Because You Asked - Friday After Next

The end of the regular season and the Orioles’ exclusion from the playoffs doesn’t lighten the mailbag. There are questions galore, which I’m pretty sure is also the name of a James Bond villain.

I’ve never claimed to have all the answers. I’m still learning how to turn on the stove in my house. And as former Orioles infielder Robert Andino famously stated one day at his locker, “I ain’t no future teller.”

I am, however, a fan of Penn & Teller.

With the latest batch of furloughs throughout baseball, I’m just relieved that I haven’t disappeared.

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. And we have our latest sequel to the original mailbag.

Also, unlike other mailbags and interviews, I’m not editing the questions for “brevity.”

I enjoy a brevity-filled mailbag. I ask for seconds on brevity. My favorite film is “Brevityheart.”

Load me up with brevity. The more brevity, the merrier.

Is Chris Holt the next Orioles pitching coach?
He appears to be the leading candidate. I wrote last week that I’d place the odds in his favor. But the Orioles aren’t publishing the rankings, so anything you read is speculative. Holt obviously checks off the boxes. As I wrote, the perception that he’s the pitching coach in waiting has followed him from the Astros organization. And staying in-house makes sense for an organization that’s downsizing.

Which players will be protected in the Rule 5 draft?
That list isn’t published, either, but there are three obvious keepers: outfielder Yusniel Diaz and pitchers Zac Lowther and Michael Baumann. To me, there’s zero chance that they’re exposed. Next are a bunch of bubble guys, a testament to the improved farm system. The group includes pitchers Isaac Mattson, Brian Gonzalez, Zach Pop and Alexander Wells and infielder Rylan Bannon. Former first-round pick Cody Sedlock and Gray Fenter were bypassed last year. Fenter hadn’t pitched above low Single-A, which convinced the Orioles that he’d stay in the organization or be returned to it.

Does the pandemic change Rule 5 projections?
It certainly could, with no minor league season in 2020. Why would a team become convinced that Fenter, for example, is ready for a major league bullpen or rotation? He still hasn’t pitched above low Single-A. And scouts were denied access this summer. But rosters could be expanded again next season, tempting more teams to stash a player. So that’s also a potential factor.

Would you expect the Orioles to make at least one selection in the Rule 5 draft?
They’ve done so every year since 2006. Only the front office structure changes. They selected pitchers Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker last year and returned them to the Astros and Cubs, respectively, in spring training. They hit it big with outfielder Anthony Santander. They whiffed on pitchers Nestor Cortes Jr., Pedro Araujo and Jose Mesa Jr. The jury is out on infielder Richie Martin, but he shows promise. I see no reason why the club would pass this year. Money is tight, but I don’t think the fee for claiming a player is going to bankrupt the organization.

Will the Winter Meetings be held in December?
Probably in some form. I haven’t heard confirmation or details, but obviously it can be done via Zoom and, gasp, phone calls. Connecting executives to other executives and agents isn’t rocket science. And the usual meetings among public relations staffs, athletic trainers, etc., also can be held without herding everyone into a conference room. As for the media, and I know everyone is losing sleep over this one, we’re expected to stay home and wait for Zoom times. We’ve been training for it all summer.

When is “Wall to Wall Baseball” going back on the air?
I get this one a lot, which is nice. I relayed the interest to Tom Davis and he appreciated it. Unfortunately, we don’t have an answer. We’ve heard nothing on the subject since the pandemic forced the studio’s closure in Hunt Valley. But it’s good to know that people care.

After watching the playoffs, has your opinion changed on whether an asterisk should be placed next to the champion?
No. I respect how the Rays and Dodgers overcame all the obstacles to get to the World Series. The two best teams made it. I wondered whether players would celebrate with the same enthusiasm. They aren’t apologetic and that’s terrific. But it’s still a 60-game season with numerous rule changes. The winner shouldn’t be viewed exactly the same as the others. It’s unfair to the others who played a lot more than 60 games and didn’t have regional travel, expanded rosters prior to September and runners placed on second base in extra innings. Stuff like that.

Do you have a rooting interest?
I wanted the Padres to win it all based on the many Orioles connections and how they’ve never done it. However, with that ship sailed, I’m pulling for the small-market Rays. A blueprint for the Orioles. Draft and develop pitching and make smart trades. You don’t have to spend big or draw huge crowds.

Will any of the rule changes be implemented next season?
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in an Associated Press interview that he hopes to keep two of this year’s innovations: expanded playoffs and starting extra innings with runners on second base. “People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes,” Manfred said. “And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive.” That’s not completely accurate. People were wildly unenthusiastic about Manfred.

Do trick-or-treaters get the best candy at your house?
Not unless they love the variety bags with Dum Dums and mini boxes of Whoppers. I get teased about them. One little kid actually put the Whoppers back in the bowl. Had no interest. Hey, I didn’t invent them. I do buy some of the popular candies, too, but also the cheaper stuff out of fear that I’ll run out. Mix them together. Surprisingly, my house doesn’t get egged.

No full-size candy bars?
I’m not made of money.

No protein shakes?
They leak through the bags.

What’s your favorite candy?
We’re still on this topic? I try to avoid sweets, but I love Snickers, Almond Joys and peanut M&Ms. Plain also work for me. I won’t turn away a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Kit Kat, Hershey bar, Milky Way or 3 Musketeers. And I really like Peppermint Patties, though I hate mint in my food and drinks. It makes no sense.

Were you looking for Mr. Goodbar?
I don’t get it.

