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Approaching a new year with random thoughts on Orioles

We’re down to our final day in 2019 and as we await the countdown to the ball dropping in Times Square, I’ll post an early resolution to avoid dusting off the old “Orioles infield” joke that should have joined Wilson Betemit in retirement. In the meantime, here are a few random thoughts: * The media rush to post sports highlights and lowlights for the decade

Updating the Orioles’ rotation competition

The rumblings yesterday morning that the Orioles made a roster move were followed by an announcement that they signed pitcher Kohl Stewart to a major league contract and immediate thoughts about him competing for a rotation spot. Anybody with starting experience, at whichever level, is going to be thrust into the mix. Do the Orioles have their desired eight candidates heading into spring training, a

Orioles sign Kohl Stewart

The Orioles have signed a major league free agent as part of their winter activity. The club announced today that it agreed to terms with right-hander Kohl Stewart. Pitcher Marcos Diplán was designated for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster. The Twins outrighted Stewart on Nov. 4 and he elected free agency. Taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player

Leftovers for breakfast

Is anyone else tired of all the leftovers in the fridge? Of checking to make certain that nothing is growing on them before popping them in the microwave? Of wondering who brought the spinach dip before realizing that, brother, that ain’t spinach? Well, it’s only food that comes with an expiration date. Not the Orioles-related notes and quotes that didn’t make it into previous holiday

Holt on his new responsibilities as director of pitching

A byproduct of having a new regime running the show and dictating the steps and pace of a rebuild is the creation of new jobs and titles in the organization. I reported back on Oct. 11 that the Orioles were promoting Chris Holt from the position of minor league pitching coordinator to director of pitching. The exact details of the job hadn’t been laid out

Holt on Hess: “There’s no lack of desire on his end to improve”

As David Hess tumbled out of the Orioles rotation and off the 25-man roster, unable to stay in the zone that carried him through 6 1/3 hitless innings in Toronto on the first night of April, he believed that he had more in the tank. He used the phrase during our phone conversation last weekend. He mentioned how pitching coach Doug Brocail and director of

Holt on Bailey: “There’s a lot to like”

As Brandon Bailey gets settled in the spring training clubhouse and begins the bonding process by meeting his new Orioles teammates, he’ll be able to find a familiar face and voice to offer comfort and the type of instruction that could lead to a spot in the 2020 rotation. The Rule 5 pick knows and respects Chris Holt, the former Astros minor league pitching coordinator

Orioles gifts that keep giving

The holidays are a time for giving, which is complicated since someone has to be on the receiving end to make it work. (It’s a thinker) I’d like to give Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias an unlimited budget to supplement a rebuild process. Funnel cash into the international scouting and analytics departments, but also push some of it toward the best starting pitchers

Hess hopes copying Means’ offseason leads to similar results

David Hess isn’t certain if he’ll follow John Means in the Orioles rotation. However, he’s decided to follow in the left-hander’s offseason footsteps. Means turned from fringe pitching prospect to staff ace and runner-up in American League Rookie of the Year voting after a winter spent at P3 (Premier Pitching & Performance) in St. Louis - a center that offers personalized baseball training to athletes

Orioles announce 2020 coaching staff

The 2020 Orioles coaching staff is now official. The hiring of Anthony Sanders as first base coach, Fredi González as major league coach and Darren Holmes as bullpen coach have been announced after various reports surfaced over the past four weeks. Sanders replaces Arnie Beyeler and González replaces José Hernández, who shifts to assistant hitting coach, the role previously held by Howie Clark. Holmes replaces

Ruiz on his up-and-down season

The holiday season is presenting a new set of challenges for Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz, who can’t seem to avoid them. Some are a grind, others pure joy. Trying to make the club out of spring training, trying to stay in the lineup, trying to get back to the majors after a surprise demotion, life as a first-time father. Which brings him to the

Trying to set the roster in December

Knowing that the Orioles have more work to do on their roster is on par with being able to recite your zip code. You won’t gain the respect of your peers or earn bragging rights among friends. The rotation and middle infield are in a construction zone. The bullpen and bench aren’t set. A new rule allowing teams to carry 26 players also increases the

Bailey on Rule 5 selection: “It was pretty surreal”

Pitcher Brandon Bailey was in the middle of a workout at Driveline Baseball, a data-driven performance center in Kent, Wash., when one of his personal trainers approached him with news that the Orioles hadn’t been able to deliver. It tends to travel fast and can come via anyone with access to the internet. The Orioles had selected Bailey in the Rule 5 draft at the

Does Smith retain same status with Orioles?

