A night with loud contact doesn't lead to runs or a win

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OAKLAND – In their latest night of frustration on offense, at least the Orioles could point to one fact: They smoked some baseballs and likely deserved a much better fate than they got.

But led by center fielder Christian Pache, the Oakland A’s made some outstanding plays on defense and the Orioles were once again on the doorstep of a win but didn’t get it.

They fell to 3-8 for the season and 0-2 on this road trip with a 2-1 loss at Oakland. They were held to eight hits and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Maybe some of what happened last night will even out sometime soon and several bloops will fall. Because the solid contact Baltimore hitters made often didn’t work on this night.

The Orioles hit 10 balls at least 100 mph in the game and seven of the 10 were turned into outs.

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More solid pitching, but O's come up short by one run at Oakland

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OAKLAND – The theme remained unchanged for Tuesday’s game between the Orioles and Oakland Athletics. For Baltimore, that means yet another low-scoring game where its pitching excelled but the Orioles hitters could not get many clutch hits.

Throw in some exceptional defense by Oakland and this night ended with more frustration and another close loss for the Orioles. 

The O’s did take an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, and great outfield defense robbed them of more in the second. And right-hander Chris Ellis, making his season debut, became the latest O’s starter to give the team a big effort.

But when Seth Brown doubled in two runs in the A's sixth inning, Oakland moved ahead and went on to win 2-1.

The Birds (3-8) have scored just 23 runs for the season and have been held to two or fewer in eight of the 11 games they've played so far in 2022. They are 0-2 to start this road trip and 0-5 in road games.

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Brandon Hyde on Stewart DFA, Mullins' struggles and more

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OAKLAND – The Orioles today designated outfielder DJ Stewart for assignment. Their 2015 first-round pick out of Florida State had shown flashes of power and his first-round potential, but didn’t do that nearly enough. The club needed a 40-man roster spot today for right-hander Chris Ellis to start tonight, and Stewart's was the one he got.

Stewart dealt with a bruised hand in spring training but still made the opening day roster despite limited spring chances. He went 0-for-3 in three pinch-hitting appearances against Tampa Bay and was then optioned to Triple-A, where he went 1-for-5 with the Norfolk Tides.

“DJ is just an outstanding guy and someone that has been around here since I’ve been here. Hard to see a guy you’ve been around a lot go," O’s manager Brandon Hyde said today during his pregame press briefing. "But I’m really hoping for the best with him. He’s a fantastic human being and I really wish him the best.”

Over parts of five years and 195 games with the Orioles, Stewart batted .213/.327/.400 with 21 doubles, 26 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Outfielder Austin Hays, drafted one year after Stewart, has spent a lot of time as his teammate in both the majors and minors. During an interview with reporters today, and with the news about Stewart already out, Hays was asked about Stewart. He had not yet heard the news of the move.

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O's game blog: Looking for first win on the road trip

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OAKLAND – After falling 5-1 last night and allowing four unearned runs in the series opener, the Orioles play at Oakland again tonight. It’s the second of a four-game series and 10-game road trip.

The Orioles took two of three at home versus the Yankees, but are now 2-2 in series openers and they are looking for their first road win tonight at 0-4 away from Oriole Park.

While Orioles pitching has been stellar to start the season, the Baltimore offense continues to struggle, with multiple players and the team overall not getting much going yet with the bats.

The Orioles have scored 22 runs for the season and 12 over the last five games. They have hit just four home runs, the fewest in the major leagues, and have just one over the last five games. The O’s have scored two runs or fewer seven times, going 2-5 in those games. The five runs they scored Sunday were the most they've had in a game so far this year. The nine hits they got in that game also marked a season high.

Hitter notes:

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Mancini on the walk rate and some props for pitchers

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OAKLAND – When I talked with Trey Mancini before Monday's road trip opener, he - like much of Birdland - was hopeful that the eighth inning on Sunday would be a turning point for the Orioles offense.

They scored five runs and got three big hits with runners in scoring position in beating the Yankees 5-0. But whatever good was created there didn’t make it to the West Coast, at least for the series opener. The Orioles lost 5-1 at Oakland and were held to seven hits and went 1-for-7 with RISP. They have yet to have hits in double digits in a game in 2022.

On the plus side, the O’s pitching has obviously far exceeded expectations at this early stage. But we are seeing some quality stuff from several arms - in both velocity and secondary assortments - and the Orioles are executing their pitching game plans extremely well through 10 games.

The staff ERA went down Monday night, to 2.86, which is fifth-best in the majors and a far cry from the 5.85 team ERA for the 2021 season.

