Rutschman beginning rehab assignment (plus lineups)

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The Orioles are owed some good news on the health front, and it’s arriving from the minors.

Catcher Adley Rutschman and pitchers DL Hall and Rico Garcia are joining the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds this week, with the first game played Tuesday night against Jersey Shore at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.

Rutschman, the No. 1 or 2 prospect in baseball depending on which outlet is posting the rankings, and Garcia are on minor league injury rehab assignments. Hall, the Orioles’ No. 3 prospect, is continuing his progression.  

Most of the attention falls upon Rutschman, who recovered from a strained right triceps sustained early in camp. His major league debut is fast approaching, but he’ll need to stop at a few other affiliates.

Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery in 2021 before signing a minor league deal with the Orioles.

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More thoughts on Means' surgery and impact on Orioles

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Nothing that’s happened since John Means experienced tightness in his left forearm should be categorized as totally unexpected beyond perhaps the staff ace breaking his own news on social media.

The injury being to his elbow. The multiple MRIs and opinions. Confirmation that the ligament must be reconstructed and the 2022 season ends for him after two starts.

Additional tests aren’t usually run if the initial diagnosis is positive.

Means wanted to reach 200 innings this year. Of course he did. What starter aims low? It’s what 300 innings used to be back in the day.

Reaching that total seemed overly ambitious with the shorter leash in April, but stalling at eight is an unforeseen circumstance. And the surgery is expected to deny him a chance to be anointed the opening day starter for a fourth consecutive season – though he couldn’t fulfill it in 2020 due to shoulder fatigue.

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Orioles and Angels lineups (and notes)

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An Orioles rotation that must proceed without ace John Means, who’s undergoing Tommy John surgery next week, finds Spenser Watkins back on the mound in the continuation of a road trip that’s produced two wins in five games.

Watkins earned another turn after holding the Athletics to one run and two hits in five innings.

The right-hander’s first major league appearance came in Anaheim on July 2, 2021, when he retired all three batters he faced in relief. He started against the Angels on Aug. 24 in Baltimore and surrendered eight runs in two innings.

Orioles starters have allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games.

Trey Mancini is in right field tonight and Anthony Santander is the designated hitter. Santander is the only player in the majors to reach base in each of the first 14 games.

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Means to undergo Tommy John surgery

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One day short of his 29th birthday, Orioles starter John Means confirmed today that he won’t pitch again in 2022.

Means tweeted that he’s undergoing ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, an expected outcome after the Orioles placed him on the injured list retroactive to April 14, transferred him to the 60-day IL and clarified the injury as a sprain. He left his April 13 start after four innings with forearm tightness.

With a recovery time that can exceed a full year, Means likely won’t return to the mound until he’s 30.

Means sought multiple opinions following his first MRI. He’ll have surgery on Wednesday in Texas, with Dr. Keith Meister handling the procedure. Meister performed the same surgery on Orioles 2020 fifth-round draft pick Carter Baumler.

“I’m obviously disappointed, but more motivated than ever,” Means tweeted. “In the meantime, I’m looking forward to watching what this team can do this year. I’ll be back, Go O’s.”

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Moore manages to move around his shortstops at Bowie

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BOWIE – Adam Hall walked into the home clubhouse at Prince George’s Stadium Wednesday afternoon, glanced at the Bowie Baysox’s lineup card posted on the wall to his left, saw his name atop the order as the designated hitter and decided to have some fun with it.

“Are you sure you got that right?” he asked Kyle Moore, manager of the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate.

Moore hadn’t made a mistake. He’s tasked each day with rotating infielders at different positions and roles, perhaps his biggest challenge on the job.

Too many prospects on a roster won’t bring much chirping from his office, but it’s stressful.

The Orioles created a formula of sorts for Moore to ensure that Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz get consecutive starts at shortstop and then bounce to other spots. Keeping it warm for the next guy. Keeping the developmental process churning and also flashing some creativity.

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Orioles and Angels lineups (and notes)

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The Orioles flew into Anaheim last night after losing three of four games in Oakland, and they’re starting left-hander Bruce Zimmermann in the series opener against the Angels.

Zimmermann hasn’t allowed a run in nine innings. He’s never faced the Angels.

Catcher Robinson Chirinos returns to the lineup after being hit by a pitch Wednesday that struck his shoulder and the side of his face.

Trey Mancini, ejected yesterday for the first time in his career, is batting second as the designated hitter. Anthony Santander is the left fielder and cleanup hitter.

Ramón Urías starts at second base, Jorge Mateo at shortstop and Kelvin Gutiérrez at third.

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Because You Asked – Like Father, Like Son

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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.

