More thoughts on Orioles’ infield situation

Orioles infielder Jahmai Jones has plus interview skills, which he exhibited again yesterday during a Zoom call with the media following his promotion from Triple-A Norfolk. Smart, articulate, thoughtful in his answers.

Eager to assist others, giving back to his community and school. Never let success go to his head. A good teammate. Scouts give him high grades for his makeup.

Now comes the chance to impress the Orioles on the field and stay in the majors.

Better days and nights are ahead after his debut with the team included three called third strikes and a fielding error.

Jones didn’t get the call during a hot streak, which is another indication that the Orioles cared more about his defense at second base. Jones was 12-for-65 (.185) this month with a double, two home runs and 17 strikeouts. He was slashing .238/.329/.417 in 69 games with the Tides.

Fifty-two starts came at second base and that’s where Jones is expected to spend most nights with the Orioles. He also had 11 starts in left field and one in center.

Mateo-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgManager Brandon Hyde has some flexibility on the roster with Jones and Jorge Mateo able to leave the infield, a valuable asset with a three-man bench. But these are the evaluation days and the Orioles need to know whether Jones can be their second baseman on opening day.

They also need to learn the severity of Mateo’s lower back soreness, which forced him out of last night’s game.

Of course, I also thought they needed to know whether Mateo could be their second baseman and Richie Martin their shortstop. Now Mateo is supposed to play more shortstop and Martin is back at Norfolk after only 15 games.

Martin is expected to return to the Orioles, certainly in September with the slight expansion of rosters. Hyde can keep playing with the lineup. But it certainly makes sense to see whether Jones and Mateo can be the double play combo in 2022 or if their futures might be in utility roles.

The plan with Jones since the Alex Cobb trade has been to groom him at second base, so that’s where the initial attempts will be made. Utility is a fallback position, so to speak.

Asked yesterday whether Jones will also play in the outfield, Hyde said, “As of right now probably not, but things can change quickly.”

“I think I said that Mateo wouldn’t be seeing any time in the outfield, either, and he’s been out there a couple times. This is the time of year when injuries happen. Guys can get banged up, maybe our roster’s short, whatever it may be, you might see Jahmai out there, but I don’t have that intention to put him out there right now.”

Like I’ve said, Ramón Urías won’t disappear, but the Orioles have a pretty good read on him. He’s played in 66 games, he has 229 plate appearances, he’s started at three infield positions. I feel like he can step aside, without wandering too far, while the others get regular turns in the lineup. Or at least make more appearances at third base than the middle infield.

Kelvin Gutiérrez won’t mind sharing.

Sitting Urías becomes more difficult as he keeps hitting, with last night’s game including a single, double and three RBIs. He moved to short after Mateo left. But my point here is that his audition seems to be closing. We get it. He can play.

Opportunities at the hot corner are going to dry up if Rylan Bannon stays hot at Triple-A. Get them while they’re available.

Bannon hit his 14th home run last night and 10th in the last 10 games.

“There’s definitely a possibility of him coming up,” Hyde said. “He’s on the 40-man and he’s swinging the bat better as of late, which is good to see. With sending Richie down, we’re a little short in the middle infield and so that’s what Jam Jones, playing the majority of second base made a little bit more sense for us as of right now. But I hope Rylan can keep hitting. I love seeing guys being able to dominate before they come here and graduate before they get here.

“I know he got off to a really tough first couple months and hopefully he continues to swing the bat well and continues to improve defensively and we’ll see him up here.”

Jones hustled over to the Angels side of the field yesterday during batting practice to visit with some former teammates. Shortstop José Iglesias ventured near the Orioles dugout to do the same.

You can judge the popularity of a player by how he’s received after he’s gone and returns. Players, coaches, interpreter Ramón Alarcón, an athletic trainer and a clubhouse attendant took turns walking up to Iglesias and embracing him.

Iglesias was a productive hitter in 2020 when healthy and one of the clubhouse leaders. And he kept helping the Orioles after the Dec. 2 trade, which brought pitchers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto into the organization.

Stallings, 24, has climbed to Double-A Bowie, where he allowed one run over four innings in his debut after leaving Single-A Aberdeen. Last night was more of a struggle with four earned runs and five total in five innings, but he’s on the radar.

Pinto, 20, was the other pitcher in the deal, but he allowed four earned runs and 11 hits with four walks and 28 strikeouts in 20 innings in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League. Promoted to low Single-A Delmarva, he’s surrendered five earned runs and 14 hits with six walks and 31 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Florida Complex League Black team finished up a suspended game from July 26, which began with Bruce Zimmermann on the mound and Coby Mayo at third base, and lost to the Twins 10-6 in seven innings in the regular game at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

The Orange team’s game against Pirates black in Bradenton was canceled. So was the Pirates Orange team’s game against the Rays in Port Charlotte.

I’ve heard that the issue revolves around positive COVID-19 tests among the Pirates. The Orioles Black played one game against them and the Orange had a more extended period of contact.

A rain cloud wasn’t following the Orange team. This makes a lot more sense.

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