Mancini is, of course, impressed with the pitchers, including one he noted that pitched last night and continued to get noticed.

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Watkins and Akin shine, but trip starts with loss at Oakland

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OAKLAND – For the Orioles, the opening game of this long road trip in Oakland had a familiar look.

For five innings it was close and low-scoring. The Baltimore offense was scuffling for runs again but the Baltimore pitching was getting the job done. Yet again they were.

On a night when the Orioles reduced their team ERA from an impressive 3.04 to an even better 2.86, they still lost. Four unearned runs in the last of the sixth doomed them to a 5-1 defeat at Oakland.

But right-hander Spenser Watkins was the latest O’s starter to throw well. He allowed two hits and one run over five innings on 67 pitches. He made a bid to stay in the rotation.

“That is always up to Skip on those (rotation) decisions,” Watkins said in the Orioles clubhouse. “But, I’m ready to take the ball whenever they give it to me and I’m going to compete.”

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Defensive miscues lead to loss in road trip opener

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OAKLAND – In the first game of a 10-game road trip, right-hander Spenser Watkins, trying to hold onto the fifth starter’s spot, gave the Orioles a big effort.

Watkins allowed a first-inning run and nothing after that. He got rolling in the middle innings behind a frequency to throw a lot of first-pitch strikes. He did that to 10 of the first 13 batters he faced.

Watkins would go five innings, allowing two hits and one run with two walks and one strikeout. He threw 67 pitches, 44 for strikes. He threw 30 sliders or cutters among his pitches, and his fastball, which averaged 90.8 mph last year, was at 92.2 mph tonight.

Meanwhile, would the O’s offense and defense be able to back him?

The hitters once again could not get much going and the O’s infield defense unraveled when Oakland produced a big four-run inning in the last of the sixth.

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O's game blog: The road trip begins in Oakland

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OAKLAND – The Orioles begin their second road trip of the 2022 season tonight a long way from home and it’s the first trip featuring multiple series. The Orioles (3-6) play at Oakland (5-5) to start a four-game series and 10-game trip that also takes them to Anaheim to play the Angels and to New York to once again face the Yankees.

The Orioles' 5-0 win Sunday gave the team its first series victory of the year and first at home over the Yankees since Sept. 4-6, 2020, when they took three of four.

The Orioles pitching staff, which posted an ERA of 5.84 to rank last in the majors in 2021, is off to a stunning start that included allowing just six runs in the Yankees series and pitching the club’s second shutout of the year. The only three teams in the majors with more than one shutout already are the Orioles and Yankees with two each and the Mets, who have three.

More pitching notes:

* O’s team ERA is 3.04 (second in AL, fifth in MLB)

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Pregame notes from Oakland with Tuesday's starter still not announced

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OAKLAND – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is not ready yet to name his starting pitcher for tomorrow’s game at Oakland. Right-hander Spenser Watkins (0-0, 3.00 ERA) will get the ball tonight in the series and road trip opener.

The starter could very well come from two pitchers who are here on the Orioles' taxi squad in right-hander Chris Ellis and lefty Alexander Wells, who are joined by catcher Beau Taylor.

Wells was just optioned out after Friday's game, so he could not come back to the active roster before 10 days without replacing an injured player, but the same does not apply to Ellis.

Ellis made one start this year for Triple-A Norfolk, throwing four scoreless innings without allowing a hit last Wednesday. He pitched to an ERA of 2.49 in six games for the Orioles last year. If needed tomorrow, he would be working on five days’ rest.

“We have a few options, but I’m going to wait until tomorrow to give it out,” Hyde said this afternoon in the visitor’s dugout at the Oakland Coliseum.

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Minor league notes on Norfolk's strong start and more

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OAKLAND – While we are awaiting first pitch between the Orioles and Athletics tonight for Oakland’s home opener to start the road trip, here are a few minor league notes around Birdland.

The Triple-A Norfolk Tides are off to an 8-4 start, their best mark after 12 games during their time as a Baltimore affiliate since 2007.

Norfolk has scored 76 runs in the 12 games and has a run differential of plus-27, which is third-best in the International League that features 20 teams. The Tides lost via a 1-0 walk-off in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader at Scranton to snap a five-game winning streak.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish was the winning pitcher in Norfolk’s Game 1 5-1 win, when he allowed just two hits and one run over five innings. Nick Vespi and Cole Uvila each threw a scoreless inning to complete the combined two-hitter.

Bradish is 1-0 with an ERA of 1.00 in two starts to begin his season. He is doing his part to get noticed for a call-up to the Orioles roster. Over nine innings, he’s allowed four hits and the one run with two walks, nine strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.67.

