The Orioles probably welcomed another reset yesterday before beginning a three-game series in Milwaukee, though they won two of three games in San Francisco. Step back, take a breath, assess your own situation, maybe look around the majors and remember how good you have it and that everyone is dealing with something.
Every team in the American League East is .500 or better, with the Red Sox dropping their third in a row yesterday to leave their record at 30-30. Only the first-place Twins are above .500 in the AL Central. The defending World Series champion Astros are in second place in the AL West. The wild card Mariners began yesterday in fourth.
The Mets spent a lot of money in the offseason and are in third place in the NL East, ahead of the pennant-winning Phillies. The rebuilding Nationals are last, but only nine games below .500.
I’ve seen worse.
What are the Cardinals doing in last place in the NL Central? Is it stranger than the Pirates moving into first last night?
I’d call it a draw.
The Dodgers are tied for first place in the NL West with … (checks notes) … the Diamondbacks. The Padres with their payroll around $250 million are in fourth.
Moving outside their division, where the Orioles trail the Rays by 4 ½ games, doesn’t allow them to relax. The Brewers were a first-place club until last night, though the only one among the leaders with a negative run differential.
Their 241 runs scored before last night's shutout loss to the Reds ranked 25th, while the Orioles were tied for seventh with 292. Milwaukee’s .230 average was 26th and .686 OPS 24th.
The Orioles are 37-22 overall and 20-10 on the road, tied with the Braves for most wins in the majors away from home. They’ve claimed eight of the last 10 road series.
The home portion of the 2022 schedule began with the Orioles losing two of three to the Brewers, leaving them 1-5 to start the season. These teams haven’t met in Milwaukee since 2017, when the Orioles were swept in a three-game series.
Left-hander Danny Coulombe is expected to rejoin the Orioles after going on the bereavement list Saturday, hopping back into a bullpen that allowed two runs in 10 2/3 innings in San Francisco and lowered its ERA to 3.41, ranking fifth in the majors yesterday. Josh Lester could be optioned after collecting his first major league hit and RBIs Sunday afternoon.
That’s the easy stuff.
The Orioles are adapting to their new normal of posting lineups that don’t include center fielder Cedric Mullins, and it’s going to be this way for a while. Third baseman Gunnar Henderson is day-to-day with lower-back soreness. Doesn’t sound serious, but it’s another issue that is an inconvenience and annoyance.
The latest off-day came at the right time for him.
Infielder Ramón Urías is 2-for-21 since coming off the injured list. Jorge Mateo is 3-for-9 this month but hit .128/.165/.151 with 26 strikeouts in 26 games in May.
Jordan Westburg is batting .308/.387/.601 with 14 doubles, 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 51 games with Triple-A Norfolk. Every slump from an Orioles infielder has fans wondering how much longer before Westburg finally gets the call.
Colton Cowser has four hits in two games with Norfolk, including a double and home run, since being reinstated from the injured list. He’s slashing .347/.484/.590 with nine doubles, a triple, eight home runs, 31 RBIs, 37 walks and 41 strikeouts in 39 games.
This was an advanced bat coming out of college in 2021, and the walk-to-strikeout ratio is much improved. Mullins’ absence creates more opportunities for Cowser, and he can rotate to the corners and the designated hitter spot. He wouldn’t have to sit on the bench.
How much longer?
Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks is 5-for-11 with a triple and three walks since the Orioles signed him. Fans are slow to embrace him, and that’s putting it kindly, but he’s been a good addition to the roster.
* Outfielder Heston Kjerstad was the big-name promotion yesterday, going from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk after batting .310/.384/.576 with 10 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 23 RBIs in 46 games. He gives the Tides six players ranked on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list.
However, Norfolk also received pitcher Easton Lucas, 26, who posted a 1.59 ERA and 0.77 WHIP with four walks and 24 strikeouts in 11 relief appearances covering 17 innings. The left-hander held opponents to a .155 average and had an 8 2/3 scoreless innings streak before leaving the Baysox.
Lucas was acquired from the Marlins on Dec. 2, 2019 for infielder Jonathan Villar, a move designed to relieve the rebuilding Orioles of salary at the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. Lucas wasn’t a ranked prospect, and he registered a 4.76 ERA in 32 games with Bowie in 2022.
Now, he’s one level away from the majors, and fans aren’t as upset about Villar being gone.
* High-A Aberdeen shortstop Jackson Holliday, the first-overall pick in last year’s draft, was named the South Atlantic League Player of the Month for May. He batted .384/.509/.628 with 33 hits, six doubles, three triples, three home runs, 19 RBIs, 21 walks, eight stolen bases and 26 runs scored.
Holliday is crushing A ball, batting a combined .351/.479/.595 with 13 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 37 RBIs, 40 walks and 43 strikeouts in 46 games.
A promotion to Bowie later this summer seems inevitable.
IronBirds teammate Alex Pham was named SAL Pitcher of the Month after going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in five starts, four of them scoreless.
Pham allowed just one hit in three starts and two in another outing, and opponents had two extra-base hits in his 23 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck out a career-high 11 batters on May 12 against Hudson Valley.
His .128 average against last month was the lowest in the league among pitchers to complete at least 17 innings.
The Orioles drafted Pham in the 19th round in 2021 out of the University of San Francisco.
* The Florida Complex League Orioles played their first game yesterday and lost to the FCL Red Sox 7-2 in Sarasota.
Zack Showalter, an 11th-round pick in last year’s draft out of Wesley Chapel (Fla.) High School, made his professional debut and tossed three scoreless innings with two hits, no walks and six strikeouts.
Infielder Greg Cullen is on an injury rehab assignment.
* Voting continues for the 2023 All-Star Game in Seattle, with Phase One running until June 22.
The only question for me about the ballot was whether Urías would make it after winning a Rawlings Gold Glove last season. He’s at third base.
Henderson is listed among the designated hitters.
The rest is predictable. Adley Rutschman at catcher, Ryan Mountcastle at first base, Adam Frazier at second base, Mateo at shortstop, and Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander in the outfield.
Every team must be represented and that won’t be a problem for the Orioles. Rutschman seems like a lock, whether to start or go as a reserve. Closer Félix Bautista has a good chance at being selected if he stays on his current path. That’s at least two.
The ballot and more details about voting can be found here.