Because You Asked - The Last Knight

What about this and what about that? Why is this taking so long, and will that ever happen?

And where’s Chris Davis?

Oh, the questions never stop, which is why mailbags exists. They’re also a popular filler for sportswriters - our version of breadcrumbs.

Some might call it lazy. Those accusers are driven to another county and pushed out the door. And I’ll go the extra mile to find a new movie sequel title.

You ask ‘em and I answer ‘em, and then someone else asks the exact same thing and I respond again and maybe get a little snarky on the third or fourth attempt to make my point. But it’s never personal.

It might be humorous on occasion. I only want my martinis dry, not my Q and As.

Also, my mailbag gives your mailbag a wedgie.

Is Brandon Hyde on the hot seat?
Only if someone lights the bench on fire.

Is Hyde in trouble?
For what? Not hitting with runners in scoring position? Not getting deep into his starts? Giving up runs in relief? Not tagging on a fly ball? Throwing to the wrong base? Look, I know that everything falls on the manager, but you could be more critical if the team hadn’t engaged in drills aimed at baserunning, fielding, hitting the cutoff man, etc. Paul Fry has been the only really dependable reliever and he can’t pitch every night. John Means has been the only starter who consistently gets through the early innings. He can’t start every night. Most of the players on the roster aren’t viewed as pieces in the rebuild. If the team quit on Hyde, that would be a major red flag, and I’ve seen it happen with other managers. That isn’t happening here. So, no, I don’t think he’s in trouble, though I haven’t checked his tax returns.

Shouldn’t the Orioles be making progress now?
Their farm system is ranked fifth. I remember when it was 31st out of 30 teams, and I don’t even know how that’s possible. And having the fifth pick in July is going to pump more talent into the system. The analytics department ... exists. How’s that for progress? The Orioles are spending money in the international market rather than treating their bonus slots like Halloween candy. They handed out eight in 2017. Everything I just listed needed to be done, largely behind the scenes, to make the rebuild work, and they don’t translate to more wins at the major league level in 2021. Also, what Means and Cedric Mullins are doing count as significant progress. Austin Hays, too, if he can stay healthy. Fry is legit and now closing, something none of us imagined. But progress in the standings? Not yet.

Do two wins in a row count as a “streak?”
After losing 14 in a row, one win counts.

What’s wrong with Ryan Mountcastle?
He’s a sophomore, though also a rookie. That’s pretty much it. He’s still falling into some bad habits at the plate that can be corrected because he’s really good and should be for a long time. And that three-run homer Wednesday night, when the Orioles were clinging to a 3-1 lead, was “enormous,” as Hyde described it. So is Mountcastle’s talent.

Why was Chris Holt away from the team?
To attend to a personal matter.

What was it?
A personal matter.

Is there any chance they tap Doug Brocail to come back as a pitching coach while Chris Holt is on leave?
Holt returned earlier this week, and no. Darren Holmes is the assistant pitching coach. Brocail isn’t walking through that door again.

Is the condiment race rigged?
That’s what relish wants to know. Hopefully, the investigation launched by commissioner Rob Manfred will provide some answers. Maybe The Onion will run a story on it.

I see what you did there.
Like a rebuild, it wasn’t pretty. Also, that’s not a question.

Do you still have to wear a mask at the ballpark?
I see people on the field without them during batting practice. I checked the stands at a recent game and found maybe five people wearing them. But, yes, the media still does. Local ordinance stuff. Which is good because I’d miss the smell of my own breath.

Has the league figured out César Valdez?
That was the explanation given by Holmes and he would know. My amateurish analysis is based on how the entire league knows that Valdez is throwing a changeup. They knew while chasing the pitch like it was a greased pig. And they knew while it spun in the middle of the plate as if on a spit. The quality of the pitch seemed to be the issue. But Holmes talked about the need for Valdez to make adjustments, just as the league apparently has done to him, and that’s understandable. And I never pitched, except for a few fits.

Who’s the closer?
Still not really that important on a rebuilding team, with leads that don’t routinely carry into the ninth inning, but it’s clear that Fry is getting an opportunity. He wasn’t credited with a save Wednesday, but recorded the last five outs.

Harvey-Delivers-Orange-at-KC-Sidebar.jpgWill Hunter Harvey be the closer?
Harvey might get a shot, as well, at least on nights when Fry isn’t available. But right now it’s more important to test how heavy a workload is allowable. Whether he can go multiple innings and back-to-back nights. Skills that are needed on this club. One-inning guys who require rest between appearances limit Hyde’s options and force more roster moves. The shuttle’s never parked for long, but have you seen gas prices?

Where’s Chris Davis?
Stop trolling.

Will Chris Davis ever play in another game with the Orioles?
OK, this one appears to be more serious. Wish I knew. I thought he’d get into some games in 2020 and, boy, was I wrong. A healthy Davis could report to spring training as he did in February and give it one more shot. That’s about as far as I’ll venture on that limb.

How did the Twins feel about the tape outline of Rob Refsnyder on the outfield fence to mark where he crashed into it?
I heard it was mixed. Refsnyder apparently was less amused than others, and he ended up on the injured list with a concussion, but no one knew the severity at the time because he stayed in the game. And the outline is clever, if not original. Luke Scott enjoyed it when the Orioles teased him in the same fashion. Of course, I’d be more careful with Scott. He might have been armed.

