It’s unwise to read too much into one appearance in spring training, and that includes how Araujo was burned by Williams Astrudillo’s two-run shot in the ninth inning in a 12-4 loss to the Twins, but it probably brought a certain measure of comfort to the Orioles when the right-hander retired the side in order yesterday in Norfolk.
We’re not talking about Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sánchez in the Bronx, but a team with three Rule 5 selections on its roster is in constant evaluation mode, always checking pulses and deciding whether the setup can sustain itself. The Orioles aren’t in rebuilding mode. They intend to contend.
This is a unique way of going about it.
* If you’re wondering whatever happened to José Mesa Jr., there hasn’t been a resolution. And you say you want a resolution.
Mesa was designated for assignment on Wednesday to create room for Alex Cobb on the 40-man roster. The Orioles are exploring trade possibilities instead of just passing him through waivers and offering him back to the Yankees, who’d likely jump at the chance to reverse the Rule 5 claim.
With an unexpected dip in his fastball velocity, Mesa appeared in five games and allowed five runs and 10 hits in 7 2/3 innings. He walked seven batters and surrendered two home runs while registering a 2.22 WHIP.
* Manager Buck Showalter kept trying to avoid the phrase “ahead of schedule” when talking about Zach Britton. His voice would lower, he’d search for other words, but it was pointless.
Britton is ahead of schedule. By x-number of days. We don’t necessarily need an exact date. The protective boot can be donated to the Achilles surgery museum.
The Orioles’ closer is getting in his steps on the treadmill and readying for fielding drills. He’s eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28 and there are people in the organization who think “early June” is a reasonable goal.
(Lowers voice): If not earlier.
Remember when word leaked of his injury? The immediate reaction was something along the lines of, “Maybe he can return after the break, but he no longer has any trade value heading into free agency.”
If able to avoid a setback, and that’s certainly the expectation, Britton will get into plenty of games before the second half and the Orioles can decide, depending on their placement in the standings, whether to hold onto him or reopen trade talks that were held at the Winter Meetings.
* Darren O’Day could get some save opportunities in Britton’s absence, and he heads north after a strong showing in camp.
O’Day allowed only one run and three hits, walked one batter and struck out 10 in seven appearances covering seven innings. He also did some throwing at minor league camp.
The roll began in August, when O’Day allowed two runs and struck out 16 batters in 14 2/3 innings, and continued into September, when he surrendered one run, walked two batters and struck out 13 over nine innings.
* Mark Trumbo is continuing his recovery from a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps muscle and he’ll need to get on a roll upon his return to the lineup.
The injury is now overshadowing how Trumbo collected only three hits in 23 at-bats and struck out 10 times in eight games. He’s coming off a 2017 season that included a .202/.243/.357 slash line in the second half and a .192/.224/.315 line in September with 25 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances.
Trumbo was intent on making the necessary adjustments this spring - physically and mentally - but they’re on hold. In the meantime, the Orioles must decide how to divvy up his at-bats until his return.
* Hays played for Triple-A Norfolk yesterday in its exhibition game against the Orioles, but he’s still bound for Double-A Bowie to start the season.
Hays isn’t expected to spend his entire summer in the Eastern League. He’s only a phone call away for the Orioles, or he could get more at-bats at Norfolk after skipping the International League last year.
The Orioles envision Hays as an everyday player for them at some point and at some position. There’s lots of time to figure it out. They’ll keep close watch of his splits after he batted .432/.488/.730 against left-handers last summer at Bowie and .289/.317/.540 against right-handers.
Hays hit .390/.422/.701 against lefties at Single-A Frederick and .303/.340/.546 against right-handers. The challenges grow as the level increases, but Hays isn’t viewed as a platoon guy. There’s just more work to be done for a prospect who was drafted only two years ago.
With Cedric Mullins also expected to play for Bowie, I’ll assume that Hays is patrolling right field in most games. But they can move around.
* Right-hander Matthias Dietz didn’t pitch for the Orioles in spring training, but he was invited to Ed Smith Stadium to watch a game and soak up the atmosphere, and word of his sessions at Twin Lakes Park traveled fast.
Dietz’s fastball was clocked at 100 mph at the minor league complex and Showalter referenced him on multiple occasions. Never hurts to be on the manager’s radar.
A second-round pick in 2016 out of John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill., Dietz already tends to get noticed because he stands 6 foot 5. He’s gone 3-13 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in his first 33 professional starts at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and low Single-A Delmarva, but the Orioles love his plus velocity and he’s shown that he can throw his breaking ball for strikes.
Hitting triple digits on the radar gun definitely will create a stir.
The Orioles also invited pitcher Leonardo Rodriguez, 20, to their complex. He registered a 2.49 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 11 starts in the Dominican Summer League and struck out 50 batters in 50 2/3 innings. He also hit eight of them.
Opponents batted .219 against Rodriguez, with right-handers posting a .183 average. He turned in five straight quality starts from June 15-July 10, allowing only four earned runs in 27 innings, and made the league’s midseason All-Star team.
The Orioles sent Rodriguez to the fall instructional league and Showalter got in some quality time in Sarasota.
“We had a couple of the guys over,” Showalter said. “Dietz has hit 100 down there already. And the kid Leonardo Rodriguez, did you all see him? Six foot seven. Those are two big boys. That’s fun.”