While waiting for an announcement that Carlos Correa’s deal with the Twins fell through and he’s signing with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys …
The return of the Birdland Caravan next month reconnects fans to the players, but also provides the media with easier access to them.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias hosted three sessions in his suite at the Manchester Grand Hyatt during last month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego. Brandon Hyde was available during the managers’ scrums, and a group of us also had breakfast with him one morning during the annual off-the-record gathering.
A large plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, and plenty of small talk.
The four-day caravan tour, making stops in Baltimore City, Bel Air, Bowie, College Park, Columbia, Frederick, Odenton, Salisbury, Towson, Westminster and York, Pa., brings Adley Rutschman back into a spotlight that he’d otherwise wish to avoid. As if a talent of this magnitude, with all its hype tagging along, has any choice.
Rutschman happily will sign autographs and interact with fans. He’ll agree to do a group interview with the media before finding another crowd at his locker on his first day at spring training.
And then, he’ll try to be just a regular guy hanging out a home with friends and family.
Are the expectations placed upon him for 2023 reasonable, and will he handle them as he’s done all the rest? How much better can he become? What was his reaction to finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, which gained him a year of service time?
Here’s a chance to find out before my flight into the Sarasota/Bradenton airport – with fingers crossed that it actually takes off.
Ryan Mountcastle can talk about the task of staying consistent throughout the season, the importance of doing so for his career.
Kyle Stowers can talk about the task of trying to break camp with the team after his Aug. 19 promotion last season, with its ups and downs. Ryan McKenna can relay his feelings on trying to make the team and stay on it as an extra outfielder while the depth in the organization increases.
I’d like to get Terrin Vavra’s feelings on the Adam Frazier signing and whether he views it as direct competition. Where does Ramón Urías expect to get most of his starts in 2023 after winning a Gold Glove at third base? Has Heston Kjerstad moved past opening questions about his health and can now talk about a normal offseason and where he might be assigned to begin 2023?
Austin Hays can express his confidence, as I’m sure he will, in putting together a full, productive season without a drop-off in his offensive stats. Grayson Rodriguez can talk about whether he comes to camp knowing that he’s already in the rotation, and whether expectations for him are reasonable and at all daunting.
Is DL Hall positive that he’s in the opening day rotation or does he arrive in Sarasota simply to compete for a roster spot? When did Nick Vespi know that he needed hernia surgery and how’s he feeling?
This is assuming that he’s still part of the caravan. So far, he is.
John Means can provide another update on his recovery from Tommy John surgery, sharing where he is in his throwing program and if he’s targeting a specific date, or at least a month, for his return.
Joey Krehbiel can tell us about his offseason prep work after the Orioles removed him from the active roster in September. His thoughts on his season now that he’s had more time to reflect, and what he learned from it.
How different will 2023 spring training feel for Bryan Baker after he became one of the top relievers in the Orioles’ bullpen with his 11 straight scoreless appearances to end the season? How different will it be for Dean Kremer after he broke camp as a reliever, his success in the majors limited, straining his oblique while warming in the third game, getting back in the rotation and moving his career in the opposite direction with a 3.23 ERA and a complete-game shutout against the Astros?
Cedric Mullins and Dillon Tate were added yesterday to the caravan. Mullins can talk about being a Gold Glove finalist, finishing runner-up to Mateo for the American League’s stolen base crown, and whether they’ve made a friendly wager on 2023. Perhaps Tate can elaborate on Mychal Givens' return to the bullpen and its potential impact.
Outfielder Anthony Santander, shortstop Jorge Mateo and pitchers Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells, Austin Voth, Cionel Pérez, Keegan Akin and Spenser Watkins are among the returning Orioles presently absent from the caravan. Newcomers Frazier, Kyle Gibson, and James McCann, and sort-of newcomer Givens also aren’t on the travel roster.
There could be a few additions later, but some players are unavailable.
I might have to wait for spring training to ask Wells about his recovery from September shoulder inflammation, his anticipated role on the pitching staff and his engagement. Or Voth about his anticipated role. Or Bradish whether he changed anything about his offseason routine and his confidence in building off an exceptional second half. Or Mateo about winning a Fielding Bible Award but not being a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove.
Or Santander about trying to duplicate or exceed his 33-home run season, and his latest venture in the arbitration process.
* Pitcher Chris Vallimont cleared outright waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.
The Orioles designated Vallimont for assignment last week while acquiring outfielder Ryan O'Hearn in a trade with the Royals. O'Hearn remains in limbo after the Orioles designated him two days later.
* MLB.com’s Will Leitch posted his predictions yesterday for the next 10 World Series winners, beginning with the Dodgers over the Blue Jays this fall.
Leitch has the Mets beating the Orioles in 2024, a repeat from 1969. He has the Orioles beating the Dodgers in 2028, a repeat from 1966.
He didn’t match up the Orioles with the Reds, Pirates or Phillies.