Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Mojo preserved; Santander's solid showing; big day for castoffs - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Mojo preserved; Santander’s solid showing; big day for castoffs

Photo credit: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

When the Orioles were about to embark on their seven-game trip to Houston and New York, I was asked by a friend to put an over-under on how they would do.

I said three wins. Then I thought about it and, figured, eh, maybe two wins was more likely.

If I had stuck with my gut, the house would have won.

The Orioles were 3-4 on the trip, but it seems much more successful than that.

Because after being swept in Houston and looking like they would be completely overmatched by the big boys in 2018, the Orioles won three of four against the New York Yankees.

They now have more wins at Yankee Stadium this April than they did in all of 2017, when they were 2-8 in the Bronx.

And it’s not simply that they beat the Yankees, but how. Winning one game in 14 innings and another in 12. They were put in a 5-0 hole by starter Mike Wright in the first inning Sunday and rallied in extra innings.

It’s hard not to make too much about Sunday’s victory, because it looked lost several times. And when the Orioles finally had the one-run lead in the 12th, closer Brad Brach walked the first two batters he faced and then loaded the bases by misfielding a bunt.

All the good mojo seemingly would have been lost heading back to Baltimore if Brach hadn’t induced a double play against Aaron Judge. The Yankees slugger bounced one back to Brach, who threw home to catcher Caleb Joseph, who then smartly threw to third base for the unconventional 1-2-5 double play. That obviously boosted Brach, who struck out Giancarlo Stanton to win the game.

So, in a blink, this club went from potential blown-save disaster to a third win in four games. There’s a lot of confidence created in such a win, such a series. Especially early in a year when clubs are still learning about themselves.

Will it carry over?

Who knows?

But, for the Orioles, it sure beats the alternative.

Santander is holding his own – and more

One of the things that struck me about the series in New York is that right fielder Anthony Santander is showing he can hold his own in a major league lineup and in right field.

Much was made about the Orioles bringing Rule 5 right-hander Pedro Araujo north with the club despite Araujo pitching just two innings above High-A ball in his career (and Araujo acquitted himself nicely Sunday by striking out five of the eight batters he faced).

But let’s not forget that when the Orioles selected Santander from the Cleveland Indians in the December 2016 Rule 5 draft, he hadn’t played above High-A, either. And barely played at all in 2017 (13 games in the majors and 16 in the minors).

He was supposed to stick with the Orioles all last season, but injuries prohibited that. The plan was that Santander would be back for 44 consecutive days with the Orioles to fulfill Rule 5 obligations before he could be sent down to Triple-A without having to pass through waivers or be offered back to the Indians.

Yet, the way Santander has played so far, he may not be going anywhere.

Santander had a huge, 400-foot homer Sunday – the first of his big league career — and a really good catch at the right field wall. He’s started seven of 10 games so far this year, and though he began slowly at the plate, he had three hits Sunday, lifting his average to .207.

There’s also hesitation in the outfield at times, but Santander looks a lot more comfortable there this year than he did in 2017.

The important thing here is that Santander is only 23; he’s actually younger than Orioles’ outfield prospects DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins.

He’s getting an opportunity to play at the big league level, and he’s taking advantage of it. That’s all he and the Orioles can ask for.

A big win for castoffs

Sunday’s win was basically the payoff for the club’s “throw them against the wall” roster philosophy.

Look at who the heroes were:

Santander, a Rule 5 pick; Araujo, a Rule 5 pick; Richard Bleier, acquired in minor trade last year after being designated by the Yankees; Craig Gentry, a journeyman reserve outfielder, Pedro Alvarez, who had to wait until spring training for the third consecutive year to get a job; Danny Valencia, who was stuck in free agent camp in February; and Caleb Joseph, who toiled in the minors seemingly forever and is now a starter.

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette gets ripped often for his “bottom-feeding” when it comes to roster construction. But having role players who can step in and perform when needed is crucial in a long season.

Gentry is the perfect example. Orioles manager Buck Showalter continually talks about how important Gentry is to this club. He showed it in the field Sunday with a clutch catch with the outfield drawn in, and then came up with the game-winning hit on an 11-pitch at-bat in the 12th

Maybe Duquette and Showalter know a little about baseball after all.

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 9, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Gotta love Santander ‘eh Dan? Now if only Gentry could play a little infield ….

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:44 am

      That might be a stretch. But he can play outfield. Really well.

      • AlaskanOsFan

        April 9, 2018 at 12:37 pm

        Yeah, I felt like Bob Uecker in Major League towards the end of this..and I was only listening on the radio..a hat tip to our “Castoff Crew” for coming up spades…and could Aruajo be this year’s version of Castro last year?

        All this week the pitchers need to work on the damn sacrifice defense drill please

  2. Dblack2508

    April 9, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Dan, you know I have been bullish about Santander for a while, the kid reminds me of Victor Martinez. I hope they do not DFA Mike Wright, I still believe he can be a good bullpen arm.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:46 am

      This is hard to explain Black, but I’ve been around 1000s of major league players. Santander just looks the part. And I mean that not just physically but in the way he handles himself, goes about his business, etc. Not a lot of young kids do — at least initially.

