Because You Asked - “Dark Territory”

A really bad start to a season can fill up a mailbag faster than a prolonged winning streak. Discontent provides lots of content.

I’m bombarded with the same inquiries about job security. Not mine, though I’m sure it’s also going to come up.

I’m just hoping it’s not from one of my bosses.

You ask, I answer, you ask again, I try to answer again without being a jerk. It’s a 50-50 proposition.

Love a good sequel? Tolerate a bad one? You decide what’s in front of you this morning.

Any chance that the Orioles fire a coach, if only to make a statement?
Certainly not in April and it would really go against the organizational grain to do it at any point this summer. But never say never. Mark Wiley was fired as pitching coach on June 26, 2004 and replaced by Ray Miller under first-year manager Lee Mazzilli. Pitching coach Rick Adair took a leave of absence in August 2013, two years after Mark Connor resigned due to health reasons. That’s off the top of my head, and the last two changes don’t count. Anyway, it wouldn’t seem to be a consideration this early and the staff has manager Buck Showalter’s full support and his opinion carries tremendous weight.

Why not fire the hitting coach just to make a statement?
Probably for that reason. A statement isn’t going to make slumping hitters with track records suddenly bat .450. Change does happen at times for the sake of change. But seriously, does anyone think it’s Scott Coolbaugh’s philosophy on hitting that lowers the team average and elevates the strikeout total? I’m not saying he’s untouchable, but firing him would simply make him a scapegoat. Now, if that’s your thing ... The team tied its season high last night with 16 hits. Does he get an extension?

zach-britton-black-side.pngWhy does Buck Showalter get a free pass?
Not sure what that means, though I’m asked about it constantly. His decisions are dissected and discussed and questioned where warranted. Explanations aren’t excuses. They’re ... explanations. Agree or disagree. I would have used closer Zach Britton in the 2016 wild card game and said so in the blog and on the air. I also know that players haven’t quit on him, including the ones that he’s chafed in the past for whatever reason, and his ability to “shake things up” in the lineup and rotation are limited. Short bench, most regulars underperforming or hurt, couple key starters laboring, some key relievers not as dependable. The defensive breakdowns are the responsibility of the guys wearing the gloves. I get the “fresh voice” argument, but you won’t convince me that Casey Stengel would have this team 20 games over .500. First, because he’s dead.

Why does Buck get an E-ZPass?
For trips across the bridge.

Why doesn’t someone ask Dan Duquette ...
I’ll stop reading right there. Duquette is asked about the roster, why he did or didn’t make a certain move or keep a player, the lack of international spending, the trade talks. On and off the record. On and off camera. No one is tip-toeing around him. Or Showalter, for that matter. Or the coaches or players. It’s an ignorant criticism from some people who are never here.

What do you really think?
Shut up.

Why don’t they just get rid of Chris Davis?
As in, cut a guy with more than four seasons left on his $161 million deal? Trade him to a team lining up to take on the player and his contract, which would be no one? The Orioles are tied to Davis and counting on him to figure it out at the plate while still delivering solid defense at first base.

Manny Machado needs to go back to third base.
That’s not a question.

Why not put Machado back at third base?
I still don’t think it happens, but the topic becomes more intriguing with Tim Beckham out six-to-seven weeks. But I don’t see a Gold Glove shortstop on the roster who can be inserted at the position after Machado vacates it. Would Machado be more open to the switch if, say, J.J. Hardy suddenly reappeared? Quite intriguing. But the Orioles seem committed to the Machado-to-shortstop plan and he certainly wants to stay. He’s off to a tremendous start at the plate and there’s no shortage of observers who tie it to his joy at playing short. (The contract year also comes up.)

Any chance the Orioles bring back J.J. Hardy?
Nice try. Hardy seems quite content at home with his family. Another baby on the way. No one around here thinks he’s reconsidering. But trust me, I floated the idea.

Is this the worst team you’ve covered?
I survived the 4-32 finish. I saw lineups posted during those 14 straight losing seasons that made players ask, “Are we even trying?” I covered the “Come See the Kids” campaign. I kept waiting for a Blindfold Day promotion. There are flaws here, for sure. Injuries are only part of it. And there’s no immediate help on the horizon. But the worst? Not at all.

How can the Orioles keep running Chris Tillman out there?
If not him, then who?

How can the Orioles keep running Alex Cobb out there?
If not him, then who?

How long is Tillman’s leash? How many more starts?
Basically the same question. There’s no set total. Tillman made some progress in his most recent outing and the Orioles didn’t sign him for $3 million guaranteed to send him packing in April.

How long is Cobb’s leash? How many more starts?
Cobb is signed for four years at $57 million. That leash can wrap around Wyoming. Twice.

