Grayson Rodriguez sizes up his outing today in Bradenton (updated, O's win again)

grayson rodriguez pitches orange

BRADENTON, Fla. – Break 'em up. The 2024 Orioles are spring training darlings. Today they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 in Bradenton for their ninth win in 10 Grapefruit League games. 

The Orioles held an opponent to three or fewer runs for the eighth time. Their team ERA of 3.10 is second best in the spring among all 30 MLB teams.

"A spring training juggernaut," manager Brandon Hyde joked.

And everyone is getting into the act. Connor Norby, out all spring with side soreness, made his spring debut on defense in the last of the sixth. In his first spring at bat in the eighth, he doubled to left and scored on Kyle Stowers' RBI single to tie it 2-2. Stowers hit came off another lefty. 

“Well I’ve been watching everyone else rake and I wanted to get in on the party," quipped Norby, the club's No. 6 prospect per Baseball America. "I’ve been itching since Day One. They have been taking it really slow with me and I get it, but it’s been frustrating because I want to get back out there and show what I can do. I know it was for the right reasons and I did the right thing."

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Pregame notes on Norby, Henderson and Rodriguez

connor norby

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Orioles are slowly getting some of their injured players back. Today their No. 6 ranked prospect, per Baseball America, infielder Connor Norby will make his spring debut as the O’s play Pittsburgh. Tomorrow, Gunnar Henderson is expected to see his first game action this spring.

“Norby is going to play the second-half of the game today,” manager Brandon Hyde said this morning. “Gunnar, maybe in the next couple of days, maybe tomorrow.”

Norby is coming off a big 2023 season for Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit .290/.359/.483/.842 with 40 doubles, three triples, 21 homers, 104 runs and 92 RBIs. He was the club’s second-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.

Henderson has yet to play due to left oblique soreness and Norby with side soreness. Both have been taking pregame work and batting practice and now are ready to play in a game.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish continues to progress in his throwing program, still playing catch on flat ground. Getting on a mound for some throwing is not close yet for Bradish.

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Orioles lineup for the game with Pittsburgh

Grayson Rodriguez gray

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Orioles will play the Pittsburg Pirates for the third time this spring when the teams meet this afternoon at LECOM Park. The Orioles blanked Pittsburgh last Sunday 2-0 in Bradenton on a combined three-hitter. They produced a 9-8 walk-off win over the Bucs on Thursday at Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles (8-1) have the best spring record of all 30 MLB clubs after Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Yankees. Austin Hays homered and drove in three runs and Kyle Stowers added a two-run shot.

Jorge Mateo leads off today and will play in center field for the first time this spring. He made two starts in center last season, playing 20 innings at that position. He has 94 career innings in center.

Jordan Westburg is at shortstop and batting third, Colton Cowser is in left field batting seventh and Jackson Holliday is back in the lineup, batting ninth at second base.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez gets today’s start. He went two innings versus Detroit on Tuesday allowing one hit and one run, on a homer to Zach McKinstry.

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Camp long shot Andrew Suarez made a nice first impression

andrew suarez photo day

SARASOTA, Fla. – If you call non-roster invite pitcher Andrew Suarez a long shot to make the Orioles roster, the left-hander completely understands that. And probably agrees with you.

He can also glance at the roster of a team that won 101 games last season and realize his chances to be on it for Opening Day are indeed, well, long.

But he has made a nice first and for that matter, second impression, throwing two scoreless innings twice already. So he has four scoreless allowing just one hit so far in spring games, both against Atlanta.

Suarez is no kid.

He’s 31 and was drafted three times, finally signing with the San Francisco Giants after being taken in the second round in 2015. By 2018, he was a regular starting pitcher in the Giants rotation, making 29 starts with an ERA of 4.49. But he hasn’t had as many chances or found as much success in the majors since.

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In second spring start, Cole Irvin puts up more zeros (updated, O's win again)

irvin v MIN

SARASOTA, Fla. - In his second outing of spring training, O’s lefty Cole Irvin put up more zeros today and continued to show off his increased velocity.

Irvin threw three scoreless innings, twice facing the top of the Yankees order, as the Orioles faced New York for the first of two games this spring.

Irvin had some traffic on the bases, but put up zeros in the top of the first and second. But he needed 21 pitches to get through the first and 20 more in the second.

He was once again showing the velocity bump. In his start Sunday versus the Pirates he threw two scoreless, averaging 94 mph on his four-seamer after throwing that pitch at 92.2 mph on average in 2023.

