On the next to last day of the 2020 season, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias talked at length about this year and what lies ahead for the Orioles. It was another Zoom interview, but we didn’t really zoom through it. He was asked a lot of questions and there was a lot to absorb and wrap our heads around.
No news was really made, nor were there any proclamations. Elias didn’t commit to having an instructional league in the weeks ahead, but it sure sounds like the Orioles will do so. He wasn’t going to use this forum to tell us he would pick up the 2021 option on shortstop Jose Iglesias’ contract. But that seems all but certain. Hyde had praise for the young talent that came up and played well. For manager Brandon Hyde and his staff. For the entire organization for handling the extensive protocols and keeping healthy during the season. Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and his staff made sure the O’s navigated smoothly through the uncertain season of COVID with few issues.
Here is a sampling of some of Elias’ comments, and you can click here to read more of his quotes from Saturday.
On Hyde: “I think he and his staff, it’s been an extremely difficult year to be a major league manager. Which is one of the hardest jobs in sports to begin with. Everything he has to deal with, on a day-in, day-out basis, it’s been crazy. But I think he’s handled it with grace and humanity and he also continues to be a good baseball coach. So, I think everyone is impressed with the work that he has done and it’s exciting having him as part of the organization.”
How will this year impact minor league player assignments for next year? If a player was slated to play, for instance, at Single-A Delmarva or Single-A Frederick this year, do they go there next year?: “Totally case-by-case. We’ve already been thinking about it and having those discussions. And, you know, if you were at Bowie all year (at the alternate site), I think that’s a factor. Your age is a factor. I think how you played last year, what type of player you are. I think we’re going to see a whole spectrum of outcomes there in terms of people skipping levels, repeating them or not repeating them. We’re also awaiting the dust to kind of settle on what minor league baseball looks like next year on a number of fronts. We’ll just wait and see. But in terms of the players, I can see that depending a lot on that particular player.”
Is infield depth and adding talent there an offseason priority?: “It continues to be. I think infielders are hard to come by. When I first joined the Orioles at the end of 2018, I looked at what we had and it did seem there was a deficit of infielders. But a large number of quality outfielders, many you are seeing right now. I think that that deficit of infielders was mainly owing to the lack of an international pipeline. That is where a lot of major league infielders are coming from these days.
“So, we have tried to attack it at the major league level through free agency and the waiver wire. We have some guys we like from that route that are with the team now. We’ve tried to attack it through the last couple of drafts and also a couple of trades. We’ve gotten the international free agent, the J2 spigot flowing now. So hopefully, all of that, long-term, will fortify our infield depth. But it’s like pitching, it’s one of those areas where everyone is always looking for more.”
On Chris Davis, who has two years remaining on his contract: “It was not a successful year for Chris on a number of fronts, and it’s a frustration for everyone involved and it’s a tough situation for everyone involved, and that includes him. We’re taking it as it comes, but he is under contract with this team, there’s a lot that goes into that and we do not have plans to alter that fact.”
O’s lose in Buffalo
Lefty John Means threw a gem, but a lack of offense, some key errors and another Randal Grichuk homer conspired to lead Toronto to a 5-2 win over the Orioles on Saturday night. The Orioles fell to 24-35 with just today’s game left to go. They have lost four of five, eight of 10 and 14 of the last 18 games.
Means did not give up a hit until Cavan Biggio hit a slider out to right with two outs in the sixth. Yielding the one run was enough for Means to have to take a loss. He is 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA. Had he gotten a win he would have tied Thomas Eshelman for the team wins lead with three.
Over his last two starts, Means has a 1.54 ERA with one walk to 21 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.
Over his last four starts, Means has a 1.52 ERA and 0.63 WHIP with three walks and 30 strikeouts over 23 2/3 innings.
What a strong finish for Means as he lowered his ERA from 8.10 on Sept. 2 to its current level. His fastball was a real weapon these past two starts particularly. A lot of swing-and-miss on that pitch.
For a team that is going to finish at least 10 games under the .500 mark, the Orioles do seem to have as many as four rotation spots and several bullpen jobs about set for the 2021 season.