Myriad O's Thoughts: Cashner's pitchability; leadoff quandary; Asher and Kelly moves -

Dan Connolly

Myriad O’s Thoughts: Cashner’s pitchability; leadoff quandary; Asher and Kelly moves

Getting a win at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night was obviously key for the Orioles and their fans.

It snapped the club’s five-game losing streak that began after the Opening Day comeback victory on March 29. It showed them they can win in New York after last season’s disaster.

And it allowed fans to breathe again, even though it is, um, April 6.

See, the Orioles won’t go 1-161 after all.

Anyway, the result was important, as was the offense having a big inning (five runs in the seventh) and the bullpen holding the lead (Brad Brach picked up his first save of the year).

To me, though, Thursday was all about Andrew Cashner’s pitchability.

We didn’t see much of that in the veteran right-hander’s Orioles’ debut Saturday at Camden Yards.

Thursday was a different story.

Cashner lasted six innings, allowing two hits (including a solo homer by Aaron Judge), three walks and one run while striking out five batters.


It was against a tough Yankees lineup, and the performance was strong enough to give Cashner his first win as an Oriole.

What it also did is provide a glimpse as to why the Orioles were so interested in landing Cashner this offseason: The guy pitched Thursday.

Known as a sinkerballer, Cashner didn’t rely only on his two-seam fastball. He threw a four-seamer, a cutter/slider, a curve, a change-up and kept moving the ball all around the plate. He hit spots, mixed speeds and looks, and kept a formidable lineup guessing.

In the second, when he briefly lost his command and walked two, he induced rookie Tyler Austin to ground into an inning-ending double play.

In his last outing, Cashner allowed three homers. Thursday, he gave up one – to Judge, which snapped a 0-0 tie.

That’s when some pitchers would have fallen apart. But Cashner calmly attacked the next hitter, slugger Giancarlo Stanton, throwing four of five pitches for strikes and ultimately getting Stanton to ground out to complete the sixth.

It wasn’t a masterpiece. It wasn’t dominating. It was simply good pitching by a guy who has done this thing before.

I’m sure the rest of the rotation was watching. Because, frankly, with the exception of Kevin Gausman, who occasionally can overpower hitters, the rotation is made up of guys who have to hit spots and keep hitters guessing.

Dylan Bundy, for one, has really upped his pitching acumen in the last year. Cashner’s presence, and smart performances like Thursday, can only solidify the notion that pitching is far more effective than throwing.

The ongoing leadoff dilemma

I have a feeling we are gonna be discussing this one for a chunk of the 2018 season.

Chris Davis, who led off for the first five games of the year and was 1-for-20, sat on Wednesday against Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel and was back in the lineup hitting fifth Thursday.

Tim Beckham, who hit leadoff for much of the second half of last season for the Orioles, was in the role Wednesday in Houston and then Trey Mancini led off Thursday.

So, what’s the plan going forward?

I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

Beckham has the speed to do it, but he’s an aggressive hitter who strikes out a lot and has a career .308 on-base percentage (though he had a .348 OBP for the Orioles last year).

Mancini has shown a solid eye and some plate discipline early on his career, but he doesn’t have the speed typical of a leadoff hitter — or of Beckham. We saw that in the first inning Thursday, when he tried to score from first on a two-out double to left and was thrown out at the plate.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter also mentioned that he felt like Mancini changed his approach some when he was hitting leadoff in the spring, and the Orioles want Mancini to keep doing what he did last year. He did that on Thursday at leadoff, compiling three hits, including a two-run single, and so I’m sure he’ll get more opportunities atop the lineup, probably as soon as tonight.

You’d have to assume that the experiment with Davis has ended after he had never done it previously in his lengthy career and struggled mightily with the opportunity.

I’m sure there will be others who will get the occasional shot to leadoff – Craig Gentry, maybe Colby Rasmus – because there’s not a true leadoff hitter on this roster. (This is where I’ll write my obligatory swipe at not signing Jon Jay this offseason to a reasonable deal. OK, moving on.)

Some argue that a player only leads off once per night, but it’s also about being in the order directly in front of your best hitters – Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones – throughout the game. You need a guy who can get on base and routinely score from first on a double or second on a single.

If it were me, I’d go with Beckham at leadoff. He’s not ideal (far from it), but he’s probably the best fit on this current 25-man roster. I can accept Mancini there, too, given the options.

Asher claimed; Kelly outrighted to Bowie

The Orioles designated four young pitchers for assignment on Opening Day, essentially taking them off the 40-man roster to make room for veterans Gentry, Rasmus, Danny Valencia and Pedro Alvarez.

Two of the pitchers – Stefan Crichton and Jesus Liranzo – were dealt in minor trades earlier this week (and Liranzo was subsequently waived by the Los Angeles Dodgers and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday).

Now, the other two have landed.

Alec Asher was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers, and Michael Kelly cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Bowie.

Asher is only 26 ad he’s had some success in the majors. And because he can pitch out of the bullpen and also can make spot starts, he has some value to a big league team. I was somewhat surprised he was claimed, but he has an option remaining, so he’s a nice Triple-A insurance policy.