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Orioles and Athletics lineups (and notes)

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The Orioles close out their series in Oakland this afternoon with Tyler Wells on the mound and a chance to gain a split after last night’s 1-0 win – the team’s third shutout of the season.

Wells is making his third start after tossing four scoreless innings against the Yankees. He’s been stretched out to 64 pitches.

The rotation has registered a 1.13 ERA since April 11, the lowest in the majors, with five earned runs in 39 2/3 innings.

The Orioles and Giants have allowed three home runs, fewest in the majors. The Orioles and Mets are the only staffs with three shutouts.

On the offensive side, the Orioles’ four home runs and 24 runs scored are the fewest in baseball. The .585 OPS is the lowest in the American League and third-lowest in the majors.

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Checking on Orioles' extended spring training

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As the Orioles move through the first series of their three-city road trip, hoping the weather allows them to play this afternoon in Oakland, the activity down in Sarasota is picking up in intensity. The daily routine is shifting into another gear.

There’s more to track than the major league club and four full-season affiliates. You just need to do some digging.

The Orioles are playing their first extended spring training game today against the Pirates. Veteran Matt Harvey, signed to a minor league contract on April 8, is making the start.

Harvey won’t be asked to provide much length, of course, since he’s been working out with the team for less than two weeks. But if you’re wondering how far along he is, well, he’s starting an extended spring training game.

Rico Garcia, who missed the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, will follow Harvey.

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Orioles and Athletics lineups (updated)

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The Orioles have scored two runs while losing the first two games of their series in Oakland, but the rotation has allowed one run or fewer in five straight and seven of eight.

Tonight’s lineup includes Ryan McKenna in right field, Anthony Santander in left and Austin Hays on the bench.

Ryan Mountcastle is the designated hitter. Trey Mancini is starting at first base.

Kelvin Gutiérrez is playing third base and Chris Owings is the shortstop.

Owings is 0-for-7 with three walks and seven strikeouts.

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Thoughts on Bradish, Rodriguez and Stewart

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The Triple-A Norfolk Tides are starting Grayson Rodriguez tonight against the Durham Bulls. Kyle Bradish is listed two nights later.

The Orioles are starting Jordan Lyles today in Oakland. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann’s next turn is Friday night in Anaheim.

It’s virtually impossible to separate the two rotations.

The Orioles seemed unsure about their fifth starter before confirming Spenser Watkins. They’ve lost ace John Means for at least a significant portion of the season, and quite possibly the remainder of it.

Chris Ellis had his contract selected yesterday from Norfolk and he made last night’s start in Oakland. Watkins seems to have earned a third turn after allowing only one run and two hits Monday night over five innings. Look for him in Anaheim.

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Orioles designate DJ Stewart for assignment

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The Orioles selected the contract of right-hander Chris Ellis from Triple-A Norfolk, and he’s starting tonight against the Athletics in Oakland.

Ellis was on the taxi squad and the logical choice. Alexander Wells also is on the taxi squad but can’t pitch in the series unless he’s replacing an injured player. The Orioles optioned him Sunday morning.

That was the expected. What also happened today comes as more of a surprise.

A full 40-man roster required a corresponding move for Ellis, and the Orioles have designated former first-round draft pick DJ Stewart for assignment.

Stewart, the 25th-overall selection in 2015 out of Florida State University, was optioned to Norfolk after making three pinch-hitting appearances in the opening series at Tropicana Field and going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. In two games with the Tides, he was 1-for-5 with a strikeout and stolen base.

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Tate talks velocity and a bullpen that hasn't surprised him

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Dillon Tate isn’t a pitcher who steals peeks at the stadium’s radar gun readings before returning his attention to the catcher delivering the signs. He isn’t grading his performances based on the miles-per-hour on his sinking fastball.

The fuss over his drop in velocity during the Orioles’ home opener against the Brewers brings no emotion. Not anger or amusement.

Tate recites the number of runs he surrendered that night: zero. He’d kick the ball to home plate with his left foot if it produced outs.

An inherited runner and one of his own were stranded. Two batters were retired and the bullpen delivered five scoreless innings behind starter Bruce Zimmermann.

The sinker was 90-91 mph rather than 95 or more. Asked about it the following day, manager Brandon Hyde said a mechanical glitch was noticed and discussed, and easily could be fixed.

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Orioles and Athletics lineups (and notes)

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Anthony Bemboom starts behind the plate tonight as the Orioles begin a four-game series in Oakland.

Anthony Santander is in left field, Austin Hays is in right and Ryan Mountcastle is the first baseman. Trey Mancini is serving as the designated hitter.

Mountcastle and Santander have reached base in all nine games.

The infield also includes Ramón Urías at third base. Rougned Odor is at second after yesterday’s pinch-hit two-run single in the eighth inning that broke a scoreless tie against the Yankees.

