Orioles gift suggestions during the holiday season

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The plate of cookies is empty expect for a few crumbs.

The glass of milk has been drained, leaving those thin lactose lines clinging to the sides.

I can’t resist a late-night snack.

‘Tis the season to be jolly and to run up huge credit card bills. I have some Orioles gift suggestions for any holiday that they celebrate.

For Mike Elias: A starting pitcher and a left-handed hitting first baseman.

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Mailbag leftovers for breakfast

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My mailbag is the gift that keeps on giving. And that’s never truer than when I find some questions stuck to the bottom and share them with you.

I won’t share what caused them to stick. Not everything is your business.

I’m bringing you the old schtick before the New Year. You ask, I answer, you keep asking as if you lost a bet, I keep answering as if I have nothing else going on in my life.

These are just leftovers, but the same rules apply to the editing. I don’t do it.

Also, my mailbag can drink an entire punch bowl of eggnog and your mailbag is lactose intolerant and unable to search the internet for alternative recipes.

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Because You Asked - Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman

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I reached inside my holiday mailbag last night and found a lump of coal.

At least, I hope it was coal. Or I need an exterminator, pronto.

This is lovely weather for a sleigh ride together or to just chill out at home and field more questions in the latest sequel to the beloved original mailbag from 2008.  

The editing here remains sparse. Be clear or unclear, have style or no style, be succinct or ramble.

This is the internet. You can’t crash it like you did with your neighbor’s ugly sweater party.

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Two more questions for the front office

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Armchair general managers must always check their cell reception after walking into a mall to do some holiday shopping. Can’t miss an important call or text.

I literally took a few steps inside the Columbia Mall on Monday, scrolled Twitter and found breaking news about Mychal Givens reaching agreement with the Orioles.

Rookie mistake to leave the laptop at home.

I went to bed last night and received notifications on my phone about the Orioles acquiring catcher James McCann from the Mets for a player to be named later, which no longer makes Anthony Bemboom the favorite to back up Adley Rutschman.

At least I was near my laptop.

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Orioles acquire James McCann from Mets

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The Orioles found their backup catcher late last night.

James McCann has been acquired from the Mets along with cash considerations for a player to be named later. The team made the announcement.

McCann, 32, appeared in 61 games with the Mets this season and batted .195/.257/.282 with six doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs and 19 runs scored. He spent nine weeks on the injured list with a fractured left hamate bone that kept him sidelined from May 11 to June 24 and a left oblique strain that left him inactive from June 10 to Aug. 4.

The right-handed hitting McCann is a career .243/.296/.380 hitter in 783 major league games. He was an All-Star with the White Sox in 2019, when he hit a career-high 18 home runs.

The Mets are paying $19 million of the $24 million remaining on McCann’s contract over the next two years, according to reports.

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Givens: “I always thought I would have an opportunity to come back"

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Mychal Givens remembers when sitting in the Orioles’ bullpen felt like a family gathering.

Now he’s back home. A little older, and perhaps a little wiser about the business side of the game that keeps forcing him to change locations.

Givens’ one-year contract with a mutual option for 2024 became official today, returning him to the team that drafted him as a shortstop in 2009, converted him to relief and watched him blossom.

The Orioles are guaranteeing Givens $3 million next season, with a $6 million option for 2024. He’ll receive $1 million if he declines it and get a $2 million buyout if he accepts and the Orioles decline their end.

The family theme also played out during today’s video call with the media. Givens had daughters Ahmya and Makaylah – the “wild card baby” born in 2016 - on each side of him.

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Leftovers on Adam Frazier (with Givens update)

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The reviews from Orioles fans on the Adam Frazier signing can be described most succinctly as mixed.

Arguments that he’s an upgrade and sensible pickup are countered mostly by one word:

“Why?”

As in, why pay $8 million for Frazier when the Orioles can play Ramón Urías, Terrin Vavra and Jordan Westburg at second base?

All three of them could do it in 2023, but the Orioles wanted a left-handed bat. Urías and Westburg don’t check that box. Vavra is in the early stages of his major league career, though it’s an impressive start with his .340 on-base percentage in 40 games.

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More on Mychal Givens returning to Orioles

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The Orioles’ bingo card is beginning to fill up.

A veteran starting pitcher, a left-handed hitter for second base and the corner outfield, left-handed bats on minor league deals, and now a veteran reliever with last night’s news of the agreement with Mychal Givens.

Another starter and a backup catcher must be found. I can confirm the reported interest in left-hander Rich Hill. I was told about a meeting with the Orioles. But I haven’t heard a word about any catchers.

A left-handed hitting first baseman/designated hitter also could be added, unless the club is satisfied with Lewin Díaz and Franchy Cordero. Díaz is on the 40-man roster and Cordero signed a split contract.

The bullpen wasn’t billed as a priority during the Winter Meetings, but the Orioles intended to sign a veteran. I didn’t think a reunion with Mychal Givens was in the works, but here we are, writing and reading about him again.

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Orioles reach agreement with reliever Mychal Givens

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Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias stated after trading Mychal Givens at the 2020 deadline that the reliever would be “an Oriole for life.”

“He’s going to be part of this organization well after he retires,” Elias said in a video call with the local media. “He’s meant a lot to our organization on and off the field for a really long time, and we’re going to miss him.”

He wasn't gone that long.

Givens is coming back to the Orioles before moving onto the next phase of his professional life.

The right-hander and former second-round draft pick has agreed to a one-year contract with a mutual option pending a physical, according to an industry source.

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Orioles announce three minor league signings

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The Orioles are conducting some minor league business, along with trying to fill out their major league roster.

The team announced the signings today of right-handers Eduard Bazardo, Wandisson Charles and Kyle Dowdy to minor league deals.

Bazardo, 27, made 12 relief appearances with the Red Sox this year and allowed five runs in 16 1/3 innings. He walked four batters and struck out 11.

The Red Sox used Bazardo twice in 2021 and he tossed three scoreless innings with one hit, two walks and three strikeouts. He was added to their 40-man roster the previous November.

Bazardo was designated for assignment on April 7, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Worcester. The Red Sox selected his contract in September and he elected free agency the following month after being designated again.

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Would Orioles put Hill on the mound?

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When left-hander Arthur Rhodes worked out for Orioles officials at Camden Yards in January 2013, he was attempting a comeback that would have made him the oldest player in club history at 43 years and almost six months.

They didn’t sign him.

The honor still belongs to catcher Rick Dempsey, the 1983 World Series Most Valuable Player who appeared in his last game with the Orioles on Sept. 27, 1992, two weeks after celebrating his 43rd birthday. Reliever Jesse Orosco was 42 years and 160 days when he threw his last pitch for the club in 1999. Dizzy Trout is third on the list, Jim Thome fourth and Tim Raines fifth, all of them at age 42-plus.

Lefty Jamie Moyer would have shattered the record in 2012 after the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal at age 49. He entered Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation but didn’t make it back to the majors.

This trip down memory lane is fueled by the Orioles’ reported interest in lefty Rich Hill, who pitched for them in 2009 – one of the 11 clubs on his resume. He turns 43 on March 11.

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