His first inning today featured numerous readings of 94 and 95 on the Ed Smith Stadium scoreboard

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John Means making progress but not likely to pitch in any spring games

John Means throws white

SARASOTA, Fla. – The timetable for lefty John Means has not changed. He began spring training a month behind the other pitchers after he had an extended winter rest period. This followed his missing the American League Division Series with elbow soreness.

But Means is continuing to throw in Florida and his next step, he said today, will be live bullpen sessions coming in the next week or two.

But he is not likely to pitch in any spring training games, which run through March 24. And he is still expected to begin the regular season on the injured list. 

“Means, maybe, probably not,” manager Brandon Hyde said this morning when asked specifically whether Means will pitch before the spring games end.

Said Means, who went 1-2 with a 2.66 ERA in four starts last September: “I’m going to be doing some live BPs here coming up. We’ll see where it goes from there. We’re getting there.”

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Orioles and Yankees lineups for game at Ed Smith Stadium

mullins v TB

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles currently hold the best record for the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues combined at 7-1 and have won four in a row.

They try to keep a streak alive today when they host the New York Yankees at 1:05 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium. The game will be televised live on MASN.

This is the first of just two spring games between these American League East rivals, a year after the Orioles won 101 games and the Yankees won 82.

Center fielder Cedric Mullins, who is 2-for-7 this spring, will lead off, followed by catcher Adley Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle, who returns to the field at first base after he served as DH Friday in North Port.

Coby Mayo, who is batting .417 (5-for-12) is starting at third base and batting sixth.

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This week we got a glimpse of what "Spring Breakout" could look like

Jackson Holliday

SARASOTA, Fla. - When Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Paul Skenes, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 MLB Draft, faced the Orioles' Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 overall pick in 2022, on Thursday in Sarasota, it was a nice appetizer for a game coming later this month. 

Skenes, the LSU product, retired Holliday on the second pitch of the at-bat. He touched 102 mph during his scoreless inning versus the Orioles on Thursday. He threw 100 against Holliday.

On March 14 in Bradenton, the top O’s prospects will play the top Pirates prospects as part of a new series of games this year called “Spring Breakout.” Each club will have at least one game where it can send out its top prospects to play those from another club. That night we could see Skenes-Holliday part two.

The O’s-Pirates game that night will be the second part of a doubleheader at Bradenton’s LECOM Park that will begin with the regular Grapefruit League game between the O's and Pirates at 3:05 p.m. The prospects-only game will follow at 7:05 p.m., and that game will be televised live on MLB Network.

The roster reveal will be a live TV event, too, and that is happening March 7 at 11 a.m. on MLB Network.

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A look at MLB Network's stop at O's camp

Jackson Holliday 2024 spring training

The Orioles got some national attention this week when MLB Network aired its “30 clubs in 15 days preview” on the Orioles on Thursday afternoon. 

If you missed it, the analysts are high on the 2024 Orioles with former player Cliff Floyd projecting another 100-win year.

Yes, expectations are very high for a club that was 47-115 in the 2018 season and won just 54 games in 2019 and 52 in 2021. That was before the big leap to 83 victories in 2022 and last year to 101 which included a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and an AL East title for the first time since 2014.

Players that once were expected to be on a team predicted for last place, now have very different expectations. How will they handle that?

“You know our guys are not fazed by anything,” manager Brandon Hyde told MLB Network. “We have taken such strides the last couple of years. Last year is something we are really proud of, winning the AL East with this group.

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Just for fun, a look at PECOTA projections

Orioles celebrate 2023 playoff berth

If there is one computer projection that seems consistently confounded by the Orioles, it is PECOTA. From Baseball Prospectus, that stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. PECOTA is the Baseball Prospectus proprietary system that projects player (and also team) performance based on comparison with historical player seasons.

The algorithm has seldom shown the ability to project the Orioles win total well. There have been rare years where it was close but many more with big, big misses.

Last year would be one, unless you don't consider predicting the eventual AL East champs for 74 wins and last place is a big miss. They were off by 27 victories.

Here were the projected 2023 AL East standings:

99 - New York (won 82)
90 - Toronto (won 89)
86 - Tampa Bay (won 99)
81 - Boston (won 78)
74 - Orioles (won 101)

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A take on how the bullpen could look for the opener

Bruce Zimmermann black jersey

It’s still very early in spring training but never too early to take a shot at guesses – and that is what they truly are, guesses – at the makeup of the Opening Day roster.

