Because You Asked - I Want to Believe

As I check out the playoff games that hold my attention for one or two innings, my thumb pressed on the remote at all times with the exception of bathroom breaks, I never lose focus on my responsibilities on the Orioles beat.

The mailbag fills up and it’s my duty to sort through it, count the duplicate questions and wonder what else I could have done to close the topics.

This is another sequel, which also makes me wonder how much longer I can come up with new names.

Can’t top “Electric Boogaloo.” Won’t even attempt it.

Let’s do this.

Who are the Orioles going to take with the second pick in the draft?
It’s easier to guess after knowing which player goes first to the Tigers. And if I was allowed to check the Orioles’ draft board. Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson, Georgia pitcher Emerson Hancock and Vanderbilt third baseman Austin Martin seem to be the top three draft prospects, according to various experts. Meanwhile, I’ve just started to pay attention to it. Was much too soon during the season. I was a guest on a podcast and the interview closed with the host asking, “Hancock or Torkelson,” and I thought he wanted a WrestleMania prediction. Or I lost track of the Democratic candidates. A third baseman makes the most sense for this organization, but they’ll take the best player available.

Is Ryan Mountcastle going to be on the opening day roster?
I’d bet against it, but he’s going to make his major league debut later in the summer if he’s healthy and not hitting .170. The clock won’t start so soon, and he’s still working on his plate discipline and two new positions. But make no mistake, the guy can flat-out hit and the Orioles will figure out where to play him.

Where is Ryan Mountcastle going to play?
The Orioles will figure out where to play him. He could get at-bats as the designated hitter. They don’t have a shortage of first basemen and corner outfielders. He drew praise for his work in left field. That ultimately could be his spot.

Will Chris Davis be on the opening day roster?
I’d bet on it. He’s definitely going to be in spring training, according to executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

Are you rooting for a particular team in the playoffs?
I tend to gravitate toward the small-market underdog teams. The Rays come to mind. I also tend to root against teams that cry poor when they really aren’t. We can check the payroll figures. We can remember offers made to pending free agents. Stuff like that.

Any predictions on coaching hires?
Not yet. Interviews are supposed to be taking place beginning this week. I’m not 100 percent certain that the five returning coaches are staying in their current roles, which complicates any predictions. I do know that former Phillies hitting coach John Mallee has his share of supporters in the organization and the ties I wrote about over the weekend make him a potential fit.

With Arnie Beyeler gone, any chance the Orioles bring back Wayne Kirby?
The Braves hired him as minor league outfield coordinator. But he wasn’t coming back anyway.

What do you think of this (insert opening day lineup prediction)?
Impossible to offer an exact starting nine without knowing the exact construction of the roster. I can make assumptions, like putting Anthony Santander in left field, Austin Hays in center and Trey Mancini in right. I can stick Chris Davis at first base, knowing that he also might be on the bench. I can make Jonathan Villar the shortstop, assuming that Richie Martin is assigned to Triple-A Norfolk and also knowing that Villar is a trade chip. Hanser Alberto at second base? Maybe. Unless he’s at third base. Renato Núñez is the favorite to get most of the at-bats at designated hitter. Chance Sisco and Pedro Severino could be the catching tandem again. Adley Rutschman won’t be in Baltimore. That’s one of the few certainties.

When will Adley Rutschman be in Baltimore?
Not before 2021 unless he stops by for a visit.

Mullins-Dugout-Sidebar.jpgIs Cedric Mullins still in the team’s plans?
Yes. I’m not expecting him to come off the 40-man roster, though I’ve been wrong before. He finished strong at Double-A Bowie and still has some intriguing tools. Do the Orioles view him as an everyday outfielder? Maybe not. Hays certainly has passed him as the center fielder. But he could be a useful bench player. An actual outfielder playing the outfield. Imagine that. The Orioles need to play him at all three spots in spring training.

Is Hunter Harvey the closer next season?
Do the Orioles really need one? I don’t think they’d view Harvey only as a ninth-inning specialist. More like their high-leverage guy. Similar to what they wanted to do with Mychal Givens. Need three big outs in the seventh? That could be Harvey’s territory. In the eighth? Bring in Harvey. And yes, he should get some save opportunities, as well.

Will Mychal Givens be back next season?
If the Orioles can’t find a trade partner. They’re going to check his market because he’s set to receive another raise after making $2.15 million. And his struggles in the ninth inning and while working more than one inning impacted his value to the club. But he also had some dominant stretches. You don’t just give him away.

What’s your favorite opening day memory?
As a beat writer, probably the March 31, 2003 opener against the Indians. It snowed, which was weird. Gary Matthews had a walk-off single in the 13th inning, but how many people remember it? The lasting image is right fielder Jay Gibbons losing Ellis Burks’ fly ball in blizzard-like conditions, umpire Chuck Meriwether hesitating before calling it fair because he couldn’t see it, and manager Mike Hargrove arguing that the game should have been stopped. Second baseman Jerry Hairston had to retrieve the ball. It was a crazy scene. As a fan instead of a reporter, I’d say Sam Horn homering twice and driving in six runs against the Royals in the 1990 opener. Or the 1989 “Why Not?” team beating the Red Sox, who started Roger Clemens.

