Reviewing some of the rights and wrongs in 2023

With so much said and written about the Orioles throughout the offseason and spring training, it’s hard to remember how much the media got right, wrong or stuck in a gray area.

The internet makes it a lot easier to keep score.

So does a good memory.

On a Sunday spent on the Eastern Shore, with my mother’s cooking a coma-inducing risk – her Italian chicken and spaghetti, preceded and followed by a table full of snacks, have laid out larger men than me – I decided to revisit some of my thoughts and predictions while I’m conscious.

Adley Rutschman’s workload behind the plate.

The Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto remains the benchmark with 130 starts and 133 appearances as the catcher in both 2022 and 2023. How’s that for consistency and symmetry?

I didn’t think Rutschman would come close to those numbers, and the Orioles sought a backup catcher who could lighten that load while keeping his bat in the lineup.

I mentioned the interest in veteran Gary Sánchez at the Winter Meetings – or at least the discussions about him - but he wasn’t a fit.

James McCann arrived in a trade with the Mets, while he was Christmas shopping. Rutschman made 104 starts and 110 appearances behind the plate, but he also was the designated hitter in 45 games.

So, yes, Rutschman was handled with care at catcher, but he also accumulated 687 plate appearances in 154 games. The bat was busy.

Adley Rutschman’s starts at first base.

I thought there would be at least a handful of them.

There were none. Not even an inning.

I didn't bat 1.000.

Rutschman made 30 starts at first base in the minors, but he hasn’t played the position in his two seasons with the Orioles. And injuries didn’t prompt manager Brandon Hyde to use him.

Ryan Mountcastle experienced vertigo and shoulder inflammation, but Rutschman stayed away from first base. Meanwhile, Anthony Santander made his first seven career starts and 12 appearances this season, and Ramón Urías made his first seven starts and 13 appearances.

Hyde was more willing to experiment than to stick Rutschman at first.

Josh Lester had a brief stay with the Orioles, and he started three games at first. McCann filled in twice, totaling 1 1/3 innings.

Ryan O’Hearn emerged as a middle-of-the-order bat against right-handers, and he made 59 starts and 70 appearances at first.

I’ll blame him for the shift in first base plans.

Cole Irvin's 12 starts.

That’s half of his appearances in his first season with the Orioles.

They traded for Irvin on Jan. 26, sending infield prospect Darell Hernaiz to the Athletics. Irvin was going to provide the rotation with a left-hander while John Means recovered from his elbow reconstructive surgery, but they optioned him after only three April starts.

The leash was assumed to be much longer for Irvin, but further proof emerged that the Orioles operated differently as contenders. They couldn’t be as patient with Irvin, who allowed 15 runs and walked eight batters in 12 2/3 innings. Games and ground lost felt more impactful.

Early talks about the 2024 rotation center on the wisdom in acquiring a true No. 1 starter, along with Means’ return and the substantial gains made by Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer. Whether Tyler Wells and DL Hall should start or stay in the bullpen.

Nothing much about Irvin, who didn’t make the playoff roster.

Can he make it back into the rotation next season?

The Mychal Givens reunion.

A total shocker to me.

Givens was shipped away at a 2020 trade deadline pushed back to August after the pandemic delayed the start of the season. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias suggested in a video call with the media that Givens always would have a place in the organization – but after he was done pitching.

News broke in December that Givens reached agreement with the Orioles on a free agent contract. It didn’t make sense to me, as my Christmas shopping plans dissolved at the Columbia Mall, that they’d want Givens after his struggles with the Mets and in previous stops in Colorado and Cincinnati. And with their bullpen pretty much set. What the heck was happening?

Dillon Tate’s forearm strain remained a secret until the first day of spring training. OK, there’s the opening. A groundball pitcher with experience setting up and closing. But Givens received $5 million guaranteed on a contract with a mutual option for 2024.

Durability wasn’t an issue with Givens in the past, but he appeared in only six games due to left knee inflammation that cropped up in camp and right shoulder inflammation that put him on the 60-day injured list. He was released in August with an 11.25 ERA and 2.500 WHIP in four innings.

I didn’t think the Orioles would want Givens. I was wrong.

I didn’t think he’d be gone after only six appearances. I was wrong.

It didn’t work out for Givens or the Orioles. I’ll take the “W.”


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