Five observations on the Orioles after the first two weeks - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Five observations on the Orioles after the first two weeks

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

BALTIMORE—It has been an action-packed two weeks for the Orioles. Let’s take a look at some observations after the first 13 games:

  • General manager Mike Elias is looking more and more prescient. The team desperately needs an infusion of talent.

Last week, when the Orioles needed a pitcher to eat some innings behind Nate Karns in Toronto, they resorted to Matt Wotherspoon. Not even the hardest of hard-core Orioles fans were aware of Wotherspoon, who was often used to get the final outs of innings in spring training when pitchers exceeded their pitch count.

He pitched in one game and was put on waivers to clear a roster spot. That the Orioles chose Wotherspoon spoke of their lack of choices for relievers.

Since then, because of injuries to Alex Cobb and Karns, they’ve called up Tanner Scott, whom they would have preferred to keep in Triple-A Norfolk, and Josh Lucas, who signed a minor league contract over the winter and stayed around until near the end of spring training.

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Evan Phillips was also called up, but he nearly made the team in spring training and could stay for an extended period.

Cody Carroll is rehabbing a back injury in Sarasota, and Branden Kline is just tasting Triple-A for the first time.

  • There will be countless roster moves this year.

Through the first 13 games, the Orioles have used 32 players. A year ago, the Orioles used a franchise-record 56 players, and they could exceed that total.

“I think anything is possible when you’re in this type of phase right now,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re getting a lot of looks at a lot of players and still evaluating in a lot of ways and a player development-type situation where we’re focused on process and getting more talent in the organization.”

Hyde is showing lots of patience, and cautioning that there are going to be many tough periods this season.

The Orioles are beginning a four-game series in Boston tonight, and while the Red Sox haven’t played well, Hyde is disappointed by the Orioles’ recent play.

“We’re an angry team that they’re running into,” Hyde said. “We haven’t played our best baseball this last week. We were pretty good the first five games or so, but this last week hasn’t [seen] our best game.”

  • While many fans say they support a rebuild, they’re not backing it up by their attendance.

On Monday, the Orioles drew just 6,585, the lowest-paying crowd in the history of Oriole Park. It was a unseasonably warm night, and they were playing the Oakland Athletics, a team that made the postseason a year ago.

Yes, the NCAA tournament final was on, and the Orioles traditionally draw poorly on Monday nights, but the low crowd still drew derision from the Twitterverse.

Fans need to realize that the rebuild is going to be a long one, and quick results aren’t evident.

Elias still hasn’t had his first draft as a major league general manager, and while he’s worked feverishly at the edges throughout spring training and in the early weeks of the season, measurable improvement isn’t going to be evident for at least another year or two.

  • The fans who showed up this week were true fans.

Chris Davis was booed each time he struck out during the three-game series with the New York Yankees, but during the series with Oakland in which Davis set major league records for most consecutive hitless at-bats and plate appearances, he was greeted warmly by the modest crowds.

His long flies, and even his strikeouts, weren’t booed, and Hyde, who is new to Baltimore, lauded the fans, saying their treatment of Davis was “phenomenal.”

Fans in Baltimore aren’t known for harsh treatment of their athletes, and it was jarring to hear the boos and charming to hear the cheers.

“It’s awesome. I appreciate it so much,” Davis said. “Really the last few nights, just the encouraging yells and shouts throughout the game, and I know they’re behind me. I know the people that boo aren’t the majority, and I really appreciate the fans showing up and backing me.”

Small weekday crowds are going to be the rule this season, as they were a year ago. Had the Yankees or Red Sox been playing this week instead of the Athletics, the Orioles might not have drawn more than 15,000 per game.

  • If you’re waiting for the Orioles to cut ties with Davis, it’s not coming soon.

Despite his nightmarish streak, the Orioles have doubled down on Davis. Hitting coach Don Long is working overtime with Davis. Hyde is an unflinching supporter and keeping him in the lineup against right-handed pitchers.

It would be shocking to see Davis fulfill the nearly four seasons left on his contract, and it would surprise many if he even completed the 2019 season with the Orioles.

Even if the Orioles wanted to end Davis’ time with the team, there’s no consensus minor leaguer to replace him on the roster.

Austin Hays’ sprained thumb has sidelined him, and the team wants Yusniel Diaz, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart to have consistent success in the minors before they’re summoned.

If Mark Trumbo successfully completes his rehab after knee surgery, that could cause the Orioles to rethink the Davis situation.

Trumbo is on the 60-day injured list and isn’t eligible to play until late May. If the Orioles continue with 13 pitchers and a three-player bench, it would be hard to see Davis and Trumbo on the team since Hyde cherishes maximum maneuverability—even with a short bench.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Bancells Moustache

    April 12, 2019 at 8:04 am

    One positive to come from this stumble in the darkness; Kevin Brown. The O’s new play by play man on the radio has been pretty good. Initially I didn’t like him, mainly because of his voice. It’s not bad or annoying or anything, it’s just kinda generic. I actually mistook him for Ravens play by play man Gerry Sandusky at first. Brown lacks the instantly recognizable voice of an Angel, Manfra but aside from that he’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s had a great banter with Dave Johnson, they’ve been genuinely funny at times, and he seems to be presenting far more analytic information on the air than we’ve previously heard on an O’s broadcast. It’ll take some getting used to but I think the booth is on good hands going forward.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 12, 2019 at 9:19 am

      I’ve gotten to know Kevin a bit, and he’s a great guy, but I rarely hear the broadcasts because I’m at most of the games. Looking forward to hearing him later this season when he does a road game I’m not covering.