Kelly going unclaimed wasn’t surprising, but it made the Orioles’ decision to offer him a 40-man spot when he signed in December even more befuddling. The organization didn’t know that the free agent market would collapse, but Kelly, 25, had never pitched in the majors and the Orioles gave him a 40-man spot while plenty of seasoned major league pitchers had to settle for minors deals in January and February.

At the time, executive vice president Dan Duquette believed the only way to land Kelly was placing him on the 40-man. Perhaps that was true then.

A few months later, Kelly remains with the organization, but off the roster.



  1. boss61

    April 6, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Dan, I agree that Beckham is the best leadoff choice. If he gets on base, he will not clog the basepaths. Mancini batting behind Crush will get Davis better pitches to see.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:50 am

      That’s how I’d do it. Or just drop Davis further. 7 probably.

      • ubetonit

        April 8, 2018 at 12:33 am

        Davis hasn’t “struggled mightily” batting just at leadoff. He plays b/c of the sunk money contract & his somewhat mythical defensive ability. I agree with you about batting him 7th. Make him EARN a higher position in the batting order. What is so drastic about making him earn his AB’s? Until then 7th or even 8th if he doesn’t produce batting 7th.

  2. deqalt

    April 6, 2018 at 7:35 am

    I think Mancini is a good short term solution just like Adam Jones is when the offense is struggling. Also please someone tell me the truth about Chris Davis. Forget the strikeouts and average, before he signed that big contract he was known as one of the most powerful hitters, When he hit the ball it was a blast. The ball would explode off his bat. Last year, you didn’t see those towering homeruns when he did hit. He is a shell of himself. Is he not fully healthy or are there other reasons? I love the guy but the eyes don’t lie something is up.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:51 am

      Davis can’t tell you the truth. He seems healthy enough. Eyes are good. In good shape. But it is a mental game and he just seems to be tricking himself constantly.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 6, 2018 at 8:00 am

    Nice job by Cashner. I’m starting to believe this starting rotation may shape nicely. Assuming Cobb is still Cobb, and if Gausman can wake up this year before the allstar break, 1 through 4 look like they may be able to hold their own with any of the other clubs in the AL East. The question is the 5th starter and depth after that. I’m starting to feel as though Tillman may never regain his form, so who’s going to step into that spot? I know everybody is looking at Castro, and I have nothing to back this up, but I would absoultely love the O’s to roll the dice on Nestor Cortes and give him a shot.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:52 am

      I’ll go back to my old mantra and say just one game. But that’s exactly how he needs to pitch and the rest of them too. That happens, then you’ll be right Booger.

  4. Balmer Exile

    April 6, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Having watched the annual inept hitting display by the Orioles here in Houston it’s good to see a big inning happen. Watching Chris Davis flail away against the Astros was disheartening for someone who watched him at his best. Here’s hoping things pick up for him back in the middle of the order.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:53 am

      For all the Davis bashing, Balmer, you bring up a good point. He really is an important cog in this offense. When he’s good, they can be really good.

  5. Osfan73

    April 6, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Good rebound performances last night from Cashner and Brach. Os picked themselves up and got a much needed win. Hopefully Kevin Gausman sees from Cashner’s start last night that you need to be able to ‘pitch’ as you say and that you can’t just try and overpower everyone just because you can. Imagine what his success would be if he ever managed to show the ability to do both simultaneously on a consistent basis.
    Like Beckham to lead off, at least you get speed at the top of the order. He has shown he can do it and I think his presence leading off somehow energizes the rest of the lineup, which is really needed at times with this group given their tendency to be all or nothing offensively. Gentry can move it as well but I’d go with Beckham for now.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:54 am

      Yeah. That energy can be key. And even the threat of stealing can disrupt a game plan early.

  6. Eldersburg Enigma

    April 6, 2018 at 8:29 am

    I don’t buy Gentry or Beckham as anything more than AAAA players. The roster is constructed poorly with a few fringe major league position players (Valencia and Santander along with the guys I mentioned) and having two Rule 5 guys in the bullpen is a dumpster fire. This season won’t go well.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Wow, enigma. This is an interesting statement. Fine on Gentry but I think Beckham is a MLer. I think he is better than AAAA for sure. How much? Well l, I dunno that.

    • Steve Cockey

      April 6, 2018 at 10:09 am

      I’m super interested to see what Beckham does now that he’s been given a full-time spot in the majors for really the first time. Remember, he was only playing part-time in June/July last year with TB before the trade.

      I said to a few people over the offseason that he’s never really proven himself — either offensively or defensively — over a full 162. It’s why I would’ve loved to have seen Neil Walker brought in, especially given how cheap he was. Beckham has huge talent for sure, but he’s no slam dunk as a full-time ML regular on either side of the ball in my mind.

