A day without baseball is like a day without sunshine. Except the forecast is calling for it today in Baltimore. Lots of it.
A day without sunscreen could lead to a nasty burn.
There’s always the risk of a nasty burn when I sort through my mailbag. And the sarcasm doesn’t require extra postage.
You know the drill. You keep asking the same stuff and I keep answering it. Or I just make it up as I go along.
I don’t like stale bread - unless it’s used for my mother’s homemade stuffing - or stale mailbag formats. We’re here to learn and have fun. The scale tilts depending on the day.
I’m not Mr. Miyagi. I don’t know the secrets to perfect balance.
But I do know this ...
Will Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer stay in the rotation through the month?
Well, at least through Sept. 27. That’s the final game. And this is exactly how it was supposed to happen. The delay is due to the pandemic, the loss of a minor league season and a sprint major league season. Akin and Kremer will keep getting the ball every five days. John Means is a lock and Alex Cobb will be, too, if he leaves the injured list. The Orioles want to keep evaluating Jorge López. Asher Wojciechowski is in a swingman role and obviously could reappear in the rotation. The only confirmed starter for the Mets series is Means on Tuesday.
Are we going to see Yusniel Diaz this year?
Well, if you were allowed inside the Bowie site ...
So we’re not going to see Diaz in Baltimore?
You’re not allowed here, either.
I’m so done with you.
Sorry. I’m hesitant to give a hard “no” on Diaz, but wouldn’t he be in the majors by now if the Orioles intended to promote him? Especially with Anthony Santander likely done for the season? Mike Elias said over the winter that he expected Diaz to make his major league debut in 2020, but that was before COVID and a truncated season. There’s still time, but Mason Williams had his contract selected again on Saturday. DJ Stewart is here. Cedric Mullins is here. Austin Hays has been on the injured list since Aug. 15. Infielders are playing the outfield. And still no sign of Diaz. Makes you wonder, right?
Are any more prospects getting called up now that Dean Kremer has made it?
Kremer was the guy knocking on the door. The others were standing behind him, waiting for him to walk through it. And that could be it. But again, the Orioles aren’t providing a list of future roster moves and with guys seemingly getting hurt every day, anything is possible in the way of promotions. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Kremer is the last for 2020. Then again, I didn’t expect César Valdez to register a save and it happened. I didn’t expect Thomas Eshelman to lead the team in wins with three. I didn’t expect Cole Sulser to lead the bullpen with five saves. Or Andrew Velazquez to make more starts at shortstop than José Iglesias. Or Iglesias to hit like Honus Wagner. I could go on.
Is Anthony Santander definitely done for the season?
Well, not officially. But oblique injuries don’t heal quickly. You hear the word “oblique” and immediately think, “That’s at least a month.” Brady Anderson was diagnosed with appendicitis in 1996, in the middle of his 50-home run season, and it went away. He refused surgery. A Boston doctor tried to order him to stay in the hospital and he wouldn’t do it. It was so bad that head athletic trainer Richie Bancells would talk to pilots on team flights about making certain to know the locations for an emergency landing. And the appendicitis just ... disappeared. Anderson might be the only person in history to experience that miracle. And there are no day-to-day oblique injuries. Just doesn’t happen.
You went a long way to make that point. The pilot’s route was shorter.
That’s not a question.
Are the Orioles going to send Heston Kjerstad to the alternate camp site?
They’d have to remove someone else, because the 60-man player pool is full. I thought the first-rounder would make it, but infielder Rylan Bannon just grabbed the last spot. Pitcher Zac Lowther was included over the weekend. None of the 2020 draft selections are in Bowie.
Is Chris Davis going to play again this year?
Manager Brandon Hyde said Davis is still resting his knee. He wasn’t working out at Bowie. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if the Orioles just shut him down, but no one is hinting at it as a possibility. Days pass and we watch Renato Núñez at first base. And Dilson Herrera. And Pat Valaika. And Bryan Holaday. But no Davis.
Is Chris Davis going to play for the Orioles in 2021?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m just trying to get through 2020.
What’s it like to cover baseball COVID-style?