How does a player who appeared in 101 games pull a disappearing act while staying on the roster? That’s how it feels with Dwight Smith Jr. He’s on the 40-man roster, but tends to be excluded from the outfield conversation or led late into it. Manager Brandon Hyde couldn’t be pinned down on a set outfield as he handled his media obligations at the Winter

Orioles hire Darren Holmes as bullpen coach

The Orioles have completed their major league coaching staff for the 2020 season. According to an industry source, the Orioles have hired former pitcher Darren Holmes as bullpen coach. The team hasn’t made an announcement, but the deal is done. Holmes, 53, had served as Rockies bullpen coach since 2015. He didn’t have previous experience on a team’s coaching staff, but he worked in 2014

Orioles expressed interest in reliever Fernando Abad

Four days at baseball’s Winter Meetings didn’t cause the Orioles to scrap their plans and edit their shopping list. Nothing really changed since the team’s contingent arrived at the Manchester Grand Hyatt beyond a waiver claim that barely drew notice in the industry and won’t impact the roster on opening day, and two pitching selections in the Rule 5 draft that provide starting options for

Answering some popular Orioles questions

Rather than take the usual deep dive into my “mailbag,” I’ve decided to skim the surface after the Winter Meetings and address, so to speak, a smaller batch of the more popular questions. I’m skipping anything that includes the phrase “printing the playoff tickets.” Also ignored will be the ones that begin with, “Why should I bother to ...” I can’t make the decision for

Severino, superstitions and more

The trio of Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, assistant GM of analytics Sig Mejdal and manager Brandon Hyde did more than brave the nasty elements at Saturday’s Winter Warm-Up at Camden Yards. They also faced a group fans during a question-and-answer session who had reason to be grouchy, based on the ugly results of 2019 and rain that occasionally shifted to downpour status.

More from Saturday’s Winter Warm-Up

The sky turned blue Saturday afternoon and the sun began to shine shortly after Orioles fans filed out of Camden Yards at the first Winter Warm-Up. There’s some symbolism at work here. The dark clouds, the dreary conditions. If it’s got to rain, let it be on a World Series parade. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias spoke again about the need for patience, how

Minors notes on Stowers, Clark and Minor

The Winter Meetings are providing opportunities for Orioles prospects to find out what all the commotion is about and sharpen their interview skills with the beat crew. Shortstop Cadyn Grenier visited the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas last December because he lived about 10 minutes away and couldn’t pass up the opportunity, which included an introduction with executive vice president/general manager Mike

Orioles take fan questions at first Winter Warm-Up

The Orioles decorated Eutaw Street this morning to create a holiday theme at Camden Yards. A winter wonderland with temperatures above freezing. The rain that fell varied from drizzle to downpour, with umbrellas opening and closing over a three-hour period at the first Winter Warm-Up. A live band sang and performed carols on the flag court in right field before the covered stage was cleared

Learning and confirming more about the Orioles

Three full days and parts of two others spent at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in sunny San Diego taught us a few things about the Orioles and confirmed lots more. They need pitching. In the same way that a sailboat needs a stiff breeze. This didn’t qualify as breaking news at the Winter Meetings, but the possibility of sticking at least one of the Rule

Talking about Orioles catchers and outfielders

The Orioles are moving into the weekend with the same catching arrangement and the desire to find a veteran on a minor league deal. Unclear is whether the new player would be given a legitimate chance to win a job or be ticketed for Triple-A as a depth piece. The sales pitch figures to include an opportunity to break camp with the team. But what

Orioles select Bailey and Rucker in Rule 5 draft

SAN DIEGO - The Orioles’ ties to the Astros and Cubs organizations came into play again this morning in the Rule 5 draft. The second-overall pick was used on right-hander Brandon Bailey from Houston’s Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi. The Orioles also were active in the next round by selecting right-hander Michael Rucker, who made 34 of his 36 appearances this summer with Chicago’s Double-A

Orioles ready to make selection in Rule 5 draft

SAN DIEGO - The Orioles have made a selection in the major league phase of baseball’s Rule 5 draft at every Winter Meetings since 2006. Pitcher Alfredo Simón began the streak, though the Orioles traded him to the Phillies for catcher Adam Donachie. It’s a streak that’s certain to grow this morning with the Orioles holding the second-overall pick behind the Tigers. Which position is