Today I will take a shot at projecting an eight-man bullpen that would work behind a starting group of five pitching in some order to include Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin and Tyler Wells beginning March 28.

At the back-end closing games is righty Craig Kimbrel, who will have that job for the opener barring a big surprise or an injury issue.

The Orioles, minus Félix Bautista for this season after his surgery, will be turning over the job to a very experienced pitcher who is a nine-time All Star that ranks eighth all-time with 417 saves.

He led the NL in saves four straight years from 2011-2014 and has 11 seasons of 20 or more saves.

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After being limited by injuries in 2023, Ryan Mountcastle looks for productive '24

Ryan Mountcastle

For a player that was limited by injuries to 115 games and 470 plate appearances in the 2023, Ryan Mountcastle still did some nice things with his potentially potent bat. Especially in the second half when his OBP soared to heights when have not seen from him in the big leagues.

On the year Mounty hit .270/.328/.452/.779 producing career bests in batting average and OBP and producing his best OPS+ in his three full years of 117.

In the lineup he was topped by Adley Rutschman (128), Gunnar Henderson (125), Ryan O'Hearn (122) and Anthony Santander (121).

In the second half Mountcastle hit .322/.404/.489/.893 as he showed the better batting eye and got into some deeper counts. Per hit career this stretch was an outlier for a player with a .309 OBP in 2021 and .305 in 2022. 

A big outlier. But maybe it was part of an improvement that will serve him well during the 2024 season.

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A take on Samuel Basallo from a coach he is very close with

Samuel Basallo photo day

Orioles catching prospect Samuel Basallo can make a nice first impression. Like when he reported to Low-A Delmarva last April for his first shot at full-season minor league ball. He homered in each of his first two games with the Shorebirds.

His manager then was Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. and the kid had long since made a nice first impression on Alou. As he remembers it, he first saw Basallo at the O’s Dominion academy, not the new one that just opened but the previous edition.

On a sunny field then, somewhere around January of 2020 or maybe earlier, Alou recalls that he saw the young kid with a potent bat that the Orioles were looking to sign.

The skills impressed him that day as he watched Basallo and another young man work out. But it was as much about how well he handled himself that impressed the man who would be his future manager.

“I remember his first day at the academy when he was having a tryout. You could see right there, for a young kid, his demeanor and body language,” recalled Alou recently. “Everything about him looked good from the beginning, but it was the fire he had to be better that really came through.

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Can O's starting outfield produce a collective big year?

Hays and Mullins

They are three of the Orioles' longest-tenured players. They have been teammates for a long time and are three of the biggest contributors on the team.

Again this year for the Orioles, a lot is expected from their starting outfield of left fielder Austin Hays, center fielder Cedric Mullins and right fielder Anthony Santander.

With Santander a free agent at the end of the 2024 season, it's possible this coming year will be their last together in Baltimore. Hays and Mullins are eligible to be free agents after the 2025 season.

The trio enjoyed helping the Orioles return to the playoffs last year, and now they'd love to get back again and lead the team to a longer October run.

These are three talented players, as Mullins and Hays have been All-Stars while Santander's .797 OPS last year ranked third on the team behind Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman and 23rd-best in the American League.

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How Corbin Burnes stacks up with other MLB hurlers since the 2020 season


When 29-year-old right-hander Corbin Burnes takes the mound today to start the first spring training game for his new team, the Orioles will get a look at their new ace in action for the first time in the 2024 season.

They hope he is the quality workhorse and clear No. 1 pitcher that the Milwaukee Brewers saw since his rookie season of 2018. He moved into a big league rotation for good in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Burnes is no doubt worthy of being called an ace, and you can make a case that he is the best pitcher in baseball since that 2020 season.

In 2020, he went 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA and was sixth in the National League Cy Young voting. The next season he won the NL Cy Young Award, going 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA. In 2022 he was 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA and was seventh in the Cy Young vote, and last season he was 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA, finishing eighth for the top pitching award.

Between them, Max Scherzer, Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole have five Cy Young awards (three by Scherzer himself), but they all trail Burnes in ERA since that 2020 season. So does every other pitcher.

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Rutschman cracks top 20 and Burnes talks cutter in camp

Adley Rutschman

With the acquisition of right-hander Corbin Burnes, the Orioles ended up with two starting pitchers and five players ranked on the list of MLB Network’s Top 100 players right now.

The list was completed this week with Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. ranked No. 1 after a season with 41 homers and 73 steals – becoming the first 40/70 player in baseball history.