  2. VICTORTEE

    April 12, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I would like to know the whole story of Joe Angel retiring. Joe said his leaving was a “mutual decision”. What does that mean? If he just decided to retire, how would it be a “mutual” decision?
    I wonder if he wanted to do some kind of a limited schedule like Vin Scully and some others doing home games only and the Orioles saying no.

    • Orial

      April 12, 2019 at 11:18 am

      Agree. Mutual has a ring of “don’t let the door hit you” to it.

  3. Djowen

    April 12, 2019 at 9:10 am

    I don’t think they chose Wotherspoon because they didn’t have anyone else, as much as it was, because it was a one day recall. They didn’t want to bring up Phillips or Scott for 1 day and not be able to bring them back up for 10 days. Also I think they figured that Wotherspoon would get through waivers.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 12, 2019 at 9:16 am

      DJ, because they have such limited choices, they chose Wotherspoon. Not many other relievers on the 40-man, Scott, Phillips, Carroll and Kline.

  4. Fareastern89

    April 12, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I’m guessing the attendance picks up — at least a little — this summer, if the club brings up a few of the actual prospects. Right now, it seems like they’re just trying to make it through the season, seeing if any of these AAAA guys can make it in the majors, while they focus on player development in the minors. I think that’s a wise long-range approach, but it’s not calculated to lure fans to the ballpark. The Angelos brothers must have expected attendance to decline when they gave Elias free rein to start the rebuild. On the other hand, lines should be shorter at Boog’s BBQ.

  5. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    April 12, 2019 at 9:54 am

    The injuries to Cobb and Bleier haven’t helped. Cobb pitched well against the Yankees and looked like his old self. Bleier hasn’t pitched well at all and his health most likely played a factor. Dwight Smith has been their best pickup. He hit great in Spring Training and it has carried over to the regular season.

  6. Tony Paparella

    April 12, 2019 at 10:16 am

    As you say Hyde and the front office may have some tough choices when Trumbo comes back and Davis not tradeable with Trumbo not being traded unless Orioles pick up some of his contract.Anyway Davis has actually had a good week from a contact postion with the balls not dropping in and both him and Hyde seem optimistic.But that is just a mind thing and Davis is going to have to get some hits instead of keep getting almosts.Trumbo has to be a ways off before he can perform because he has to get back in playing shape.When you really look closely the Orioles are stuck from a maneuverability standpoint (as far as the rebuild) because of a few expensive contracts and also because no one seems ready to come up and do a job whether a pitcher or a position player.

  7. willmiranda

    April 12, 2019 at 11:18 am

    If seeing a lack of talent on the Orioles is being “prescient,” call me Nostradamus.
    Seriously, Rich, nice column on a tough subject. One question: Given the ease with which
    players hit home runs in OPACY, is it a good idea for the O’s to turn their backs on the long ball? I think it’s good to emphasize speed, but I don’t think deliberately eschewing the long ball is a good policy, especially in the AL East.

    • Bancells Moustache

      April 12, 2019 at 11:53 am

      I think eschewing the long ball and just not having anyone good enough to hit one are two different things. Mr. Mancini doesn’t seem to have that issue.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 12, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      Will, I don’t think the Orioles are consciously turning their back on power. Some of their best prospects, Hays, Stewart, Mountcastle and Diaz have power potential.

      But, if you’re signing major league free agents, power guys are usually more expensive, and that’s the route they’re going for now. The team, even in its best years, wasn’t terribly athletic, and I’ think they’re looking at that.

      The philosophy will change from year-to-year as players are acquired and developed. That’s why you have to watch closely.

  8. Ekim

    April 12, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Since we’re talking about pitchers and the minors, I have a question for you, Rich. The Winter before last the O’s named Alex Wells pitcher of the organization. Last year he was at Frederick and didn’t have a particularly good year but it wasn’t all that bad on a bad team. I can’t seem to find him anywhere. What did they do with him? It just seems strange to go from a top 30 prospect to gone. Was he traded and, if so, what or who did they get for him? Just askin…

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 12, 2019 at 7:20 pm

      Ekim, I know Wells has been hurt, not sure what his injury was or what the prognosis is, but he’s still in the organization.

    • Ekim

      April 12, 2019 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks for the update. He’s a really interesting guy and I’ve followed him since he was at Delmarva.

  9. Bhoffman1

    April 12, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I don’t get it no consensus player to replace him. I guess you forgot Mancini. He is a definite consensus player to replace Davis. Also I thought Hays thumb was just a sprain now it’s broken. What’s his timetable to return to action in Norfolk and then hopefully soon Baltimore

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 12, 2019 at 9:14 pm

      No timetable, Bruce.

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