Worst Halloween costume in 2020?
Hanser Alberto’s bruised groin.

Worst obsession besides your constant reminders of Alberto’s groin injury?
I can take a hint.

Thumbnail image for Nunez-Watch-It-Go-White-sidebar.jpgDo the Orioles keep Renato Núñez?
He’s a non-tender and trade candidate as a first-time arbitration-eligible. He also could be the designated hitter on opening day. It’s wide open. I’d offer a better guess if I knew Trey Mancini’s status for the opener.

Do you think Trey Mancini will be ready for opening day?
Well that’s quite the question segue. Mancini thinks he’s going to be ready and that’s good enough for me.

Would you bet the mortgage on it?
I’d bet a bag of mini Kit Kats. Mancini has no idea exactly how he’s going to feel in February. How much the chemotherapy treatments took out of him. He’ll be five months removed from his last one. But here’s what matters: Mancini is giving cancer a savage beating. He feels and looks great. I understand the business side and the questions related to his playing status, but right now I’m all about his recovery and ability to get back to a normal life. Everything else is a bonus.

What are the most unsettled positions heading into spring training?
We have such a long way to go. How about heading into November or December? The Orioles probably will add at least one veteran starter, so the rotation is unsettled in that regard. Second and third base are up in the air with Alberto’s arbitration eligibility and Rio Ruiz’s fade. Though the early catching favorites are Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco, it’s possible that the Orioles move away from the former, who also is arbitration-eligible. And manager Brandon Hyde couldn’t name his 2021 closer if you asked him later today. In a related story, you shouldn’t ask such a silly question later today.

Will Ryan Mountcastle get any votes on the Rookie of the Year ballot?
Yes. Guaranteed.

Will Ryan Mountcastle still be a rookie next year?
Yes. Guaranteed.

Why aren’t the Orioles pushing Adley Rutschman harder? They did it with Matt Wieters.
Wieters played in 169 minor league games before his promotion to the majors and began his post-college career with 31 games in Hawaii Winter Baseball. If anyone owns a Wieters Honolulu Sharks jersey, I’ll buy it from you. Wieters accumulated 163 plate appearances with Triple-A Norfolk in 2009 prior to his debut. He started out at a higher level, with the Single-A Frederick Keys, but that was a different regime with different ideas about development. Rutschman played at three levels in 2019. Seemed pretty aggressive.

The ovation on 2,131 was the loudest moment at Camden Yards, not the Delmon double.
That’s both wrong and not a question. The 2,131 ovation was more sustained. Lasted 22 minutes. But it didn’t come close to the decibel level after Young cleared the bases in the Division Series. The ballpark shook that day. You wouldn’t have been able to hear Whitney Houston. I couldn’t hear myself think.

What do you think about the chances that spring training and the 2021 season start on time?
Would I be stunned if they were delayed? (I have my own questions.) No. I’ve talked to some industry folks who predict that camps will open a month later and the season will consist of around 120 games. But these are predictions. No one knows. I just get the sense that people are bracing for another unusual spring and summer.

Will the Orioles be active in free agency?
Most likely on the minor league side with spring training invites. Spending has been limited in the past and more so now with the lost revenue in 2020.

Will you stay active on Twitter during the offseason?
Only to find out exactly how I’m supposed to live my life. There’s an expert on every subject.

What’s the dumbest tweet you’ve received in 2020?
I’d need more time to research it, but one fan criticized Brandon Hyde because the Orioles didn’t improve on their win total. In a 60-game season. When the record is secondary to player development in a rebuild. The Orioles weren’t eliminated from the playoff race until the final week of the season. But yeah, let’s dump on the manager.

Whatever happened to plans to make Camden Yards a voting center?
We learned yesterday that the ballpark will be open to registered voters from Baltimore City as an early voting center from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. from Oct. 26-Nov. 3. Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant will serve as the polling location for the voting center. Free parking will be available each day in the East Warehouse Lot and Lot A. At the direction of the Baltimore City Board of Elections, voters must remain six feet apart and wear a mask to make in-person voting safe. To maintain proper distancing, the number of voters permitted inside a voting center at one time may be limited and could result in lines and wait times. There are two active ballot drop box locations on the east side of the B&O Warehouse, located outside of the 333 West Camden St. lobby and by the Breezeway area just outside of Gate A under the south end of the Warehouse.

Which outfielders will start in 2021?
How the alignment unfolds is going to be one of the most interesting storylines of camp. I can envision Ryan Mountcastle in left field, Austin Hays in center and Santander in right. But Hays also can move to one of the corners, with Cedric Mullins handling center. Mountcastle and Mancini could play first base, again assuming that the latter is on the active roster on opening day. There are lots of possibilities, and the maneuvering increases if Renato Núñez isn’t the regular designated hitter. And we can’t forget about DJ Stewart.

What happens if Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna are ready to debut at some point?
It gets a lot more crowded.

Did the Orioles ever explain why Heston Kjerstad couldn’t join the fall instructional camp?
The matter stays private beyond “medical non-sports related reason.” I’m assuming that clarity only comes if Kjerstad agrees to talk about it later. The player must give permission.

Are you going to make it through an entire day without mentioning Chris Davis?
Apparently not.

Will Davis be on the team next season?
That’s certainly the plan at the moment. On this date. At this time. With the possibility of another truncated season and players receiving only a portion of their salaries. I’ve explained it. But that’s why this mailbag exists.

Will you still be at MASN next season?
I’m screening my calls like George Costanza.

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