I don’t miss the airports and cramped flights. I don’t miss some of the mind-numbing ballpark activities, like standing around the clubhouse and eating a mediocre meal at my laptop because I’m buried in pregame work. Followed by the panic that sets in after a walk-off hit, knowing I only have a few minutes to make the necessary changes in my story before racing downstairs. Those are some of the stressers for me during the season. Especially the airports. I’m a reporter, not a tourist. I don’t get a thrill from the travel, though I do love me a hotel lobby bar - and I’m pretty sure those are closed now. I recharge my battery by being alone. I’m one of those types. People who know me joke that I’ve been practicing for a pandemic my entire life. The press box spacing and elimination of folks who show up only to watch the game and have no real purpose being there is a plus. Listen, I’m eager for the world to get back to “normal” and to reserve Zoom for the occasional conference calls and virtual happy hours. The job can’t be done the same way without clubhouse access and one-on-one conversations. And I want people to feel safe again, or as much as we can in this crazy world. But I’ve adapted. My house has a “Zoom room.” I’ve been able to gather news. And maybe I’ll become more tolerant of delayed flights and drink carts smashing into my shoulder in 2021.
Will you be covering the Winter Meetings?
I don’t know if baseball is going to hold the Winter Meetings. I’d think executives and agents would just Zoom. It’s being done with everything else this year. Didn’t hurt the trade deadline. The media would just wait at home for the daily session with its general manager. The manager luncheon won’t be quite the same, though. But the Rule 5 draft actually can be covered in a room with electrical outlets. Trust me, that never happens.
When will Carson Fulmer join the Orioles and is he a starter or reliever for them?
After he goes through the intake process, which shouldn’t be much longer. He’ll join them in New York for the road trip. And he’s viewed as a reliever. He’s headed to the bullpen.
Who is your Most Valuable Oriole?
I’m not allowed to share my ballot, which hasn’t been distributed. I’d think that the Big 3 in no particular order are Anthony Santander, Hanser Alberto and Iglesias. Santander’s candidacy is hurt by his injury. He’s going to play in 37 games, none after Sept. 4. Iglesias wasn’t helped by his trip to the injured list, but he’s got a shot at the batting title. Ryan Mountcastle showed up too late, but don’t tempt me.
What’s surprised you the most about Mountcastle?
His speed up the line. The guy beat out a routine ground ball to third base during the doubleheader. I wrote down “5-3,” looked up and he was safe. I couldn’t believe it. I know he runs hard, but that doesn’t usually turn you into Otis Nixon. Also, he’s been tracking fly balls with ease. I’ve seen natural outfielders staggering under them this season. He just looks like such a polished player for his age and the fact that he’s moved to a fourth position.
Did the extra time spent at the alternate camp site prove to be a wise decision by the Orioles, or did it just unnecessarily delay his arrival?
The world will never know. But I tend to think that he benefited from those extra reps in the outfield and the instruction he received in a less-pressurized environment - lots of one-on-one work that isn’t as readily available during a season - that’s enabled him to do less chasing at the plate while maintaining his aggression. The important thing here is he’s made it and he’s staying. The Orioles did not want to risk having him look lost at the plate and in the field and maybe go back down to the secondary site. The Orioles will serve no prospect before his time.
What’s the proper punishment, in your opinion, for throwing at a hitter?
I’d make him smell my mask. That’ll set him straight.
When is the First-Year Player Draft in 2021?
July 11-13 in Atlanta as part of the All-Star Game festivities, so a month later than usual. And now it’s apparently going to be treated like the Home Run Derby. A team will be accused of corking its selection.
Why don’t you put a cork in it?
I had no idea that you could troll a mailbag.
Where were you for 2,131?
Sitting in the “auxiliary press box,” which was the second deck in left field. Where only five home runs balls have landed. I was part of The Baltimore Sun’s expanded coverage, not yet on the beat but available to help out. My job was to write a sidebar on the Angels’ reaction to the historic moment. I was so locked into Ripken - the ovations, his lap around the field - that a co-worker had to nudge me and point out how the Angels were lined up in front of the dugout and applauding. Later, I interviewed pitcher Mike Bielecki, a Dundalk native. The coveted local angle.
How many more days will the media pimp its Cal Ripken Jr. anniversary stories on Twitter?
Would the Orioles consider re-signing Adam Jones?
Man, I really need to spend more time cleaning out this mailbag.
Will Adley Rutschman make his debut this month?
Again, no. Please tell your friends.
Which new rules do you want to carry over to 2021?
Give me seven-inning doubleheaders until the day I retire. And the runner on second base in extra innings has won me over. It’s a nice feeling to know that the end is near rather than wondering if the game might last until the next day’s trash pickup.
How are MASN’s ratings?
I’m not privy to the numbers, but they’re always really good and this year fans have to watch the broadcasts or listen on the Orioles Radio Network because they can’t attend games. I’m assuming that ratings are about the same as the last episode of M*A*S*H. Which could explain why my paychecks now say M*A*S*N.