Hicks' likely return, Givens' exit and more

SAN DIEGO – Be truthful and admit if a sense of panic or doubt began to creep in after the Orioles lost two of three games to the Astros at home and the opener in Seattle. And when the teams were scoreless Saturday heading to the top of the 10th inning at T-Mobile Park.

The retractable sky was falling.

The Mariners won eight in a row and 13 of 15. No one was hotter. But the Orioles prevailed 1-0 in 10 innings and followed yesterday by breaking a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth, surrendering the tying run with two outs in the bottom half on Dominic Canzone’s homer off Mike Baumann, and responding with a two-run shot from Cedric Mullins in the 10th to claim their 23rd series.

Mullins took a home run away from Ty France with a remarkable catch right before Canzone’s blast, then pulled a fastball into right field seats for his first homer since July 14, due to a second trip to the injured list.

Félix Bautista wasn’t available after working two innings Saturday. Baumann couldn’t secure his first major league save, but Shintaro Fujinami did. He didn’t have one in Japan, either.

Don’t tell me this team isn’t special, no matter what happens the rest of the year.

The Orioles lead the second-place Rays by three games again and are in San Diego, where the Padres are six games below .500 and in fourth place in the National League West. They have lost six of seven.

Former Oriole Manny Machado called yesterday’s game “do or die.” Well …

But the fish tacos are elite.

Outfielder Aaron Hicks is expected to join the Orioles in San Diego, leading to another roster move. Colton Cowser is vulnerable because he’s 7-for-61 and can be optioned.

Hicks was expected to appear in two games with Triple-A Norfolk. He’s done it. He wasn’t in yesterday’s lineup.

Hicks went 1-for-8 with the Tides. More important is whether the left hamstring is healed and he’s running at full speed. Those boxes must be checked if he’s coming to Petco Park.

The importance of having Hicks is amplified with the club’s plans to give Mullins more rest days after he sustained a second groin injury. Mullins came off the bench yesterday in Seattle after starting in center field in the first two games of the series.

You know the rest.

One question was answered yesterday regarding how the Orioles will make room in the bullpen for pitchers reinstated from the injured list. Mychal Givens isn’t in the mix. Right now, he isn’t in the organization.

The Orioles designated Givens for assignment after activating him from the 60-day injured list. They got practically nothing for the $5 million he’s guaranteed in 2023, the club’s highest-paid reliever.

Disregard that mutual option for 2024.

A team could claim Givens and inherit the salary. He's far more likely to become a free agent, especially when he isn't convincing anyone that he's back to full health.

“Well, it’s the time of year where we’re trying to win every game we can right now,” manager Brandon Hyde told the assembled media. “We’re coming down the stretch and we need guys that are durable, able to be able to win some games down the stretch, and unfortunately it didn’t work out with Mike. But we have some other guys here that are throwing the ball extremely well, and just want to finish the season strong."

Bringing back Givens was a curious move in December. The news seemed to come out of nowhere. Or a time machine.

He pitched for four teams after the Orioles traded him in 2020. He appeared in 19 games with the Mets in 2022 and allowed 12 runs (11 earned) and 24 hits in 20 2/3 innings. He wasn’t expected to get a second act in Baltimore.

The Orioles wanted a veteran reliever to strengthen the bridge to closer Félix Bautista. OK, that part made sense. And we didn’t know about Dillon Tate’s elbow/forearm injury, which surfaced in November, until the first day of spring training. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias dropped that bomb outside the baseball operations building.

No wonder Tate didn’t pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. And he still hasn’t pitched for the Orioles in 2023.

Givens and his sinking fastball could be an adequate replacement for Tate and give Hyde another high-leverage reliever. And he was durable, which made the spring training shutdown with a knee injury and the shoulder inflammation that developed later shocking developments.

Also, no one could know that Yennier Cano would become an All-Star setup man. Or that Jacob Webb, a waiver claim from the Angels, would set an Orioles record by striking out the first five batters he faced with the team and toss three scoreless and hitless innings.

Fujinami was the only addition to the bullpen at the trade deadline and he’s apparently going to create some anxiety with his here-and-gone command, but he hasn't been charged with an earned run in seven of his last eight appearances.

So, dismiss Givens from the bullpen equation and don’t leave a candle burning for Tate. Time is running out. Gladly take anything he could provide this summer and fall, but don’t count on it.

Austin Voth started for Triple-A Norfolk yesterday on his injury rehab assignment and tossed three scoreless innings with one hit, three walks and six strikeouts. He’s out of options, so he’s got to go on the active roster if he’s reinstated. The only alternative is the Givens treatment.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are keeping the rotation in line with Grayson Rodriguez, Jack Flaherty and Dean Kremer in the Padres series. San Diego is starting Yu Darvish, Michael Wacha and Blake Snell.

Darvish has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, and one or fewer in four of six. He’s pitched in the majors for 11 years and faced the Orioles only once in the regular season, permitting three runs and six hits with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings with the Rangers on Aug. 2, 2016, at Camden Yards.

Ryan Mountcastle’s on-base streak has reached 20 games, tied for the longest active streak in the majors with the Rangers’ Adolis García and Marcus Semien.

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