CHICAGO – Since the 2022 Orioles are full of surprises, reaching .500 last night with just four games remaining before the break, they can’t be contained in a single article about unexpected developments. What they’ve done that pretty much blindsided me.
Yesterday, I addressed the obvious shocker of the team being only two games out of the wild card race in the American League. How I wasn’t sold on Félix Bautista’s inclusion on the opening day roster, how Jordan Lyles’ contract seemed a bit puzzling and how I assumed that Keegan Akin would be riding the Triple-A shuttle.
What else did I get wrong?
* Jorge López is an All-Star.
I thought López should stay in the bullpen, and said as much here and on the air. I thought his stuff would play at the back end, but he’d also bring value as a multi-inning reliever if manager Brandon Hyde needed him for coverage.
The vision I carried was of a multi-purpose weapon who would be worth holding onto rather than non-tendering him.
Not a guy with 17 saves.
To be fair to myself, I also thought Tyler Wells was the closer heading into spring training. The plan to make him a starter, and basically switch roles with López, was kept under wraps.
Anyway, none of this suggested that López would be introduced at the All-Star Game. I had high expectations for him, but not that high.
* Anthony Santander leads the Orioles in walks and ranks second in on-base percentage.
Santander’s major weakness has been his ability to get on base. The impatience, the chasing. I assumed that he’d keep trying to change his leopard spots and go back to struggling with his pitch recognition or just being over-anxious.
Sliders in the dirt are so hard to resist.
If there’s one project that should have co-hitting coaches Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte high-fiving each day, it’s the turnaround in Santander’s approach at the plate.
The former Rule 5 pick never walked more than 23 times in a season, his total last summer in 110 games. He’s drawn 34 in 81 games.
The runner-up is Trey Mancini with 28, including two last night (one intentional). Santander isn’t just edging him out, which would have been a story in itself. That’s a fairly impressive distance between first and second.
Santander’s career on-base percentage was .299 before last night. He slashed .241/.286/.433 last season in 438 plate appearances.
The series in Chicago concludes tonight with Santander carrying a .328 OBP. I figured the load would be much lighter just based on his track record.
* I didn’t pay much attention to the Austin Voth waiver claim on June 7 beyond how any transaction warrants a tweet and at least a few paragraphs in a notebook. And because he pitched for the regional rival Nationals.
I wasn’t convinced that he’d make much of an impression, though I didn’t think the Orioles would rush to judgement because he’s out of minor league options.
Give him a few relief appearances, try to stretch him out and wait to see whether he pitches his way onto the waiver wire again.
Well, Voth is still in the rotation after five starts. He posted a 10.13 ERA in 19 relief appearances with the Nationals. He has a 3.80 ERA in eight games with the Orioles.
The stretching out process has gone swimmingly, with the Orioles extending Voth to five innings and 76 pitches. He could get another start before the break at Tropicana Field.
Two off-days this week allow Hyde to manipulate the rotation. Kyle Bradish could be plugged into it soon after the break. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann rejoined Triple-A Norfolk, but the Orioles will bring him back. DL Hall is going to make his major league debut this summer. Matt Harvey is pitching for the Tides after his suspension, and could have his contract selected.
There are a number of trapdoors that could make Voth disappear from the rotation, but he’s doing more with his opportunity than I expected.