Spenser Watkins gets his second start after allowing one earned run, but four total, in three innings against the Brewers. He’s never faced the Athletics.

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Watkins waits and receives word again that he's starting

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There isn’t much advance notice for Spenser Watkins before he’s named a starter in a series. The conversation can happen a day before the game.

He’d be ready if told an hour prior.

Watkins didn’t know after going on the taxi squad for opening day whether he’d be their No. 5 starter. He didn’t know yesterday morning whether he definitely was the choice for tonight’s assignment in Oakland.

The right-hander had an inkling. But that doesn’t count as confirmation.

The game notes yesterday listed the four spots as TBA, but the Orioles’ public relations staff alerted the media around 12:30 p.m. that Watkins would start tonight, with Jordan Lyles going Wednesday and Tyler Wells Thursday.

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Zimmermann scoreless again and O's clutch in 5-0 win (updated)

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There’s no way to gently underplay an elbow injury to staff ace John Means. Whatever time is lost is crushing to the Orioles, who need him on the mound and inside the clubhouse. They can only hope for better news than they’re braced for, and other pitchers to step up in his absence.

Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann is fourth in the rotation, but first in ERA. Nine innings and no runs allowed.

The entire Zimmermann story isn’t just a local angle.

Zimmermann shut out the Yankees over five innings today while Nestor Cortes Jr. was busy silencing the Orioles through the fifth. No one blinked until the eighth, when the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs against Jonathan Loaisiga and Rougned Odor, pinch-hitting for Chris Owings, lined a two-run single into center field in a 5-0 victory before an announced crowd of 25,938 at Camden Yards.

The bullpen turned in four scoreless and hitless innings, and the Orioles boarded their charter flight to Oakland with a 3-6 record and 10 games awaiting them on the road.

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Hyde on roster moves and more

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The Orioles transferred pitcher John Means to the 60-day injured list this morning, clarifying his physical issue as a left elbow sprain rather than strain. Reliever Marcos Diplán had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk to leave a full 40-man roster.

The active roster was adjusted with left-hander Alexander Wells optioned to Norfolk.

Means went on the 10-day injured list Friday afternoon, retroactive to the previous day, but his absence was expected to be lengthy and he’s getting second opinions on the elbow.

Manager Brandon Hyde said yesterday that Means pitching again in 2022 was a “question mark.”

A Google search reveals that a sprain injures the bands of tissue that connect two bones together, while a strain involves an injury to a muscle or to the band of tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone.

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Orioles lineup vs. Yankees

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The Orioles close out their series against the Yankees and the homestand with Ryan McKenna starting in center field and Cedric Mullins getting a rest day.

Mullins became the first Oriole last night to homer on a 3-0 count since Manny Machado on April 20, 2018 versus Cleveland.

Austin Hays is leading off and playing left field. Trey Mancini is in right.

Anthony Santander, today’s designated hitter, extended his on-base streak to eight games last night, two short of his career high to start the 2019 season.

Chris Owings is the second baseman and Kelvin Gutiérrez is at third. Ramón Urías goes to the bench.

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Orioles walking toward a new hitting approach

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A hitting philosophy can be created and shared at every level of the organization, from the lowest rungs of the system to the major league team. Coaches and instructors trained in it arriving in waves. Out with the old, in with the new breed that’s lauded as progressive and innovative.

Swing decisions are the foundation. The plan crumbles if players don’t adapt, if they don’t buy into it. Or if they don’t start seeing results.

The Orioles began last night ranked last in the majors with 14 runs scored in seven games and were slashing .196/.309/.283. But their 34 walks were second-most in the American League and fourth in the majors.

Those walks were the fourth-most in team history through seven games – the 1970 world champions hold the record with 41 - and they combined with four hit-by-pitches to give the Orioles an on-base percentage that ranked sixth in the league.

If free passes seem like an odd flex, consider that the Orioles accumulated 451 last season for the fourth-lowest total in the majors. They had 164 in 60 games in 2020 to rank 27th in the majors, and 462 in 2019 to rank 24th.

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Tyler Wells with scoreless stretched start in 5-2 loss (updated)

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The Orioles are figuring out exactly what they have in Tyler Wells beyond a pitcher who should succeed at this level.

They need to know how he’s going to do it.

Not the method, but his role.

The short reliever is now a starter on a short leash, working in a tandem role that isn’t likely to change in 2022. The Orioles are controlling his innings to keep him active throughout the summer, rather than subjecting him to a late shutdown.

Wells lasted only 1 2/3 in his first start, the hook coming because of his struggles. He completed four scoreless innings tonight against the Yankees, escaping a few jams and reminding the Orioles why they’re so intrigued with the idea of removing him from the bullpen and closer duties.

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