Do the Orioles have any regrets about rushing Cobb to the majors?
Did they really “rush” him? I seem to recall Lance Lynn pitching three innings against the Orioles in Fort Myers before the ink dried on his contract. Cobb threw in the bullpen, in simulated games and at extended spring training. He worked up from three to four to five to six innings and gradually got his pitch count above 90. To be more deliberate would have required Cobb to go seven innings and 100 pitches down in Sarasota. If you want to second-guess, it would be the decision to withhold Cobb from a rehab assignment with an affiliate because he couldn’t use a major league ball. I understand the concerns about the strain placed on the elbow, but he really made a significant jump from extended to Fenway Park. He’s still playing catch-up, and I know some fans are tired of hearing it. Still a fact, folks. There wasn’t a blueprint on how to handle a guy who signed on March 21. Let that be a lesson, kids. It won’t be easy to get ready.

Is it time to sell now?
Probably still too early, even with a 6-19 record. You don’t blow it up 25 games into the season, no matter how discouraging the start. But Duquette didn’t put a block on his phone. If teams start offering up top prospects, there could be movement. They didn’t do it for Machado at the Winter Meetings or in spring training. It probably won’t happen in April and May. But let’s see what’s out there as we get closer to the non-waiver deadline. It doesn’t have to be exactly on July 31. But selling off parts with a willingness to take anything in return is pointless. No offense to Juan Figueroa, Jason Lakman, Miguel Felix, Brook Fordyce, Mark Nussbeck, Chris Richard, Pat Gorman, Mike Kinkade, an injured Luis Rivera, Trinidad Hubbard, Fernando Lunar, Jose Leon and an older-than-advertised Leslie Brea, but that’s not how you rebuild. There has to be real value or you’re just cutting payroll.

Why isn’t Austin Hays playing right field every day?
He’s batting .247 at Double-A Bowie and his average was .218 a week ago. He’s 6-for-18 in his last four games. Let him get on a serious roll and maybe move up to Triple-A Norfolk for the first time or return to the majors. But not now. I don’t see how it benefits Hays or the Orioles. And a left-handed hitting outfielder would be more useful with Colby Rasmus on the disabled list and switch-hitting Anthony Santander struggling before his three-hit game last night.

Isn’t it time to bring up the prospects and let them play?
Give me a list of prospects who are beating down the door right now, and how you’d realistically make room for them. (That means not “getting rid” of Davis, for example.) Check out Norfolk’s roster. Now check the stats. Cedric Mullins could make the leap from Bowie. His speed and defense intrigue and batting him first would allow Showalter to lower Mancini. But again, it’s only April.

How can the Orioles claim Jace Peterson? Have you seen his numbers?
Yes. The number of positions he can play and be trusted. And his ranking as a plus-runner. You don’t judge utility players by their slash lines. The Orioles really miss Ryan Flaherty and it isn’t because they thought he’d lead the league in hitting.

What’s your favorite new concession item at Camden Yards?
I never visit the concession stands, but check out “O’s Xtra” for an upcoming segment with Steve Melewski and myself offering our opinions on a couple of items. I already checked and they don’t sell protein shakes and avocado toast, so I’m venturing outside of my comfort zone.

Why is Darren O’Day pitching in the ninth?
He’s rested, he’s been good and you can’t keep running out the same guys every day.

Why is Brad Brach pitching in the ninth?
He’s rested, he’s been good and you can’t keep running out the same guys every day.

Which position should the Orioles address in the first round of the draft?
Shutdown corner. The defense needs it.

Which position in the baseball draft?
They need an infielder. Shortstop or third base would make the most sense. And I’m saying it should be a priority over pitching, which I know sounds sacrilegious. The current injury situation magnifies the need. The Orioles passed last year on North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth, taken by the Blue Jays with the 22nd overall pick. They took high school left-hander DL Hall at No. 21 and he’s looked pretty good so far at Single-A Delmarva with one earned run allowed in eight innings. He’s also walked six batters. I’m not ripping the decision. But a player in the Warmoth mold, in my opinion, should be targeted. By the way, Warmoth batted .302/.350/.418 last summer in a combined 45 games at the rookie league and short-season Single-A levels. Scouts thought he was ready defensively coming out of college. Anyway, the Orioles need an infielder who can be developed at multiple positions depending on their need. Shortstop would appear to be one of them.

Whatever happened to Steve Wilkerson?
Nice transition from the above question. Wilkerson is serving his 50-game suspension after testing positive for an amphetamine. The news broke in December. I’ve heard the full story. It had no impact on his 2017 season, including his games in the Arizona Fall League. The eighth-round pick out of Clemson would have competed for the utility job in spring training. He’s working out and the Orioles think he can help them at some point.

When will the Orioles put Hunter Harvey in the rotation?
He’s gone two and 2 1/3 innings in two starts with Bowie. Not anytime soon.

When will the Orioles fire ... somebody?
One of the parking lot attendants rolled his eyes at me once. Maybe him.

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