Posing three Orioles questions on the final day of August

The Orioles are off today, flying into Arizona after yesterday’s loss to spend more time enjoying the dry heat. Think of it as a pizza oven except there’s no melted mozzarella.

Their roster expands by a pitcher and a position player on Friday. They’d do it anyway, but teams don’t have the option of staying at 26.

The dog days of August are gone. We’ve moved onto September baseball as a contender, and it’s the home stretch no matter where the schedule takes you.

“This is definitely an exciting time right now for our club,” manager Brandon Hyde said yesterday. “Going back to the West Coast. I feel like we were just there. It’s an important road trip, every game matters right now, every game’s important. And it’s a lot of fun playing in games that matter.”

Can’t flip the pages of the calendar without finding more questions, which isn’t as enjoyable.

Here are three of mine, and maybe also yours.

Is Jack Flaherty clinging to a playoff roster spot?

Perhaps a better question is whether Flaherty is a lock for the postseason, as I’ve described him. A lock with veteran Kyle Gibson, as I've described them in more relaxed times.

This isn’t about Gibson, but the club’s Opening Day starter, with 14 quality starts and valuable playoff experience, won’t be kicked to the curb because of his 7.89 ERA in August. Check how the rest of the regular season plays out.

Flaherty was the big trade deadline move after bigger swings only caught air. He had a smashing debut with one run allowed in six innings in Toronto, but he surrendered a combined 10 in his next two starts over eight innings, didn’t bounce back, had his next outing delayed until Sunday, and surrendered three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 against the Rockies.

The Orioles are changing their locks.

Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez could be the first two starters in a series. Talk me out of it.

Dean Kremer has posted a 2.37 ERA and 1.055 WHIP this month and is capable of bringing ace-like stuff to the party. John Means would be making an Olympian jump from September call-up to playoff starter after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2022, but is it really unfathomable? Talk me into it.

The pre-surgery Means would be a huge upgrade. Allow yourself to imagine it for a few seconds.

The Orioles aren’t pressured into a decision. They can read a calendar. There’s an entire month ahead of them. That’s also an entire month ahead for Flaherty.

The trade might have amounted to only a rental anyway. It would look worse if he isn’t pitching in October.

Can the Orioles survive life after Félix Bautista?

This is a biggie, approximately the size of a mountain.

Yennier Cano is the primary closer with Bautista injured, but availability and matchups are going to present chances for other relievers. Cano was Bautista’s backup, and not having him in the setup role and as a second closer could weaken the unit.

That’s one of the fears.

A scout from outside the organization noted how the Orioles will miss Bautista’s swing-and-miss stuff. Cano isn’t a duplicate. But to be fair, there aren’t many matches.

The next man up mantra is how the Orioles must approach their new situation. They don’t have an alternative.

Can Shintaro Fujinami be trusted in the postseason?

Perhaps a better question is whether Fujinami is on the postseason roster. Then, we can delve into the circle of trust.

We can approach this from two different angles.

Fujinami had four straight scoreless appearances before allowing two runs and four hits in the ninth inning Tuesday night in his latest low-leverage situation. He’s surrendered three home runs with the Orioles, but I swear it seems like more than that. Must be the long fly balls to left-center field.

Anyway, Fujinami throws 102 mph and can work in a nasty mix. He hasn’t walked a batter in his last seven outings. Throw strikes, pitch with confidence, get the job done.

He needs to do it because this still feels like an audition. And a bullpen that added DL Hall also is waiting for Tyler Wells.

After playing .667 ball during homestand, O's hit ...
Orioles can't secure sweep against White Sox (upda...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/