Lukewarm takes on a few Orioles topics

The Orioles could break camp with firm plans to play Ryan Mountcastle at first base and use Trey Mancini as their designated hitter, which is how they routinely appeared in the lineup over the second half.

Mountcastle is making steady progress as a defender, going back to his third position while the Orioles are covered in the outfield corners. They’d prefer to keep a player that young from pulling regular DH duty.

But there’s a complication to an otherwise solid plan when Adley Rutschman arrives from Triple-A Norfolk, where he could begin the 2022 season before making his long-awaited debut.

Rutschman will be the No. 1 catcher, of course, but he won’t make all of his starts behind the plate. Manager Brandon Hyde will want the top prospect’s bat in the lineup without wearing him down.

The rest days can come with Rutschman at first base, where he made plenty of appearances in the Cape Cod League and with Oregon State before the draft, and had 28 starts this summer between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.

There also could be nights when Hyde uses Rutschman as the designated hitter, which is worth mentioning to free agent catchers who think they’ll rot on the bench.

This is the complication with Mountcastle and Mancini. It’s apparent that the Orioles won’t want them in the outfield anymore, but does one of them sit when Rutschman is the first baseman or designated hitter?

Does Hyde make an exception with Mountcastle and stick him in left field?

Lukewarm take: This falls under the category of “pleasant problems” and certainly should not dictate what the Orioles do with Mancini, who has one more year of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency. Mancini has earned consideration for an extension if the money works. A rookie catcher, no matter how good, doesn’t factor into it. It’s fine to move Mountcastle or Mancini to the bench for a game when Rutschman isn’t behind the plate but remains in the lineup. It’s fine to put Mountcastle in left field, with Austin Hays in right. And there’s probably no need for an immediate decision because Rutschman’s debut could be put on hold.

Diaz-Swings-Bowie-Orange-Sidebar.jpg* Outfielder Yusniel Diaz has appeared in five Arizona Fall League games with the Mesa Solar Sox and is 4-for-18 with two doubles, a home run, six RBIs, seven walks, five strikeouts and five runs scored.

The Orioles wanted to get more at-bats for Diaz after another injury-plagued season and his inability to crack the major league roster. The anticipated 2021 debut didn’t materialize after he batted .161/.233/.265 in 65 games between Norfolk (54) and Bowie (11).

Diaz has made one start each in left, center and right field with Mesa. He made 30 in right with Norfolk, 10 in center and seven in left.

Lukewarm take: Diaz isn’t a center fielder. Makes sense to get him the reps, but he’s a right fielder and working to improve defensively. He isn’t a finished product in the field, either. But the Orioles would be thrilled to have him healthy and crushing the ball. They don’t need him to win a Gold Glove.

* Kyle Stowers was 2-for-10 with a double and RBI in three games in the AFL before the Orioles shut him down due to a lower back injury that the club is describing as “minor.”

The Orioles are known for taking a cautious approach with injuries, erring on that side, and it made no sense to push Stowers after he already had 530 plate appearances among three affiliates.

Made no sense to push a big-time prospect if he had 30 plate appearances, but you get the idea. There are worse scenarios than resting Stowers and making sure he’s 100 percent for spring training and his eventual assignment to Norfolk.

He should make his major league debut later in the summer, forcing his way into a crowded outfield. Can’t you hear him knocking?

Lukewarm take: Stowers’ back should be fine and it’s only October, but you don’t have to apologize for wondering and worrying. How many times have we heard about a minor ailment and a player being able to return after 10 days on the injured list, and then he’s gone for a month or more? But again, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. The Orioles just want to give him a normal timeline for his offseason program. But again, your frustration GIFs on Twitter are understandable and somewhat amusing.

* The Orioles scored 102 runs in the eighth inning this season, their highest total in any frame.

The 102 runs ranked as the second-most in the American League and were third in the majors.

Weird, right?

There’s more.

Hays’ 24 hits in the eighth led the majors, Mountcastle’s 23 were tied with Aaron Judge for second.

Lukewarm take: Maybe it’s the equivalent of garbage time points in a blowout loss, but why the eighth instead of the ninth, when they scored 43? This feels more like a quirky stat than something significant. Probably wise to avoid overthinking it. Or clue me in if there’s a solid theory.

* Orioles pitchers registered a 5.38 ERA in 883 innings with Pedro Severino catching.

They had a 5.64 ERA in 159 2/3 innings with Chance Sisco, a 7.12 ERA in 342 1/3 with Austin Wynns and a 5.82 ERA in 17 with Nick Ciuffo.

Sisco is gone, with the Mets claiming him off waivers. Wynns was outrighted last week and is going to become a free agent. Severino is a likely non-tender. Ciuffo is clinging to his 40-man spot.

The Orioles will acquire at least one catcher in the offseason.

Lukewarm take: The pitchers should get more of the blame than the catchers. We saw the deficiencies behind the plate, but this is on the guys who start and relieve. They can lower those ERAs with better execution. And if they don’t like the fingers put down by the catchers, shake ‘em off. It’s ultimately their call. Or it should be.

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