  3. Eldersburg Enigma

    April 9, 2018 at 8:09 am

    The roster remains a poorly constructed hot mess.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:49 am

      I’m not sure I’d call it a hot mess. It needs a hard-throwing lefty and an on-base guy with speed. I’m not bothered by the lack of a true utility infielder but that could have helped. I do love Valencia, Alvarez and Gentry off the bench tho. Three real weapons in late innings.

  4. Osfan73

    April 9, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Great series in NY. Awesome to see the Os pick themselves up after a 1-5 start to take 3 out of 4 from a tough Yankee team. Os showed alot of good teamwork especially yesterday picking each other up with timely hitting, defense and bullpen.
    True about the ‘see what sticks’ philosophy-Santander looks sooo much better than last year, Gentry would be a regular starter in my outfield anyday just on his defense alone.
    And how about Caleb Joseph, has to be the most underrated catcher in mlb today. Handles pitching staff well but showed in this series how smart a player he truely is with that play at third friday night tagging BOTH Sanchez and Stanton in what should’ve been a DP, then on that DP yesterday by throwing down to third. Tremendous situational awareness and feel for the position. And so many complained about his hitting, HA! Now look at him!! Go Os!!!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      April 9, 2018 at 8:27 am

      What we have here is a bigger cheerleader that I am ! You Go 73!!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Man, I hope this optimism thing isn’t contagious.

  5. Mau

    April 9, 2018 at 8:34 am

    That was magical.

    Also Dan, “the” “i”. The only 2 I saw after the first read. I’m considering doing this for part-time cash soon. Maybe your blog would be interested?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 9:05 am

      Well, let’s just say I appreciate your volunteer work. I do. (Though next time be a little more specific. If I missed it the 4 times or so I read it, it becomes real hard to find a missing I or article. But I always appreciate the help regardless.).

  6. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    April 9, 2018 at 8:51 am

    This is a great series win in NY. Brach’s high wire act in the 12th ended a crazy game. Normally the Yankees get a huge walkoff win in that situation. A gritty team win with plenty of heroes.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Yeah. I think Joseph’s play changed the tenor. Totally. Relaxed Brach. Because he then carved up Stanton like the old Brach.

      • Osfan73

        April 9, 2018 at 10:18 am

        That’s right! You mess with the Brach you get the horns Stanton!!

  7. bill-s

    April 9, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Santander. Gentry. Alvarez. Valencia. Kind of begs the question: What happens when Trumbo comes off the DL?

    And also, Wow! I gained so much respect for Caleb Joseph in this series. Poise. Situational awareness. Pitch management. Occasional offensive contributions. Baseball smarts. Love having him around. And a definite managerial candidate in about ten years. (Plus, he’s learning from the best!)

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 9:07 am

      Yeah, I could definitely see him as a manager. Great people person too.

  8. Birdman

    April 9, 2018 at 9:41 am

    Kudos to the O’s. On the ropes coming out of Houston, they stepped up with a strong series on the road against the Yankees. A number of impressive individual performances in the Yankees series, including Cashner, Araujo, Bleier, Santander, Alvarez, and Manny.

    Biggest concern coming out of New York, the continued inability of either Tillman or Wright to perform as a competent major league starter. Even with Cobb soon coming on board, this team can’t afford to concede nearly every fifth game before the first pitch is thrown, if they hope to make a playoff run. Losses in April and May count just as much those in August and September.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:01 am

      It is baby steps. And I don’t expect fans to be encouraged by Tillman’s line. But he was a lot less lost in NY than he was in Houston. Not good enough. But maybe a building block. No one’s season — especially his — can be determined in one or two starts. Good or bad.

  9. Orial

    April 9, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Yesterdays comeback from a 5 run deficit is something unheard of in recent Oriole times. I give a lot the credit to second tier players(did Schoop even show up this weekend?) Pitching, especially the bullpen,but some decent starts too has been on the rise. This may very well be Buck’s finest hour. One other thing–what a smart,sharp baseball mind on Caleb Joseph. Future mgr.

  10. Bancells Moustache

    April 9, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Excellent, gutsy team win yesterday, though with a massive chunk of luck sprinkled on. Hopefully these guys don’t get carried away with the back-patting and ignore the teachable moments from this Series. Know what base to go to, don’t try to barehand when not necessary, don’t have it come down to Giancarlo Stanton with two men on. Stanton is from Southern California and spent his career in Florida. You’re going to have to face him when it’s not hockey weather at some point, and his at bats are going to end very differently.

    I’m curious to whose temper meltdown in New York did more career damage; Mike Wright or Conor McGregor? God knows when you are now looking for work, and are a guy who has a rep as being too emotional, the wise move is not to start training for the Apollo Creed fight on the dugout wall. I would’ve said stick him in the ‘Pen and try to get what you can out of the big arm, but that rather immature display of pugilism may very well have been Wright’s swan song.

    Speaking of swan songs, with Santander emerging as a legitimate big league outfielder, how long until the magnificent hair of Colby Rasmus graces Baltimore area milk cartons? 10 days? 14 days?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:03 am

      I nearly wrote about Wright’s swings but figured it was way down on the mention list. But I’m with ya.

