This, that and the other

Catcher David Bañuelos sat at his locker yesterday like pretty much every other day this season. In the clubhouse but not on the active roster. With the Orioles but only sort of.

Bañuelos is becoming a taxi squad lifer.

The former fifth-round draft pick of the Mariners has appeared in only five games with Triple-A Norfolk, which is carrying catchers Maverick Handley, Blake Hunt and Connor Pavolony. Handley is on the seven-day injured list, which led to Pavolony’s bump from Double-A Bowie.

Hunt was acquired from the Mariners on May 22 for reliever Mike Baumann and catcher Michael Pérez, who spent a brief period on the taxi squad.

Bañuelos hasn’t played for Norfolk since May 16 after appearing in both ends of a doubleheader the previous day. His other games go back to March 30 and April 3.

Being close comes in handy. The Orioles selected his contract twice and removed him from the active roster the next day – on April 16 after Tyler Wells went on the injured list and April 22 after Austin Hays went on the injured list. Bañuelos was designated for assignment the first time and optioned the second before another DFA came three days later.

Waivers were cleared and Bañuelos was outrighted to Norfolk. He just didn’t catch for them.

The arrangement on the taxi squad also enabled Bañuelos to make his major league debut on April 27 at age 27. He pinch-hit for Colton Cowser with two outs in the eighth inning with the Orioles leading 11-2 and flied to right field. He caught the top of the ninth.

“Honestly, it’s a tough situation but you just find ways to look past that,” he said yesterday. “Grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had. Been activated twice, had a debut. But yeah, I’d love to be playing, but as of right now I’m on taxi, so if they need me here, they need me here. But it’s kind of the roll I’m playing right now.

“Kind of had an idea of that before I signed here. They said I’d probably be a taxi guy this year, but it’s been good.”

Be flattered that they want you nearby.

“Yeah, yeah you for sure look at it that it’s a compliment that they can trust you,” he said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve learned a lot, so there’s a lot of lessons.”

* Craig Kimbrel was on the mound June 5 for the Blue Jays’ walk-off win in Toronto, but the run was unearned because the veteran closer committed a throwing error on an attempted pickoff at first base.

Cavan Biggio, later designated for assignment and traded yesterday to the Dodgers, advanced to second and scored on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s single. Runs should be earned if the pitcher is charged with the error, but baseball hasn’t bought into that idea.

Maybe one of these days.

Kimbrel hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 12 appearances to lower his ERA to 2.59 and WHIP to 0.95. The only two hits came in the Blue Jays loss, and the only walk Tuesday night. He’s struck out 13 batters.

This is a long-winded way of passing along, per Stats, that Kimbrel had gotten batters to chase 30.6 percent of his pitches during his streak before last night after posting an 18.3 percent chase rate in his first 16 games.

* Ryan O’Hearn is collecting clutch hits when behind in the count. Two strikes often give him the advantage, as we saw again Monday against the Rays with his eight-pitch two-run double on a 2-2 count and his nine-pitch RBI single on a 1-2 count.

"It's a big thing I worked on this offseason and kind of carried it into this year," he said. "It hasn't worked out every time, but when it works out like that, I definitely take pride in that and feel good about my at-bat."

“Going into the season he had a really clear goal of controlling the count and 3-2 counts," said co-hitting coach Ryan Fuller. "He’s done an unbelievable job in not just 3-2 counts but really any two-strike count. He just, regardless of the count, you have to put the pitch in the zone and if you do, I’m going to take a really good swing at it. He’s just a really tough at-bat the whole way through.”

This is a long-winded way of pointing out that Jorge Mateo is impressing in opposite fashion. He began last night hitting .353 when ahead in the count, and 20.9 percent of the pitches he saw came while ahead.

Deviating from the norm last night, Mateo singled in the third inning with the count 1-1.

* Sticking with STATS, did you know that Anthony Santander has two multi-homer games against the Braves in his career?

And did you know that there’s only one other player in franchise history to do it.

Name him. Answer below.

* Reliever Bryan Baker spent most of the 2023 season in the Orioles’ bullpen. He was optioned on Aug. 2 to make room for Jack Flaherty but returned for the Division Series.

Being up close to a 101-win team makes this year’s success much easier to predict.

Baker saw it coming all the way from Norfolk.

“I’m not surprised at all, just with the immense talent in the room” he said. “After having the kind of year we had last year, just being able to build off it. Obviously off to a really solid start this year and just happy to be back up here and hopefully contribute.”

The other relievers got him up to speed on the bullpen homer hose. Drink from it if the batter you picked hits a home run.

“Yeah, it was a great introduction to that yesterday because Cionel (Pérez) of course called (Jorge) Mateo’s homer and so he had to drink from it,” Baker said. “It was good getting the experience on Day One and hopefully I’ll be doing some chugging here in the future.”

Baker was prepared to do his homework yesterday, studying matchups but unable to watch batting practice because it was optional.

Is there really a bad choice?

Reminded that the Orioles lead the majors in homers, Baker said, “It’s a very good point. I was going to say that, as well. You can probably blindly select one through nine and you have a shot at chugging some water. So it’ll be fun.”

Answer: Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

So, Ripken owned the Braves before having a stake in the Orioles.

This seems like a good place to stop.

Game 68 lineups: Nats at Tigers
Nats top Tigers for first five-game winning streak...

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