ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A deep dive into the wild card chase always felt like more of a surface story about the Orioles. Here’s where they sit in the standings. Here’s the latest from the rotation, bullpen and lineup. Here’s the latest double play turned by the defense.
Here’s a team finally ready to launch after a teardown that started halfway through the 2018 season, a new set of hands completing it and beginning the rebuild.
More games have been won than lost, which is shocking, and the electricity is restored at Camden Yards. But the major league club hasn’t consumed every molecule of attention. Maybe in some other cities, but not Baltimore.
Catcher Adley Rutschman finally gets promoted on May 21, breaking up an intense media and fan stakeout – separate vehicles, of course – and the watch shifts to pitcher Grayson Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is on the verge of making his debut and goes on the injured list with a Grade 2 lat strain. He’s monitored from afar, with September now the target month to get him back into games. Whether with the Orioles or Triple-A Norfolk.
Fans vote for the former.
The obsession over left-hander DL Hall intensifies. He was next in the prospect pecking order, the initial unofficial rankings putting his arrival third after Rutschman and Rodriguez.
(Outfielder Kyle Stowers was a special case, debuting in Toronto as a replacement player due to Anthony Santander’s former vaccination status. He never made it onto the 40-man roster, but he seems close to a real promotion.)
Infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra arrived on July 26 to give the Orioles an extra left-handed bat and a versatile player who’s gone from bench piece to starter at multiple positions. But Hall has been the countdown guy, the “how much longer” prospect.
Shortstop Gunnar Henderson isn’t far behind, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is in Rochester to watch the Tides. There’s been some cutting in line, but Hall goes first.
“He’s electric,” Vavra said. “We all know, those guys who have played with him, what he’s capable of, and he’s really fun to play behind because he’s really competitive. He’s really talented, too, so it’s fun to watch him.
“I think it’s going to be great, and he’s someone you’re going to be hearing his name for a long time, so really excited for him, really happy for him, and can’t wait for him to get here.”
Hall is starting today, but no one is expected to leave the rotation to create space for him. I’m hearing that he’s likely to make a spot start against the Rays and then serve in a multi-inning relief role through the remainder of the season.
This is how Hall can help the Orioles down the stretch, and it also enables them to control his innings. Don’t be surprised to see it happen.
The Orioles have a specific count in mind for Hall and can’t waste any of them in Triple-A if they think he’s ready for the majors. They don’t want to shut him down early. This is how they can manipulate it.
Hall will go back to starting in spring training. This is temporary.
There’s no motivation for the Orioles to tweak the rotation, especially with their optimism over Tyler Wells’ eventual return. You saw what Austin Voth did last night.
The Orioles didn’t want to confirm Hall’s placement on the roster until informing the player who’s removed from it.
That’s the uncomfortable part for the Orioles. They have a tremendous amount of empathy for the guys on the other side of these transactions. Like catcher Anthony Bemboom, who left to make room for Rutschman.
Louis Head is the low man on the bullpen totem pole after his late arrival and could be the most vulnerable after retiring all three batters he faced last night with a strikeout. We’ll see.
Hall’s usage in any role is bold for a team with playoff aspirations, and this is experimental considering the level and switch to relief, but his stuff is that good, and the Orioles have other motives. It isn’t just one thing.
“He’s a competitor,” Rutschman said. “I don’t know how he’s going to perform (today), but I know he’s going to bring his best, and he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal pitcher with tremendous stuff, and I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to do great.”
“I think that’s part of DL’s character, having a back against the wall mentality,” Vavra said, “and that’s something that’s pushed him to get to where he’s at, and it’s something that’s going to help him thrive at this level, too. I’m really excited to get to see him work.”
And to see who’s next.
“That’s the encouraging part is there’s a lot more coming, you know?” Vavra said. “After DL, there’s another guy, and after that guy it will be a different guy, and I think that’s the encouraging part for Orioles fans.”