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Late rally Sunday provides momentum for road trip

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OAKLAND – The Orioles will play in Oakland tonight to start a 10-game road trip that will take them to both coasts and produce series against the Athletics, Angels and Yankees. It will be challenging, but at least they start it on a high note after Sunday’s 5-0 shutout win over the Yankees in Baltimore.

If you were among the large number of fans wondering how much longer they could go without getting clutch hits, the answer was seven more innings as Sunday’s game began. But after going 3-for-30 in the three games before yesterday with runners in scoring position and 7-for-77 for the year through eight games, they finally came through.

And it was the oft-criticized Rougned Odor whose two-run single opened the floodgates, so to speak, and the Orioles got three straight hits with RISP after being 7-for-83 for the year as Odor stood in to pinch-hit in the eighth of a 0-0 tie.

The Orioles beat the Yankees in the series, also winning in 11 innings Friday night. Who knows what might have happened this weekend at the Yard without the hail on Saturday night, which altered the O’s pitching plans.

Speaking of pitching, since Friday, when we pretty much found out lefty John Means would be out for a significant period of time, O’s starters have allowed one earned run. So far – yes, in the smallest of samples – they stepped up.

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O's game blog: The series and homestand finale

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The Orioles and New York Yankees have exchanged wins at Camden Yards this weekend. The Orioles won 2-1 in 11 innings Friday night in a four hour, 15-minute game. And the Yankees won 5-2 last night in a game twice delayed by rain.

The Orioles (2-6) continue to struggle to produce offense. They have scored two runs or fewer six times in eight games and scored just 16 runs for the year. They are 2-3 on this homestand that ends today and have scored 12 runs in those games. The O’s season high for runs in a game is the four they scored in the second game of the Milwaukee series, in a 5-4 loss.

They scored their runs last night on one swing. Cedric Mullins absolutely crushed a two-run homer to right against New York right-hander Jameson Taillon in the O’s third inning to produce a 2-0 lead. Mullins drilled No. 2 on the year and it went 433 feet with an exit velocity of 107 mph. The blast came on a 3-0 pitch.

Right-hander Tyler Wells gave the O’s a good start last night before the pitch count got him lifted. He threw four scoreless innings on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He threw 64 pitches and lowered his ERA to 6.35.

Lefty Bruce Zimmermann, who was on the mound when this homestand began Monday, will be on the mound when it ends this afternoon.

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Akin on how rocky spring turned into strong start

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O’s left-hander Keegan Akin had a poor spring training, but when the bell rang and he was on the Orioles' opening day roster, things quickly took a turn for the better.

So I had a simple question for Akin earlier on this homestand: What happened? What made the difference between his previous struggles and his throwing so well in his first two games of 2022, against Tampa Bay and Milwaukee?

Akin allowed five runs and six walks in 5 1/3 innings in spring training. But in his first two regular season outings he threw 5 2/3 scoreless on just two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. His WHIP right now is 0.35. Big difference.

Akin relates that he continues to become healthier the longer he is removed from the core surgery he had early in the offseason after last season. And since this season started he has been in attack mode, going right at hitters. Easy to say, harder to do. He’s doing it. And with success to date.

“A little bit of it was just trying to get over the hump, get back into things coming off the injury in the offseason,” Akin said. “I knew I had to get over that hump, getting back into game speed. And we knew there would be some discomfort to start, the nature of the beast, you can’t get that adrenaline going in the offseason. It was moreso, my main goal was to come out of spring healthy. Obviously, the numbers were not what I wanted and it was a poor showing the first two outings. I put one good one together there at the end.

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O's game blog: Tyler Wells faces the Yankees

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The Orioles won their series opener on Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers. But they lost the next two games to lose that series. They won the series opener at Camden Yards last night against the New York Yankees and now need one win the next two days to win their first series of 2022.

For the fourth straight game, there was a low-scoring contest at Oriole Park as the Birds won 2-1 in 11 innings. Neither team homered and the Yankees had seven hits, going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The O’s had six hits and went 1-for-15 with RISP. But when Ramón Urías drew a two-out, bases loaded walk in the 11th from Aroldis Chapman, the O’s got a walk-off victory.

Speaking of walks, the O’s drew 10 last night. That included six from the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the batting order. Those last two spots went a combined 2-for-4 with six walks. It is the first time the O’s have drawn three walks from the nine spot in the order since Andrew Velazquez drew three on Sept. 14, 2020 against Atlanta.

The Orioles drew 10 walks for the first time since May 6, 2012 at Boston and for the first time at home since May 7, 2011 versus Tampa Bay. The Orioles now rank second in the American League with 34 walks, behind only Seattle with 39. They are sixth in walks in the major leagues. The club drew just four walks in the season’s first two games, but has 30 over the last five games. They were 13th in walks in the American League last season.