Elias on meetings, Rule 5 draft, pitching, catchers and more

SAN DIEGO - Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias met earlier today with several agents representing middle infielders and starting pitchers, again targeting the two biggest areas of need. However, he doesn’t expect any signings or deals to be completed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The Winter Meetings will close with the Orioles claiming pitcher Marcos Diplán off waivers Monday and selecting one or

Hyde on Hays, rotation, rebuild, trades, Martin and more

SAN DIEGO - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde can’t make roster projections for 2020 without knowing it’s exact composition. However, he said this afternoon that center fielder Austin Hays is “definitely” in the mix to bat leadoff. A healthy Hays is going to be on the opening day roster. There’s no gray area in center field. Hyde also told the media during his 20-minute session that

How Herrera could fit with Orioles

SAN DIEGO - The Orioles can’t share their concrete plans for the 26-man roster until they’re done finding players for it. One move might impact how they handle a separate position. The work won’t be done this month or in January, given the organization’s track record for late signings, trades and waiver claims. Reaching an agreement last week with infielder Dilson Herrera on a minor

More Winter Meetings leftovers for breakfast

SAN DIEGO - Would the Orioles be willing to take on a significant salary if the trade also included a prospect that they held in high regard? Would the budget support such a move? The Giants did it yesterday in their deal with the Angels, acquiring infielder Zack Cozart and 21-year-old shortstop Will Wilson in exchange for cash considerations. They’re on the hook for Cozart’s

Elias on Davis, contracts, Stewart, Mountcastle and more

SAN DIEGO - The Orioles are trying again with Chris Davis. Trying to find a way to get him swinging more freely and making more consistent contact. Which again has led them to agent Scott Boras and the latest plan to nudge Davis closer to the form that prompted the club to hand over a $161 million contract prior to the 2016 season. A hard

Boras on his “concern” over Davis’ lack of production

SAN DIEGO - The annual Scott Boras media scrum at the Winter Meetings was held earlier than usual this week, with the super-agent making himself available at noon today to provide updates on clients Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon. He stood in front of a backdrop bearing his agency’s logo. A nice touch in 2019. Boras fielded a question pertaining to Orioles first baseman Chris

Elias on rebuild process: “This is what it looks like”

SAN DIEGO - Mike Elias isn’t tuning out fans who vent over a 108-loss season and two trades of popular players that followed. Who demand reasons why they should buy tickets next season and support a team that is moving backward at a pace that could park it in the International League if the brakes aren’t applied. He listens and he understands. He just can’t

Winter Meetings leftovers for breakfast

SAN DIEGO - The interviews to find a replacement for Orioles bullpen coach John Wasdin are carrying over from Baltimore to the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde involved in the process. Hyde’s inclusion is important, of course, since the hire will be working on his coaching staff. He had a voice in Fredi

Elias on today’s activity, pitching, Givens, Rutschman and more

SAN DIEGO - Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias isn’t the lone wolf of the Winter Meetings in 2019. He has a manager. He has a broader staff that can be deployed throughout the Manchester Grand Hyatt and on the minor league property. He can conduct business in a manner more befitting a major league executive, at least on a club undergoing a massive

Orioles claim Diplán off waivers

SAN DIEGO - The Orioles have expanded their involvement in the Winter Meetings beyond the Rule 5 draft that’s held later this week. In the latest move to improve their pitching depth, the Orioles claimed right-hander Marcos Diplán off waivers from the Tigers on the first day of the meetings. The 40-man roster has increased to 38 players. Diplán, 23, pitched at the Double-A levels

Orioles offering memorabilia, ballpark experiences for charity

SAN DIEGO - Major League Baseball redirected the Winter Meetings flow of information this morning, however briefly, by announcing details of its annual charity auction. This year’s auction, with the Orioles again active members, will benefit five charities and nonprofit organizations committed to research, care and awareness/education of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The Orioles are making

Day One of the Winter Meetings is underway

SAN DIEGO - There’s a certain rhythm to the annual Winter Meetings that is spliced with interruptions. The breaking news and hastily arranged press conferences, though the Orioles usually don’t get to the podium and aren’t likely to be the center of attention this week. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will meet daily with the media in the late afternoon, local time, which means

Elias enjoying a normal Winter Meetings in 2019

Mike Elias engaged in his first Winter Meetings as the person in charge already looking ahead to the following year’s trip and the opportunity to concentrate on the roster. The chance to handle the more common tasks in a setting that at its most complimentary can be classified as manic and disorienting. The Orioles didn’t hire Elias as executive vice president/general manager until the third

