HOUSTON – Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is on this road trip with the Orioles and told reporters today in the Orioles dugout that no decision has been made yet as to whether Gunnar Henderson, ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the sport by Baseball America, will be called up to the Orioles.
“We are watching everything he is doing carefully,” Elias said. “And having ongoing conversations about when and how he might factor into that in 2022, but no decisions have been made. But it’s obviously something we are monitoring and very pleased where he is at as a 21-year-old that started the year in Double-A.
“We do (see rosters) expand on Sept. 1. We are, obviously, going to be adding one position player and one pitcher. I don’t know who those are. Everything changes day to day in baseball. Somebody could get hurt. We’re just going to have to see. He’s put himself in a spot to be considered but he’s still having ups and downs in Triple-A on a nightly basis, and we’re watching that too.”
Henderson, in 108 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, has batted .292/.415/.531/.946 with 19 homers and 75 RBIs.
Elias was asked what Henderson still needs to show to get his shot with the Orioles.
“You know, it’s a tough thing to be too critical with him because he is doing so well at his age and being, by far, the youngest player in Triple-A, and not starting the year in Triple-A. I don’t want to nitpick aspects of his performance. What he is doing in Triple-A right now bodes very, very well for his future, but if you’re talking about calling him and his immediate ability to hit the ground running in the 2022 season, his strikeout rate in Triple-A is a little bit high. His numbers, righties versus lefties, are not ideal for his long-term development. And you know, he is still learning some things out in the field. And we’ve seen recently with Kyle Stowers, while he obviously had a huge moment last night, it is tough transitioning in the major leagues. It is hard to take your Triple-A performance and just assume you are going to paper that over into the big leagues right away.
“We’ll see where this goes with Gunnar, but we’re very, very proud of him and pleased where he is at."
Elias was asked if 40-man roster considerations hurt Henderson's chances to get called up, since he would not have to be added this November to avoid getting taken in the Rule 5 draft.
“Well, not speaking specifically to him, but I think anytime we are making a roster decision, whether or not somebody is on the 40-man or not is always relevant," said Elias.
Elias said Henderson has taken some work on the right side of the infield with Norfolk, due to the current make of the O's roster. But the GM believes Henderson's long-term future is on the left side of the infield.
Elias said that, as far as he knew, Grayson Rodriguez has not yet thrown his simulated game, but that everything is coming along well for the right-hander.
"At this point, I am almost positive we will see him in real game action before this season is over," Elias said.
Elias said DL Hall could be the Sept. 1 pitcher call-up. He said, "I hope so. Things can change, but that's kind of the plan. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do out of the bullpen. He had one really good outing the other day, two innings, four strikeouts, no walks."
Elias added that the organization still sees Hall long-term as a starter, and that the lefty will be in starter mode at the beginning of 2023.
Hyde on the Mancini reunion and more: As the Orioles did their pregame work today to get ready for an important series with a Houston team with the best record in the American League, they are also trying to get used to the in-person sight of Trey Mancini as an opponent.
“It was already strange," said manager Brandon Hyde. "We walked over here a few hours ago when they were doing some stuff early. Lot of us were outside here. To see him in Astros gear was unusual. But great to see the smile on his face. Good to see him as a friend, and always pulling for him, except for these three days. He’s given these guys a huge spark and played well here. We’re happy for him.”
While the Orioles have had a good month of August, going 14-8 without Mancini, the trade that sent him to Houston still left a hole in the lineup for others to fill. It also offered chances for others to blossom. Kyle Stowers, for instance.
“Well, losing Trey is going to hurt your lineup," Hyde said. "For what he has done for run-producing ability, the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark and his experience. And we are lacking some experience in our lineup. Against Lance Lynn, (last night) after the first couple of innings we didn’t have very good at-bats. Some youthful at-bats. So Trey is a guy that has been around for a while.
“But we’re talented. And we have some guys that are talented coming through our system. We’re young in the major leagues but we have good speed, we play good defense, we have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. So now just got to continue to improve."
Hyde hopes Stowers' bat can get going more consistently now after his dramatic homer last night.
“Hopefully, it gives him some confidence," Hyde said. "What a huge homer in an enormous count. An 0-2 count off Hendriks. Pretty cool moment for him. We needed it. Hopefully, it can give some confidence a little bit and he can continue to swing the bat."