The Orioles have not given up a home run in four straight games at Oriole Park, marking the first time the Orioles have not allowed a homer in four in a row at OPACY in a single season since July 10, 2016 versus the Los Angeles Angels and July 22-24, 2016 against Cleveland.

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Another look at a walk-off win over the Yankees

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Sometimes you don’t need the hit with runners in scoring position. Sometimes a walk will do. It did for the Orioles late last night.

We’ve seen many games at Oriole Park over the years that were close between the Orioles and Yankees, games when New York made the key play late to beat the Orioles. Friday was not that night.

The Orioles' unheralded bullpen was sensational and it was Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman who cracked, issuing the bases-loaded walk to Ramón Urías as the O’s beat the Yankees 2-1 in 11 innings.

Chapman is the seven-time All-Star who has record 30 or more saves the last three full seasons. The power lefty with a career ERA of 0.54 and WHIP of 0.690 in 34 career games versus the Orioles. His K rate against the O’s is 18.6.

Yep, it was that pitcher who cracked to the delight of most of a crowd of 32,197. This time Camden Yards didn’t sound like Yankee Stadium south at the end of the night.

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Walk-off walk: O's win wild one in 11 as Chapman walks Urías

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The Orioles' pitching was stellar throughout. The night kept getting longer, though, and their offense kept coming up short. 

Until it finally didn't. Well, sort of.

On a night of outstanding pitching by both teams, a great pitcher finally cracked. It was Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

Chapman got ahead of Ramón Urías 0-2 and then walked him with the bases loaded, throwing four straight pitches out the zone as the Orioles beat the Yankees 2-1 in 11 innings in front of 32,197 at Camden Yards.

The O's 11th began with Austin Hays placed at second base and the team facing New York righty Clarke Schmidt, their sixth pitcher. Jorge Mateo lined out, but Schmidt walked the No. 8 and 9 hitters in Anthony Bemboom and Kelvin Gutiérrez. That set the stage for Cedric Mullins to win it, as Chapman came on to try and pull off a great escape. He almost did, as he fanned Mullins.

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O's game blog: Jordan Lyles faces Yankees

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The Orioles will play their third series of the season and second versus an American League East opponent starting tonight. They host the New York Yankees at Oriole Park to start a three-game weekend series before a West Coast road trip.

The Orioles (1-5) lost 4-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday and lost the final two games of that series. The O’s are 1-4 in games decided by two runs or less against two 2021 playoff teams in the Tampa Bay Rays and Brewers.

The Baltimore offense has produced just 12 runs on 39 hits this season and the Orioles have gone 5-for-55 (.091) with runners in scoring position with 28 strikeouts.

The Orioles have hit three home runs to rank last among the 15 teams in the AL, but the club has drawn 24 ranks to rate third in the AL.

In the season-opening series against Tampa Bay, the Orioles scored four runs on 21 hits in the three games, going 2-for-24 with RISP. Against Milwaukee, the O’s scored eight runs on 18 hits, going 3-for-31 with RISP.

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Brandon Hyde on losing John Means, plus O's next steps

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The Orioles have lost their opening day starter, lefty John Means, for an undetermined length of time. Now, as they await further word on Means' injury, manager Brandon Hyde will try to piece his rotation together and decide the next steps for a pitching staff minus its ace.

Means left his start on Wednesday night against Milwaukee at Camden Yards after four innings and 51 pitches with what was announced that night as left forearm tightness. He had an MRI yesterday.

“He has a forearm muscle strain,” Hyde said during his pregame press conference today at the ballpark. “We need some additional tests to look at any structural damage to his elbow. We’re just continuing to look at it right now, so it's still to be determined how long (he’ll be out).

“I did talk to him earlier. He’s fine. John is not a real up and down guy and he’s just trying to stay positive with this whole thing. And optimistic. But I think he’s handling it fine.

“We don’t have much experience in our rotation and losing your opening day starter. We’ll see how long it’s going to be. But for some time now, it’s going to be hard. Do need guys to step up. John’s one of the guys that people look up to on our pitching staff. So to have him out is going to be challenging.”

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A night of some good pitching at high levels on O's farm

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Two of the Orioles' top pitching prospects were on the mound last night for Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, and they pitched the Tides and Baysox to wins.
 
Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, who threw four scoreless innings in his Triple-A debut, got his first win at that level as Norfolk won big 12-5 at Scranton. Rodriguez, baseball's top pitching prospect, allowed three hits and two runs, one on a solo homer, with no walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 67 pitches after throwing 61 in his season debut.
 