      • Jbigle1

        April 8, 2018 at 3:04 am

        I’d be surprised if TB is good enough to be a regular at 3rd base. He may be able to hit enough at SS to play there. Maybe. He has a serious strikeout problem and that usually catches up to guys. At 3rd there’s too many other options.

  7. Orial

    April 6, 2018 at 8:42 am

    By process of elimination for now it’s Beckham. Agree that rotation may be solid. The 2 rule 5 bullpen panic may be a little overblown by fans. Sure they had a rough outing in Houston but there is more promise with Cortes/Araujo than thought. I think time will prove that. Still comes down to an erratic offense.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 9:56 am

      Agreed. Just tough to have that much inexperience back to back in a tight game.

    • Jbigle1

      April 8, 2018 at 3:07 am

      Cortes has an 86 mph heater. I’ll be very surprised if he can consistently get MLers out. He’s crafty, sure but at some point that lack of stuff isn’t going to cut it. We don’t have a whole lot of guys down in AAA that are significantly better but when Britton comes back I wouldn’t be surprised to see cortes get the boot.

  8. Birdman

    April 6, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Cashner’s performance was very encouraging. No question that replacing Ubaldo and Miley with Cashner and Cobb is a huge upgrade in the starting rotation. Tillman should be yanked as the 5th starter, ASAP. Wright and Castro are not ideal options, but either would be an upgrade over Tillman at this point.

    What’s the story with Rasmus? If its possible, he looks even more lost at the plate than Davis.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 10:14 am

      This is knee-jerk Birdman. You could end up being right. But all these guys need some time to get in a groove. Wright or Castro an upgrade over Tillman is, I think, way premature. Tillman had a rough outing on Monday against a good Astros team and a disaster last year. But give him some rope in April and see what he does with it.

    • Jbigle1

      April 8, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      I think Mike Wright showed you today why we’re better off with Tillman. Mike Wright isn’t a major league starter. Tillman may not be anymore either. Tilly just can’t throw strikes. Hopefully he can work it out after a couple of outings but I’m not so sure. I don’t know if we have anything better in the organization unfortunately. Maybe Castro, maybe.

  9. karks

    April 6, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Last night’s game was definitely a feel-good type of win. They (and we) really needed it. Cashner made a really good lineup look ordinary. I think the cold weather made his outing even more impressive.

    For the leadoff hitter, I’m fine with Mancini being there for awhile. His approach is so good and he’s going to get on base. With Schoop and Machado hitting behind him, they will do some damage. The lack of speed is a tradeoff, for sure. But I think there’s enough depth in this lineup that Trey might do the most good at the top of the order.

    One of the happiest moments of last night for me was seeing Davis get a hit and beat that shift. I know he has it in him to have a big season, hopefully it happens.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 10:16 am

      I don’t disagree. I just wonder if the Orioles keep playing close games, like they have in the last few years, how much not scoring in front of a big hit by a Machado, Schoop or Jones will have an effect on this club. Again, more curious than anything. Markakis wasn’t a speed demon either.

  10. jkneps63

    April 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Great outing by Cashner, very encouraging to see him only allow 5 base runners through 6 innings. Hope to see more outing like this from him! Big W for the team, I was resigned to seeing an 1-9 start (not quite 1-161) but last night’s performance provides a small glimmer of hope…

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      Yeah. A glimmer. Again, these two teams are really good. So we all knew it was gonna be a rough road trip.

  11. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    April 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Cashner pitched the way fans and the Orioles envisioned. It was a much needed win against a tough NY lineup. Hopefully Gausman can follow up with a solid performance tonight.

    The leadoff spot will likely wind up being Beckham as noted. Mancini is more patient with a better on base percentage but is slower. Beckham can go from 1st to 3rd on a long single plus steal bases. Something the Orioles need to manufacture runs besides the longball.

    • Osfan73

      April 6, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      Manufacturing some runs would be a welcome sight!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Agreed. Not something the roster is built for, though.

  12. Dblack2508

    April 6, 2018 at 10:46 am

    A very encouraging outing indeed. Gausman and Tillman I believe are the wild cards of the starting rotation. Rasmus is Davis 2.0 to me. they need to remove as many strikes out guys as possible.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      I don’t see Gausman as much of a wild card. His floor is pretty set. It’s that ceiling that makes him unpredictable.

  13. Stacey

    April 6, 2018 at 10:57 am

    I think the ability to get on base is more important than speed at the top of the lineup. Would Beckham have scored on the play last night where Mancini got thrown out? Maybe, but he probably wouldn’t have been on base in the first place.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 6, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      Haha. I’ll give ya the “not on base part,” but I think he absolutely would have scored. He can really fly on the bases when he gets going. His helmet may not have made it home safely, but I think he would have. Although obviously we can’t be 100 percent certain.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      April 6, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      I agree with you Stacey, getting on base comes first and is more important. But it’s also true when they say … “Speed Kills”.

      That being said, I’d rather have 9 Boom Booms than 9 Beckhams.

  14. Mau

    April 9, 2018 at 7:11 am

    If they do nothing more than win every series vs the Yankees this year I’ll be pleased. That was nice.

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