The Orioles played their last games on Wednesday, a doubleheader feeling like a kick in the pants on their way out the door.
A gentle nudge would have sufficed, but the sport can be cruel.
Some of my reflections were shared ahead of the finale. Maybe a bit premature, but rules are made to be broken.
I’ve already noted how Matt Harvey never had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk, Gunnar Henderson earned a promotion despite his age, Yusniel Diaz stayed only for a cup of coffee, Rougned Odor lasted into September, we never saw Robert Neustrom, DJ Stewart didn’t make it back to the Orioles after three games to begin the season, Jorge Mateo was exclusively a shortstop, Bryan Baker stuck for the entire season, and Nick Vespi will never give up another Triple-A run.
That last one might come back to bite me, but man, he was good.
Here are two more on this glorious Sunday morning:
Joey Krehbiel came so close to going wire-to-wire, and then … poof.
Krehbiel was a clubhouse character, easily one of the most popular guys on the team who also became an important contributor to a surprisingly good bullpen.
His 56 appearances ranked fifth on the club, and his 57 2/3 innings were tied with Cionel Pérez for fifth. His ERA was 0.90 after May 1, and he held opponents scoreless in 12 of 13 appearances from July 3-Aug. 8.
His September began with four scoreless outings in a row.
His removal from the roster on the 28th was a bit surprising.
The Orioles needed fresh arms in Boston. Krehbiel was charged with seven runs in his last four appearances, and nine in his last six. He placed the blame squarely on himself when we talked at his locker.
“It wasn’t hard for me at all because it was my fault,” he said. “It has something to do with the way I’m pitching. If I’m underperforming and pitching a lot, and not that useful the next game, then that decision in my head is easy. I respect it and I’m not mad at anyone but myself.”
I just got comfortable with the notion that Krehbiel would go the distance, as Bryan Baker did. And then, after his demotion, that he’d make it back as an injury replacement.
Closer Félix Bautista went on the injured list retroactive to Oct. 1 and the Orioles recalled Yennier Canó, giving him Krehbiel’s locker at Camden Yards. Left-hander Vespi was chosen as the 29th player for the doubleheader.
Krehbiel might have been gassed. That’s just a guess. But he certainly was gone.
Terrin Vavra could wear many hats.
One at a time, of course.
Vavra was the second baseman for Game 1 of the doubleheader and the left fielder for Game 2. That pretty much sums up his major league experience.
Veteran Rougned Odor kept getting starts at second, after it appeared that his playing time would be sacrificed so that the Orioles could play the youngsters. Vavra went six days without playing after being in the lineup for an Aug. 25 game against the White Sox, but the gaps shortened the rest of the way.
Manager Brandon Hyde gave Vavra 11 starts at second base, nine in left and one in right. He was the designated hitter for six games.
"I think he's come up here and shown the ability to take a major league at-bat and the ability to manage the strike zone," Hyde said after Vavra hit his first major league homer, a three-run shot in Game 1 that gave the Orioles a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays.
“I like how short his swing is, I like that he uses the whole field. He's got some versatility. He's done a really good job in kind of a non-everyday role of being able to give a major league at-bat."
The word “versatility” is key here. Vavra might be blocked at second base if the Orioles don’t thin out the infield prospect herd, and they have plenty of outfielders, with Kyle Stowers debuting this summer and Colton Cowser prepared to make his major league debut in 2023.
Vavra was a shortstop in college and the low minors. He could be a super-utility player for the Orioles next season if they don’t have a full-time job for him. And he’d gladly take it.
Whatever he can do to contribute and stay with the club.