Which Orioles get traded at the deadline?
I’d like to tweak this one and name a few players who could be chips, such as Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Matt Harvey. Values to be determined as we get closer to it. Fry is intriguing. There’s going to be some interest in him and he’s arbitration eligible this winter after making $581,000. And, yes, teams like Anthony Santander and are scouting him. Doesn’t mean he’s going to be traded. Just means what I said.

Would the Orioles consider making Matt Harvey a long reliever?
Hyde stated again this week that he wants the Harvey in the rotation, that the veteran is a starter. And that’s how Harvey wants it. The Orioles are using two rookie starters while Dean Kremer is in Triple-A. Jorge López has been hittable or miss. They value Harvey’s experience in the role and think the mechanical issues can be solved. Harvey credited Holt after Wednesdays’ game for fixing him.

Is Gunnar Henderson still projected as a shortstop? I’ve seen him playing third base, too.
That’s because Single-A Delmarva’s roster had 14 shortstop prospects on it. Or four. Anyway, right now he’s primarily a shortstop but could be moved to third depending on, for example, what the Orioles decide to do with Jordan Westburg. The club envisions both players in its future lineups. There’s also Anthony Servideo, Joey Ortiz, Darell Hernaiz, Maikol Hernandez and Adam Hall, plus Richie Martin at Triple-A. Can’t have too many shortstops, since their athleticism lets them move to other positions.

Is it spelled Wieters, Weiters, Wheaters or Wheeters?
He might go along with any of those if a team is willing to stitch it on the back of a jersey.

Is it difficult to follow the team and give inside reporting during the pandemic?
The first part is a lot easier. The inside stuff is more limited with no clubhouse access and other restrictions. But I’m doing the best I can while reminded again that they don’t award trophies for the most inside reporting. Maybe an Arby’s coupon.

When do John Means and Trey Mancini get traded?
The Orioles want Means anchoring the rotation, with the high draft picks slotted behind him. However, as I say, a team could blow away Mike Elias with an offer and then the layout might change. Mancini is pricey for a rebuilding team that’s cut payroll and redirected funds to other departments. He’s arbitration eligible again this winter and, unlike 2021, is getting a raise. But his value in the lineup and clubhouse can’t be overstated. You could argue that he’s a guy to build around, the one “expensive” toy in the store. Or that he could fetch prospects to aid in the rebuild and shouldn’t be untouchable. Pick a side.

With Chris Davis on the shelf, who is the acting Oriole player rep for the union this season? Are there alternates?
Davis remains the union rep, but Mancini is involved and basically the acting rep during CD’s absence.

Does Trey offer vegan chocolate muffins to his teammates or does he keep them all for himself and share the recipe?
They stay in-house, for now. No sharing, no recipes. But the way he’s hitting, Hyde should demand that he supply the entire clubhouse. At least for breakfast before day games.

Which Orioles do you think will be chosen to the All-Star team?
If the voting ended today, and that would be the first of like 27 phases - putting together furniture from IKEA is less complicated - it’s obvious that Means, Mancini and Mullins would be the most serious considerations. But a team with the worst record in baseball isn’t likely to have three representatives. I haven’t done the research, but it seems like a long shot. And that probably impacts Mullins the most. Mancini might have to settle for backing up Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., but he’s going to get a lot of love based on his first half and beating Stage 3 colon cancer. How do you keep him home? Means threw a no-hitter, though I’m pretty sure my Uber driver also did, and is deserving based on his numbers.

Do players talk about pitchers doctoring the ball this year to dominate hitters so much?
That’s the sort of thing that I’m missing by not being inside the clubhouse. I’m sure that it’s a hot topic, but I don’t get the opportunity to sidle up to a player and chat him up.

Have you ever used a sticking substance?
Only when putting a positive spin on a story.

What will you be wearing to SoR Night 2021?
Pants. You’re welcome. Also, a MASN polo. Thanks for getting the band back together.

Have you heard anything about Mason McCoy possibly being in line for promotion to play second base?
I haven’t heard that he’s primed for it, but he certainly could get the call with the position unsettled and how he’s playing right now.

Who decides which pitchers are available for any game? Is it just Hyde or do the trainers, data crunchers and medical staff have input?
It’s a collaborative effort. The player certainly can say he’s sore or needs a breather. Or he can insist that he’s fine, as many do, and then it’s up to Hyde, Holt, Holmes, etc. The medical staff is going to be involved if there’s a more serious physical issue.

Still no timeline for Adley Rutschman’s debut?
Nope. Late in the 2021 season or early in the 2022 season. The Orioles are expected to promote Rutschman to Triple-A Norfolk before introducing him to the majors, so that’s another step. The industry is braced for a work stoppage next spring. Among other factors that could sway the Orioles.

Any updates on Jahmai Jones?
Jones is expected to return from the injured list next week and get back in Norfolk’s lineup.

Any updates on Austin Hays?
He’s on a running progression and will play in rehab games early next week, followed by his reinstatement from the injured list late next week. As long as the hamstring holds up.

Is that a wasted option for Zac Lowther after the Orioles recalled him and sent him down the next day without using him?
No. One option is used per season, no matter how many times a player is recalled and sent down.

When are you going to marry that lovely girl??
In October. Rolling the dice that I won’t be covering the playoffs. But all deposits must be refundable!

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