Mookie Betts of the Dodgers was rated No. 2 with Aaron Judge of the Yankees No. 3 and Dodgers ranking No. 4 and No. 5 with Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman. Three of the first five are Dodgers and two of the top nine are Yankees with right-hander Gerrit Cole at No. 9.

Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman, who was No. 41 on this list last year, moves up to No. 19. He was one spot ahead of Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr., just as he was one spot ahead of him atop the 2019 MLB Draft.

Rutschman finished 2023 with an .809 OPS along with 20 homers, 84 runs, 92 walks and 80 RBIs. He finished tied for third in the AL in walks and fifth in OBP. He was ninth in voting for AL MVP.

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Is it time for a free agent signing deadline for MLB?

Cody Bellinger Cubs jersey

With spring training games beginning this week – Saturday for the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium versus Boston – some big-name free agents remain unsigned.

We have seen big names sign big dollar deals before with the season only weeks away. The Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year deal worth $330 million on March 2, 2019.

This can’t be good for the game or the players, wondering where they will be playing this year as teams are already in camp and games are about to begin.

The management of the sport would like a signing deadline of some sort – a time when free agent signings come to an end. Much like the mid-summer trade deadline. The players association is against this and really against anything that they believe limits the players free market in any way. This would not limit their earning power, but it would limit the time they would have to sign a deal.

As of last night, outfielder Cody Bellinger, infielder Matt Chapman and pitchers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, some of the biggest names in this free agent class, were unsigned.

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One area the O's would love a repeat of 2023 - how well the year started

Anthony Santander walk-off home run

The Orioles would certainly love to duplicate a few things this season from last season. They’d love to win 101 games again. They would love to win the AL East and make the playoffs again.

And, to that end, they would love to do another thing the 2023 Orioles did – get off to a fast start that set a great tone for the 162-game grind.

The Tampa Bay Rays got off to an even better start, but the Orioles could have been buried but by starting 22-10 they held their own early on.

At that point on May 5, 2023, they were playing .688 ball with the second-best record in the majors. Behind only the 27-6 (.818) Rays. Tampa Bay’s amazing start put them eight games ahead of Toronto and 10 games up on New York on May 5. But just 4.5 games up on Baltimore.

The Orioles took advantage of a schedule that was less challenging early on to establish they could be very good, and they went on to be very good for the full season.

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A few more O's facts and opinions

Gunnar Henderson

Time for more Orioles facts and opinions as we get closer to their spring training opener on Saturday at Ed Smith Stadium versus Boston. 

Fact: The Orioles acquired Craig Kimbrel in December with the intent that he serves as the club’s closer in the 2024 season.

Opinion: Despite the fact that Kimbrel is a 9-time All-Star and ranks eighth all-time with 417 saves, there is some concern about him around Birdland.

And while yes, he did struggle last year in the NL Championship Series, there are reasons to believe Kimbrel will do a good enough job for the Orioles. Experience for one – few have as much as a closer and he may blow some games, but it won’t be because he is not up to the moment.

But after a slow start last year, he pitched very, very well, going 7-5 with a 2.21 ERA from May 9 on. In that time, batters hit just .162 off him and his OPS against was .538. By the way that is still not up to Bautista dominance as last year he held batters to a .144 average and .460 OPS. But no one said they were getting another Bautista.

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In O's 2024 rotation, Cole Irvin and Tyler Wells, come on down

Cole Irvin city connect jersey

The first day of O’s spring training led to some shuffling of the Baltimore pitching staff. It was quite the day as we found out right-hander Kyle Bradish would begin the year on the injured list and likely be joined at that point by lefty John Means.

So, Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin, come on down.

Two pitchers we figured to have bullpen roles on Opening Day, now likely need to move to the rotation.

This is not bad news for the Orioles, as Wells was one of the American League’s best pitchers in the first half of 2023 and Irvin had an ERA of 3.22 from June 10 on last year. The ability to hold their own and then some in this rotation is there.

Ironically, both pitchers had three-start runs that marred their seasons in 2023. Irvin’s run came as the year began and his ERA was 10.66 on April 13 and he was sent to the minors. Wells was pitching so well in the first half and had an ERA of 3.18 at the All-Star break. But when the second half started, he was suddenly struggling. Three starts later, he had allowed four homers and 11 runs over nine innings and on July 30 he was optioned to Double-A Bowie. Wells would pitch well late in the year for the club out of the bullpen and made the Orioles' AL Division Series roster in the ‘pen. Irvin was not on that roster.

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