Do you vote for awards?
Yes, as a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It changes each year. I submitted my picks this season for the American League Cy Young Award. Had to come up with a top five. I can’t reveal my ballot until the winner is announced, but it’s fair to speculate that the choice came down to a couple of Astros pitchers. It’s just a question of whether the voter is willing to be scolded by Kate Upton on Twitter.

Do you have a vote for the Orioles Hall of Fame?
Yes, but I have no control over the finalists who appear on the ballot. I disagreed with the selection of Roberto Alomar because he played only three seasons in Baltimore and his performance dropped - by his lofty standards - in the third year. He wanted out. It was evident. Jeff Conine is Mr. Marlin and I refuse to vote for him, though I certainly enjoyed covering him. One of my favorites. The dry sense of humor was pure joy. Like the time that I approached his locker with my bleached hair - it was in style at the time - and, without saying a word, he offered his opinion by slipping on his sunglasses for the interview.

How would you grade Brandon Hyde’s first season as manager?
It should be incomplete because there’s no way to accurately judge his ability as a manager based on one year of a rebuild. But if we’re talking specifically about his first season, without assigning an actual grade, I’ll say that he did a nice job. The team played hard for him from the first to last game. He sat down players or lowered them in the lineup if they struggled. He had the players’ backs but also pointed out - at times with great passion - the deficiencies that kept dragging down the team and needed to be corrected. There’s no way to critique his bullpen management when his options each night were less than ideal, to put it mildly. How many pitchers who made starts this season would do so on a contender? Or a .500 team? Give him better pitchers and I bet he becomes a better manager.

Is Brandon Hyde a candidate for the Cubs job?
I don’t think the Orioles hired him with the idea of letting him walk after one year on the job. He’s an important part of the process here. But I do wonder if, in a quiet moment at home, he’s thinking what might have happened if he had stuck around Chicago for one more year. That’s a sweet gig and he loved his time with the Cubs. But he isn’t going anywhere.

Any ideas for promotions next season?
I’d like to move up to bench coach if the Orioles decide to have one.

Any promotional ideas? Like giveaways or T-shirt slogans?
Oh. For the first one, anything that brings fans back to the ballpark in order to complete a set. Like, let’s say, celebrating the four 20-game winners in 1971 by offering four pint glasses or bobbleheads on different nights. That sort of thing. Want the complete set? Gotta come to four games. Or 2,131 if you want to celebrate Cal Ripken Jr. and you’re really concerned about attendance. I’m still working on the T-shirt idea. The Orioles hired Matt Blood as director of player development. Maybe hand out “If You Want Blood You’ve Got It” jerseys. AC/DC fans would approve. Granted, they won’t have wide-ranging appeal.

Neither do you.
That isn’t a question.

Are the Orioles moving out of Baltimore?
Is this still a topic? They were never moving to Las Vegas, Nashville, Montreal, Tokyo or anywhere else. And now we’re stacking non-stories on top of the non-story with all of the denials. They...are...not...leaving.

Are...you...sure?
Well, no one has ruled out putting a second team in St. Petersburg.

Was Brady Anderson fired or did he resign?
As it was explained to me, Anderson decided to “step aside.” He no longer had a title in the organization. He served more as a consultant, which I explained over the summer, and his duties centered on strength and conditioning and nutrition. The Orioles are making new hires and restructuring the department. That’s it for my inside information. No one is commenting.

Will the Orioles trade Trey Mancini?
They will listen to offers because why not? It would be irresponsible to tune out executives with an interest in Mancini, the club’s most appealing trade chip. But I don’t expect him to be dealt. I also don’t expect him to receive a contract extension over the winter. Because that isn’t part of a rebuild blueprint.

Is having position players pitch becoming a trend in baseball?
More like a necessity. Managers don’t celebrate it. Hyde dreaded it. He’d like to go 162 games next season without doing it. Another reason why the Orioles must address their pitching in the offseason. One or two veteran bullpen guys who don’t cost much and can be trusted to cover middle or late innings. Hyde didn’t know who he could trust this season.

What do you think of (insert rotation prediction here)?
I still need to know who’s on the roster. It’s probably safe to insert John Means, Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb, the latter recovering from hip and knee surgeries. Otherwise, it’s wide open. There could be at least two pitchers added from outside the organization. Whether on one-year major league deals, on minor league deals with spring training invites or via trades. I’d pencil in Asher Wojciechowski if forced today to come up with five starters.

What about Aaron Brooks?
I like him as a potential long man out of the bullpen. A bulk guy behind the opener if the Orioles use one.

Will the Orioles use an opener?
We really need to wait until spring training and we check out the starter options in camp. There’s no way that Mike Elias or Brandon Hyde can answer that question in October. If they do, it has to be a true opener with a bulk guy behind him. Not a bullpen game with five or six relievers used. Two different animals.

Why don’t you go to Toronto?
Funny how many people think I’m banned from entering Canada. I’ll do it for the postseason, of course. I have witnesses who spotted me there for the 2016 wild card game. I warmed up next to Zack Britton and was the next option to pitch after Ubaldo Jiménez. I’m told that it’s much easier now to get through customs, but past hassles have made it an undesirable trip for me. It could have taken five minutes or five hours. I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. Maybe next season. Probably not.

Why don’t you go to ... ?
Easy there.

Kansas City.
Oh. I’ve been there multiple times, including the 2014 playoffs. I divvy up the trips with Steve Melewski, and he loves Toronto and Kansas City, so it works out nicely. I’ve also got my favorites.

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