Taking early inventory of Orioles season after April

DETROIT – The Orioles played their 28th game yesterday and completed the first full month of the season. The 17th win on Saturday was a franchise record for April. They have 19 total.

A lot of season is left on the schedule. At last check, they still play 162.

Too early for analysis, predictions, trends and numbers consumption? Of course not. That can commence after Opening Day.

Gentlemen, start your search engines.

Here are just a few of the many:

* The Orioles will keep playing the matchup game.

Every series is beginning to feel like a single-game elimination. Lots of right-handed or left-handed starters in a row is going to influence roster construction.

Why? Well, besides putting such heavy emphasis on every game, the Orioles are doing it because they can. Because they have the depth.

The talent level is at its highest in quite a while. Shiny new toys to play with, but without damaging them.

“We’re much more balanced now and we have guys you want to get in there,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Certain matchups dictate … hopefully we can have the advantage on some of those at times. We feel like we’ve been on the disadvantaged side a lot the last few years, and now we’re able to kind of match up better offensively, hopefully on the mound later in the game. Done a good job of that so far.”

Which leads us to …

* Terrin Vavra had five hits Saturday night in Triple-A Norfolk’s 20-1 win in Charlotte. He did his damage from the leadoff spot, and it included two RBIs and four runs scored.

There’s rarely just one reason for a display like this, but let’s keep it simple this morning.

Vavra isn’t a Triple-A player. He belongs in the majors. And he’s going to come back.

“Terrin will be back,” Hyde said Thursday, in case you won’t take my word for it.

The Orioles didn’t need Vavra’s left-handed bat in the Tigers series with three consecutive left-handed opposing starters. Ortiz made more sense, and he received three starts at second base before the Orioles optioned him yesterday.

Outfielder Kyle Stowers, a left-handed hitter, was recalled from Norfolk after receiving only six plate appearances with the Orioles and being sent down April 9. He was batting .293/.427/.569 (17-for-58) with a double, five home runs, 17 RBIs, 13 walks and 17 strikeouts in 17 games.

We can’t say with any accuracy how long Stowers will stay in the majors. Vavra can’t come back up yet unless he’s replacing an injured player. He’s more versatile, but Stowers packs more punch.

The Orioles don’t want Stowers sitting for long stretches again, which can factor into their decision.

Stowers was 1-for-3 with a walk Saturday before Shayne Fontana pinch-hit for him. He was needed in Detroit, and in Kansas City, where the Orioles begin a three-game series Tuesday night.

* Hard bullpen decisions are on deck.

It felt that way before the road trip and it still feels that way.

None of the relievers can be categorized as part-timers or placeholders. And the ‘pen isn’t filled with optionable pieces.

Dillon Tate has pitched in two injury rehab games, and yesterday’s rainout in Bowie puts him on ice for a few days. Teams are off today. Mychal Givens retired all three batters he faced Saturday with the Baysox.

Moves aren’t imminent, but they’re coming. Yennier Cano and Danny Coulombe have their spikes firmly planted in this roster.  There are the obvious untouchables in Félix Bautista and Bryan Baker. Mike Baumann has allowed two runs in 15 2/3 innings.

Cionel Pérez has allowed six runs and 18 hits with eight walks in 10 1/3 innings, but we’ll go back to that 1.40 ERA last season and how he’s out of options. And he’s left-handed.

Austin Voth had two scoreless innings yesterday, he provides length and he’s also out of options.

“I think the last few appearances he’s shown the kind of pitcher he can be and how valuable he can be for us, whether it be as a spot starter, a starter, a long guy. I’ve had to pitch him in the eighth inning in a tight game before,” Hyde said.

“He’s doing a great job right now.”

I don’t know. The Orioles don’t know.

“We will cross that bridge when we get there,” Hyde said. “Let’s see how our bullpen is at that point.”

* Ryan Mountcastle needs to wear a rabbit’s foot around his neck. Much lighter than a horseshoe.

His luck isn’t improving. He still leads the world in torturous outs.

The Tigers turned a double play on him yesterday when second baseman Zach McKinstry knocked down his 107.6 mph line drive and flipped to second base.

Mountcastle might need to do less barreling and more finessing. Anything hit hard seems to find a glove.

“He needs to hit the ball a little softer in front,” Hyde quipped. “He’s got bad aim, too. He’s got terrible aim when he hits the ball and that’s something we need to work on.”

Mountcastle doubled twice yesterday and registered his first RBI since April 16, a span of 12 games. Even a blind and unlucky squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

What’s been happening to Mountcastle is nuts, but talent often wins out.

* Norfolk set a franchise record with 24 hits Saturday night. Daz Cameron hit a grand slam. Cameron, Connor Norby, Colton Cowser, Jordan Westburg and Lewin Díaz each had three hits.

Charlotte infielder Laz Rivera pitched the last two innings and didn’t allow a run. He was 1-for-33 at the plate going into yesterday, so maybe the mound is a better spot for him.

“There’s so many good players in this organization,” Stowers said. “Those 10-plus run games happen pretty frequently now.”

* The Tides have the best record in the International League at 18-7, and easily the largest run differential at plus-87. In other words, they’re really good.

The Orioles and Rochester Red Wings were affiliated since 1961, the longest relationship between a major league and Triple-A team, until breaking up in September 2002. Rochester filed for free agency the previous month after five straight losing seasons and lots of grumbling about the lack of talent provided by the Orioles.

"That was totally their decision to change," Don Buford, director of minor league operations, said at the time. "Rochester felt we weren't giving them winning-caliber players. The approach I always take is the number of players who go from Rochester to the big leagues. That's an important factor as far as building a relationship with a franchise.

"We had a long history with Rochester - Hall of Famers, the Governors' Cup. It's a long relationship that ended over a five-year period of dislike on Rochester's part for not producing a winning club. I'm not knocking them. That was an executive decision on their part to make a change."

Rochester became the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate before switching to the Nationals in 2021. The Orioles were stuck in Ottawa, baseball purgatory, where the sport received little to no attention and only a handful of fans bothered to sit through the bitter cold and snow in April.

Norfolk made much more sense. The Orioles just had no where else to go back then. Sort of like Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” except without Debra Winger.

(Red Wings and Winger in one item. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.)

The Tides have no complaints about the players funneled onto their roster.

* The Orioles and Pirates will meet again in the World Series. Mark it down.

In case no one noticed, the Pirates were 20-8 yesterday and in first place in the National League Central. They owned the second-best record in baseball.

Finally, a chance for the Orioles to get revenge for 1971 and ’79. Exhibition and regular season games don’t count. Accept no substitutes.

If one of the Pittsburgh wives blows a whistle like Sandra Moreno, we are firm-a-lee against it.

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