At 38, catcher Robinson Chirinos is the oldest Oriole and the third oldest catcher in Major League Baseball. He brings experience to his job but also a real enthusiasm about being part of a larger group of players that truly make up a team. There are times in baseball when a veteran impacts a team even without playing a lot.
Chirinos is doing that now for the 2022 Orioles.
Manager Brandon Hyde has praised him often this year: early in the season for his play on the field before Adley Rutschman arrived and bumped him to the No. 2 catcher job, and lately for his leadership and ability to root on and support teammates in a role that he has come to completely embrace.
Chirinos remains a big part of the O’s winning ways, even though the kid sent him to the bench when he arrived in May.
“I thought at some point during the season it was going to happen and knew that when I signed here in the offseason. Knew Adley was coming up and it was a matter of time,” Chirinos said before Wednesday’s game. “I was trying to do everything I could to help the team when I was playing every day. But now in my role, do the same thing, just different. I’m not in the field every day but I know I can impact this ballclub every single day.
“There can be something I see in the game that day or something I say in a meeting, like just happened now. So many ways you can help a team as a ballplayer. Been doing that for my whole career and keep doing it here.”
The title “great teammate” can be thrown around a lot. But with this player it’s pretty clear that it applies. Chirinos said it means a lot to him to be considered that.
“It is (meaningful to me). When you understand as a player it’s not about you; it’s about the team. It’s about how many people you can impact on your team. So many people we talk every single day to that make baseball more fun. This game is so hard every day. When you take away the focus on yourself and you’re trying to get the best out of people, it makes baseball more fun.
“That’s what it’s about, playing relaxed. When you were a kid, you played the game for fun. Every kid does that. I have two little boys and they love baseball and just play baseball because they want to win and have fun. I’ve understood that all throughout my career, and thankfully I have continued to do that here in this clubhouse.”
Chirinos has been in the playoffs three times with two different teams: Texas in 2015 and 2016 and Houston in 2019. He’d like to add to that resume in a few weeks.
For now he is happy to back up Rutschman and help him get better any he can with all his experience and wisdom at Rutschman’s disposal. He said the kid has shown often that he wants such help.
“I think first it’s the way he is really open for people to help him," Chirinos said. "I think that’s going to make him, hopefully, in the future a Hall of Fame player. And I think he has the talent for it. I’ve been able to help him, and it’s because of him. He listens, he asks questions and he wants to get better. He is going through experiences, and you can’t buy that in this game. You have to go through it and go through things to learn. Hopefully, I can help him get even better.”
Chirinos played in his 700th career game on Aug. 13 versus Tampa Bay. He is closing in on 500 career hits (he's currently at 474) and 100 home runs (94).
It’s clear he has loved being part of the 2022 Orioles. I asked him how he rates this season against the others he’s had in the big leagues.
“Top of the list, for sure," he said. "It’s not done yet. But I see what this team is turning into. I’m blessed to be part of this clubhouse and this organization. I believe we are in a great spot to compete in this division, where it’s really tough. But I see the talent we have here and what we have coming in the minors. It makes me excited for this organization. The coaches, front office and the fans, they know what is coming.”