We've entered Day 4 since the Orioles last grabbed the local media's attention by announcing a few transactions, the most notable the signing of backup catcher Anthony Bemboom to a 2023 contract.
The quiet won't last.
Let’s do a little more reflecting on 2022, a season that brought so many unexpected highs and unavoidable lows.
I’ve already noted how Matt Harvey never had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk, Gunnar Henderson earned a promotion despite his age, Yusniel Diaz stayed only for a cup of coffee, Rougned Odor lasted into September, we never saw Robert Neustrom, DJ Stewart didn’t make it back to the Orioles after three games to begin the season, Jorge Mateo was exclusively a shortstop, Bryan Baker stuck for the entire season, Nick Vespi will never give up another Triple-A run, Joey Krehbiel disappeared after almost going wire-to-wire, Terrin Vavra could wear many hats next season, Jacob Nottingham didn’t get back to the majors, and César Prieto’s 2022 ceiling was Double-A.
Here are two more:
We still don’t know how Mike Baumann is viewed.
Neither do the Orioles, who are trying to get an accurate read on the big right-hander.
Is Baumann a potential starter in 2023 or a bulk reliever? Could he emerge as more of a back end bullpen guy?
What’s his future in the organization?
The 2022 season didn’t offer much clarity. Baumann made four starts and nine relief appearances with the Orioles. He made nine starts and 11 relief appearances with Triple-A Norfolk.
Three starts with the Orioles came in succession from Sept. 24-Oct. 5. Tyler Wells returned to the injured list. Jordan Lyles was shut down rather than starting on normal rest on the final day of the season, when the Orioles had to play two games.
There were two needs here: To cover innings and evaluate Baumann again.
Only the coverage was completed.
The Orioles had to be careful with Baumann’s pitch counts, limiting him to 58 on Sept. 24 and 74 on Sept. 29, when he allowed two runs over four innings in both starts. He threw 84 pitches and surrendered four runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the Oct. 5 doubleheader.
“He’s a big prospect for us that we’re still kind of figuring out who he is,” manager Brandon Hyde said on the final weekend. “I thought he’s made some nice adjustments this year, and excited about him going forward.”
The Orioles like Baumann’s arm. They like his presence on the mound. But it probably would aid his development if he’s in a specific role. Not just stretching him out as a potential starter and then bouncing him between the rotation and bullpen.
“We’re giving him an opportunity to kind of show us what he can do,” Hyde said before Game 1. “There’s a lot of things to like about Mike, whether it’s in the rotation or in the bullpen. I think it’s fortunate that he’s going to be able to get a handful of starts here to end the season, and we’re going to continue to watch him and evaluate him. And we’re excited about his future.”
Chris Ellis’ second chance with the Orioles was worse than the first.
Ellis was outrighted off the 40-man roster last year and elected free agency, a surprising development after he made six starts and posted a 2.49 ERA in 25 1/3 innings.
None of the starts lasted more than five innings. He walked 13 batters. But he seemed worthy of another look in spring training on a club with an unsettled rotation and bullpen.
And then, Ellis re-appeared by signing a minor league deal on March 16. Back in the picture as perhaps a bulk reliever.
The above-average spin on his fastball surely had the organization’s attention, but the 6.32 ERA and 1.561 WHIP in 57 innings with Triple-A Durham in 2021 likely turned off some teams.
Ellis made two road starts with the Orioles, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings on April 19 in Oakland and allowing five runs and walking three batters without retiring anyone on April 24 in Anaheim.
Shoulder inflammation brought an abrupt end to Ellis’ 2021 season, and he underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same shoulder May 4 that eventually led to his placement on the 60-day injured list. Two starts and he was done.
The Orioles must decide after the World Series whether to put Ellis back on the 40-man roster or again cut ties. Space will be precious with the number of prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and the Orioles vowing to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade markets.
Ellis might have to hop back into free agency and aim for another minor league contract, with a selling point that his shoulder is repaired.