Fry seeks more success in second half

Paul Fry led the Orioles this season with 66 appearances out of the bullpen. A source of pride that also might have come at a price. Was it the workload, in his first full season in the majors, that created the 8.38 ERA and .333 average against in August and the 10.29 ERA and .355 average against in September? It’s a plausible theory given his

Solid statuses for Wynns and Wojciechowski heading into spring

By stating his intent to find a fourth catcher for the spring training roster, a minor league deal the most obvious avenue, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias revealed that Austin Wynns remains firmly in the Orioles’ plans for 2020. It wasn’t an assumption. The Orioles might have to clear more space on their 40-man roster over the winter and they’re carrying three catchers. Elias

Orioles adding Fredi González to coaching staff

The Orioles are nearing completion of the hiring process for their coaching staff, another item to cross off a long list of activities. Former Marlins and Braves manager Fredi González has been chosen as major league coach, according to a source. González inherits the title that belonged to José Hernández, who shifts to assistant hitting coach, per the source. Two of the three vacancies on

Orioles sign Dilson Herrera to minor league deal

The Orioles made a move this afternoon to increase their infield depth and perhaps provide another roster option in spring training. Maintaining a busy schedule this week with the Winter Meetings approaching, the Orioles signed 25-year-old utility player Dilson Herrera to a minor league contract. Herrera spent the 2019 season in Triple-A, where he hit .248/.330/.501 with 29 doubles, 24 home runs and 64 RBIs

There’s no mystery surrounding Orioles’ biggest roster needs

If we’re ranking the Orioles’ roster needs heading into the Winter Meetings, middle infield and starting pitching reside at the top of the list. They can be 1 and 1A. You can stack one on top of the other and not necessarily be wrong. Too close to call. The bullpen could use some tweaking and there are depth moves on the horizon, including a fourth

Elias on trading Bundy, the return and what could follow

The Orioles aren’t waiting until next week’s Winter Meetings to get busy in the trade market. Two days after sending infielder Jonathan Villar to the Marlins rather than non-tendering him, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias dealt starting pitcher Dylan Bundy to the Angels for four minor league pitchers. Who’s next? Elias obtained right-handers Isaac Mattson, Kyle Bradish, Zach Peek and Kyle Brnovich in exchange

Orioles’ trade approach and more on Lucas and Rogers

The Winter Meetings that officially begin Monday in San Diego are going to be filled with the usual trade and free agent rumors that flood the hotel lobby and cause sportswriters to nearly spill their Starbucks while rushing to get confirmation. Here’s what you need to remember about the Orioles: Whatever deals are discussed with rival executives most likely will involve lower-level minor leaguers. I

Taking another look at Bleier signing and Villar’s departure

The next order of baseball business is behind the Orioles. They tendered contracts yesterday to five of their seven arbitration-eligible players, signed reliever Richard Bleier and traded infielder Jonathan Villar to the Marlins. The 40-man roster holds 38 players, leaving room for multiple selections in the Dec. 12 Rule 5 draft in San Diego. Coming up are five days at the Winter Meetings if you

Elias on trade, tenders and more

The Orioles were resigned to letting infielder Jonathan Villar walk away earlier today with nothing in return until trade interest picked up during the afternoon and led to a trade with the Marlins. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias stated on a conference call that conversations with other teams picked up three to four hours prior to the 8 p.m. deadline for tendering contracts to

Bleier agrees to terms (Villar traded to Marlins)

The Orioles are down to six unsigned arbitration-eligible players after agreeing to terms with reliever Richard Bleier. It’s going to be a busy day in the warehouse. Bleier figured to be the first domino to fall, especially with significant progress made over the weekend. Still unresolved, however, are the statuses of infielders Jonathan Villar and Hanser Alberto, infielder/outfielder Trey Mancini, starter Dylan Bundy and relievers

Deadline arriving to tender contracts to arbitration-eligibles

The Orioles are plunging into a new week with Dylan Bundy still on the roster and a candidate to be traded or non-tendered. The deadline for the latter is 8 p.m. tonight. There are seven arbitration-eligible players on the club, including reliever Richard Bleier, who’s going to be tendered a contract. I’m hearing that significant progress was made yesterday on a new deal to avoid

Rogers determined to pitch next season

Undergoing one Tommy John surgery isn’t an unusual occurrence for a pitcher. It’s almost become the norm, happening at earlier ages with a higher level of success rates. The panic factor isn’t as intense. But two of the exact same procedures? Orioles left-hander Josh Rogers could feel cursed, but his latest recovery process is lined in silver. As he sees it, there are advantages attached

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