Sifting through more spring training storylines

Mother Nature handled most of the snow that buried my driveway and car last Monday and again Friday morning. Wait for the temperatures to move above freezing and do some light sweeping later in the day.

A veteran move.

Also, a pandemic move with little reason for me to be driving.

The lockout could impact the report dates for spring training, where the biggest weather menaces are those torrential downpours that last about 15 minutes and threaten morning workouts. They also make for a sloppy walk back to our cars.

I’ve already written about 10 camp storylines that should keep me busy, whether or not I’m able to hold onto my hotel reservation in Sarasota.

Rutschman-Catching-Bowie-White-Sidebar.jpgThere’s the rotation behind John Means and Jordan Lyles, whether Adley Rutschman will get a fair shot at breaking camp with the team, whether Rougned Odor will avoid becoming Yolmer Sánchez, who’s on the left side of the infield, how Yusniel Diaz will look in camp, whether Paul Fry rediscovers his command and confidence, whether there’s a noticeable difference in Trey Mancini after a normal offseason, what role is bestowed upon Jorge López, whether Tyler Wells makes the club and is the closer, and who’s catching if not Rutschman.

Here are two more:

Does Félix Bautista turn his first appearance on the 40-man roster into a bullpen job?
Bautista was protected in the Rule 5 draft, whenever it’s held. The Orioles couldn’t risk losing an arm that fires fastballs in triple digits.

Other numbers also impressed. They didn’t live exclusively through a radar gun.

Bautista averaged 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings last summer in 40 games between Single-A Aberdeen, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He also registered a 1.54 ERA and 1.071 WHIP with only two home runs allowed in 46 2/3 innings.

Unfortunately, he also averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings and that’s a red flag for a pitcher trying to make the majors. It just gets harder.

It’s also one of the reasons why he’ll be such an interesting follow in spring training.

We like guys who throw exceptionally hard. We want to know whether they’re going to hit the bull.

The Orioles signed Bautista, 26, to a minor league deal in 2016 after the Marlins released him from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, which makes his climb and inclusion on the 40-man such an appealing story. He’s struck out 258 batters in 222 2/3 innings. Also a solid angle.

This isn’t a team with a set bullpen. There’s room for Bautista if he dominates.

I’ve never seen Bautista on the mound or a Zoom call. The former could be fun, the latter a necessity again during the pandemic.

Does outfielder DJ Stewart solidify his spot on the roster?
Stewart appears to be competing for a part-time role again while Austin Hays and Anthony Santander are the favorites to occupy the corners, and with Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle serving as designated hitter when not at first base.

Stewart has been in the organization since the Orioles made him the 25th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He has one minor league option remaining. He’s eligible for arbitration after the season.

This is an important year for Stewart, a career .214/.329/.403 hitter in 619 plate appearances. And he’s recovering from surgery to correct a right knee osteochondral defect.

The home runs come in bunches, like six within a six-day span in September 2020. He homered in back-to-back games twice last season and hit two on Aug. 12. Nine of his last 15 hits since July 27 went for
extra-bases - four doubles and five home runs.

His plate appearances are among the best on the team if you value walks.

Stewart drew 44 of them in only 100 games. Cedric Mullins led the team with 59 in 159 games and Mancini was second with 51 in 147.

Spring training will provide opportunities to check Stewart’s recovery from surgery. It also will create story ideas related to his future with the team.

Here’s the interactive part.

1. Does Bautista break camp with the team?

2. What kind of season will Stewart have?

3. Is soup a meal?

(You can ignore the last one.)

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