Through two starts, he is 1-0 with an ERA of 2.00 and a 0.55 WHIP for the Tides. Over nine innings, he has walked one and fanned 15.
 
Norfolk bashed four homers in improving to 6-3 with five wins in six games. Norfolk's 6-3 start is its best since 2015, the year they were last in the International League playoffs.
 
Outfielder Kyle Stowers absolutely crushed one to right for his first homer of the year. Johnny Rizer hit a two-run shot, his third. Patrick Dorrian’s two-run shot was No. 1 and Jacob Nottingham hit a three-run homer, his second.
 
The Tides are nine homers away from hitting 5,000 in franchise history.
 
Bowie won 10-2 at Binghamton to get to 3-3. Lefty Drew Rom threw five scoreless innings on two hits with eight strikeouts. He had allowed three runs in three innings on opening night last Friday. But Rom was dealing last night in his 74-pitch outing and is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA after two outings.
 
Rom is ranked as the Orioles' No. 11 prospect via ESPN and is No. 15 on FanGraphs.com and The Athletic and No. 17 by Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.
 
Bowie put up 10 runs despite striking out 17 times. Toby Welk went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three RBIs. Zach Watson hit a two-run single and Joey Ortiz a two-run double.
 
Wilmington bashed high Single-A Aberdeen 13-3, but César Prieto went 2-for-5 and is batting .286. Lynchburg beat low Single-A Delmarva 6-2. Mishael Deson had a single and double, and drove in both Delmarva runs.
 
Watson dazzled for Bowie: You won’t find his name on any Orioles top 30 prospects lists. The FanGraphs.com O’s prospects list goes 45 deep, but right-hander Ryan Watson of the Bowie Baysox didn’t make the cuts.
 
But on Wednesday night, he made a stunning debut at the Double-A level, throwing four scoreless innings on 45 pitches with no walks and seven strikeouts as Bowie won 4-3 at Binghamton. This followed up a strong 2021 for Watson, who went 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA between Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Aberdeen. He had a 2.2 walk rate, fanned 11 batters per nine and recorded a 1.18 WHIP.
 
Then the Rumble Ponies couldn’t get to him in that game as he was throwing his fastball from 93 to 96 mph with a strong swing-and-miss slider.
 
Watson was a guest Wednesday night on my postgame show on WBAL Radio and I asked him what his strikeout pitch was that night.
 
“It was probably my slider,” he said. “I felt like it was tunneling really well off the fastball, especially when they were looking for the fastball. They were looking fastball, and it would break out of the zone and it was too late for them to react.”
 
During the 2020 season when the First-Year Player Draft was just five rounds, the Orioles signed some players after that draft who have done well on their farm. That list includes JD Mundy, Brandon Young and TT Bowens. And it also includes Watson, who pitched at Auburn University and had an ERA of 1.23 in 7 1/3 innings to start his senior year in 2020 before the pandemic ended that season. He had been drafted in the 39th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school, but didn’t sign. A few years later, the Orioles would get him.
 
“There were a couple (of teams showing interest in me in 2020),” he said. “But Baltimore was definitely the one showing the most interest and the one I had the most contact with before signing in ’20. So it was a no-doubter for me who I was going to sign with after the shortened Covid season and the shortened draft.”
 
So for now, Watson flies under the radar as an unranked prospect. Does he care about that?
 
“It doesn’t really bother me. I use it, I guess you could say, as motivation you know. I’ve always thrown with a chip on my shoulder. That doesn’t really bother me, but I guess you could say that adds a bit of extra motivation,” he said during the WBAL Radio interview.

O's observations on the rotation, 'pen, wall and more

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A few observations from the Orioles’ first six games. They went 1-5, but played close, competitive games against two 2021 division winners in the Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers.

Rotation concerns: It’s too soon for their rotation to be in crisis, but there is some reason for concern. They have uncertainty with what they are doing with the No. 5 starter and now reason to worry about lefty John Means.

Means left after four innings last night with left forearm tightness and didn’t sound too concerned in his postgame interview. An MRI could show the club and fan base if there is any real reason for concern. But how can there not be some worry about a pitcher that has had shoulder issues in the past and is having this issue after just two starts?

Means is not only very talented but is a leader on the pitching staff. Losing him for any length of time would be a blow.

The Orioles have both Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish in the rotation right now at Triple-A Norfolk and both threw four scoreless in their season debuts. Tonight is Rodriguez’s second Triple-A start. The Tides had listed right-hander Kyle Brnovich to start tomorrow night and southpaw Kevin Smith on Saturday.

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