    • Raymo

      April 9, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      Stache, I loved your comment about Rasmus. So poetic. Great writing.

  11. deqalt

    April 9, 2018 at 9:54 am

    I’ve been very critical about this team so far, but watching Sunday it was great to see the emotion of the players and how much they care. Even Adam Jones said it was huge. As a fan that is all you can ask for is that they play hard. I think Dan Duquette gets blamed too much for the moves he makes as if he is the one setting the budget. He is as creative as any GM in baseball because he has too. (Brach,Bleier,Santander,Gentry) Give him Brian Cashman’s payroll and then he looks like a genius. Orioles have a good combo in Buck and Dan and need to sign them long term. The grass is not greener on the other side. The issues are in that law office. We still have Trumbo, Britton, and Cobb coming……

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:05 am

      Duquette has had his share of misses. No question. And might still. But he also has unearthed some useful pieces. And I think people disregard those because they aren’t stars. But those guys can win a game or two. And that’ll matter if your stars play like they should.

  12. JCO

    April 9, 2018 at 10:15 am

    That really was a great win.

    One thought…give Castro a shot at starting. Wright obviously isn’t working out. If Castro works out, with Cobb showing up next week, the O’s might actually have a solid rotation by May.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:05 am

      If you do that, I think it has to begin at AAA. Which may be the plan once Cobb is activated.

  13. DPG0124

    April 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

    I don’t want to get carried away, but so far this season we’re seeing all the greatest hits (good and bad) from good Orioles teams of the past. Those wins Friday and Sunday reminded me a lot of 2012. There’s reason for optimism as Cobb is joining the rotation soon, Cashner and Gausman had solid performances, and Schoop and Beckham are due to heat up a bit. I also just want to shout out Pedro Alvarez – he’s had a lot of good ABs this year. Definitely needs to be in the lineup against righties every night for the foreseeable future.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:06 am

      If you can pick your spots for Alvarez, he is a super useful big leaguer.

  14. Djowen

    April 9, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I am a little concerned about who goes when Trumbo and Rasmus come back. I hope they DFA Rasmus and get him through waivers so he can play full time in Norfolk to see if he has anything left after taking half of last year off. I have a feeling that Cortes will be gone soon.
    So far the Yankees are living up to my predictions. Judge, Stanton and Boone are going to be subject to tremendous pressure in NY. Time will tell if they can overcome it but this series gives us hope that the Yankees aren’t as good as the “experts” tell us they are. It will be interesting to see what happens in Boston this week. The Sox played the two worst teams in MLB for 9 games. Hopefully they aren’t as good as those two teams made them look.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:07 am

      I also question just how good that starting pitching staff is. Good but not scary — like Houston, Cleveland or potentially Boston.

  15. jkneps63

    April 9, 2018 at 10:39 am

    4-6 looks pretty wonderful when I was fearing a 1-9 start. Glad to see the run production despite leading the MLB in strikeouts (by 20 Ks!). If they can find a 5th starter maybe they will be in the hunt…Buck is working miracles with this roster IMO. Hope they keep it up! The minor league teams are also providing reasons for optimism…

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:08 am

      There are warts. We’ll see. But again, as you pointed out, better than the alternative.

  16. Ben1

    April 9, 2018 at 10:55 am

    1 game does not a season make.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 11:08 am

      Or a series. Or a month. That is true.

  17. willmiranda

    April 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Does anybody still think Wright may be the new Arrieta? It seems the bottom-line reason for keeping him is that he might be picked up on waivers, win a Cy Young, and embarrass the O’s I think we should go out on that limb. The option limits have a good purpose: if a player and an organization are not growing together, the player gets a chance in another environment. The O’s have had enough chances with him and vice versa. Personally, I question whether anyone else would pick him up, but burying him in the bullpen or the Norfolk shuffle doesn’t seem right (no pun intended).
    I’d also like to see Bleier get a shot in the rotation.
    Finally, my big concern is still the D. They made some great plays over the weekend, but there were also some very dubious moments.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      I figure some team would take a chance on that arm. But they’d have to put him on the 25-man roster. So that’s tricky.

  18. Schwarzstop

    April 9, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Life is always good in Birdland when you win a series against the Yanks, especially in their crib! The thing I noticed was the lack of fundamentals from the Yankees! Offline throws to home – if accurate, they become close plays. Missing the cutoff and throwing to the wrong place allowing runners to advance. Not errors in the box score but errors on the scorecard!

    Beating the Yankees does not make the season a success, but I think, after losing 2 of 3 in the Opening Weekend and getting swept in Houston, this series shook the Orioles team chemistry into a concoction that will be fun to watch and, dare I say… contenders!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      Let’s just go with fun to watch for now.

  19. jkneps63

    April 9, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    I like that they have brought up Yacabonis, Scott and Harvey already. Let’s know the organization isn’t satisfied with Tillman and Wright’s performance. Giving these youngster a look-see at the MLB level in April might discover a pitcher or two who is ready to shine.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 9, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Yeah. Although I don’t think there is any current intention to keep Harvey around once the bullpen gets some rest.

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