How it looks to get O’s prospects back into minor league season

I wasn’t aware of the term “coronavirus pandemic expansion” until reading it last week in an article detailing how Southwest Airlines is adding Sarasota, Fla., to its growing list of destinations.

Finally, the official airline of the Baltimore Orioles is providing flights to the team’s spring training home. Always made sense to me.

This is big news to beat writers who have been flying into Tampa and driving an hour.

Trying to avoid the traffic jam heading back to Tampa International Airport is the last game played as the Orioles break camp. You have to leave early. Timing is everything.

I haven’t flown since March 14 and my streak continues with the cancellation of in-person Winter Meetings. The hope here is that I’m griping again about delays and long lines next year.

Orioles pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 16, which puts my arrival at the previous day. Unless, of course, the pandemic forces more changes.

Get the camps open at the Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park complexes. Begin the task of stocking the minor league affiliates, after it’s determined which one is contracted and the reshuffling of classifications is done.

The Orioles want to assign outfielder Yusniel Diaz to Triple-A Norfolk since they weren’t able to move him up in 2020. He would have made his major league debut over the summer. It’s coming in 2021.

Not on opening day. But it’s coming.

Thumbnail image for Rutschman-Bullpen-High-ST-sidebar.jpgThe Orioles also want to assign catcher Adley Rutschman to Double-A Bowie and return Zach Pop to the Baysox if the reliever goes unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft.

(I’m working from the expectation that he’s left unprotected.)

Staying active at the alternate camp site and fall instructional camp, with experience catching and facing upper-level pitching, apparently has enabled Rutschman to vault over high Single-A and stick the landing.

There’s also his elite talent, which accelerates the process. He figured to be a fast mover.

Multiple outlets guarantee that Rutschman will make his major league debut in 2021. I’m not as aggressive.

Do I think it can happen? Yes, later in the summer. But it’s also possible that the Orioles wait until early 2022.

The anticipation over Rutschman’s debut might exceed Matt Wieters in 2009, which has been the benchmark during my years on the beat. I was asked about Wieters on a daily basis and executive Andy MacPhail broke the news during a MASN broadcast - and while I was meeting fans in one of the suites.

I read the scroll on the bottom of the television screen and raced back to my laptop in the press box.

Though this is an unofficial record, I’m fairly certain that my highest comments total at one time came with my lineup entry prior to Wieters’ first game on May 29. Where he batted was an obsession.

He hit seventh and went 0-for-4 in a 7-2 win over the Tigers.

The buzz over Manny Machado’s debut wasn’t as loud and it came as a total surprise with his promotion from Bowie on Aug. 9, 2012.

Pop made 14 appearances with the Baysox in 2018 and eight in 2019 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’d likely go back to Double-A after the layoff, where he registered a 1.97 ERA and 0.969 WHIP in 32 innings.

This is a reliever with a plus fastball and late-inning profile. He told me two months ago that he was “fully healthy” and throwing at a facility outside of Toronto.

An ideal setup is getting Pop to Bowie and back to the dominant form that had him pointed toward Triple-A. Keep him healthy, bump him a level and consider him for a call-up later in the summer - where he can join Diaz and Dean Kremer, three prospects coming from the Dodgers in the Machado trade.

He just needs a place to pitch. Rutschman and Diaz need a place to play. If the world will allow it.

blog comments powered by Disqus