Five Oriole questions from four weeks of spring training - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Five Oriole questions from four weeks of spring training

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Opening Day would have been just one day away. It’s uncertain when the real opener will be played because we don’t know when, or even if, baseball will be given the all-clear to return in 2020.

Let’s assume the game will be back. Here are five Oriole questions to ponder.

  • Can Chris Davis keep it up?

One of the positive stories of the spring was Davis’ reemergence, at least for the first three weeks of games.

Davis, who was driving to Fort Myers for the March 12 game against the Minnesota Twins when he received the order to return to the Orioles’ facility in Sarasota, had video game stats for the nine games he played.

His batting average was .467 (7-for-15), his nine walks swelled his on-base percentage to .615, and he had a 1.682 OPS. Davis hit three home runs, two to left field and drove in nine runs.

Davis’ skill in taking the ball the other way looked authentic. When play continues, we’ll see if he can resume hitting the ball with authority.

  • When will Trey Mancini be back?

About two hours after spring training was halted, the Orioles announced that Mancini had undergone surgery to remove a malignant tumor on his colon.

In conference calls with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde, no specifics were offered other than Mancini was out of the hospital and in good spirits.

There’s no word on what kind of treatment Mancini will receive or when he will speak about his surgery.

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It’s foolish to speculate on a possible return in 2020 until we hear from him.

  • Do the Orioles have enough starting pitching?

The five presumptive starters — John Means, Alex Cobb, Wade LeBlanc, Asher Wojciechowski and Tommy Milone — combined to throw 17 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League outings.

Cobb (blister) and Milone (sore trapezius) threw in a simulated game not long before the Orioles were scheduled to leave for their game in Fort Myers. They had combined for just three of the 17 1/3 innings thrown.

LeBlanc, Means and Wojciechowski each threw a three-inning stint. No Oriole has thrown longer in a Grapefruit League game, although some did in simulated games.

  • What was the biggest surprise in spring training?

Davis’ renaissance was the biggest, but an underrated surprise was LeBlanc’s sense of humor.

After LeBlanc’s first outing when he threw two innings, he was asked if he was trying to impress Hyde.

“I’m 35,” he said, laughing. “If he doesn’t know who I am as far as a pitcher, then we’ve got problems. You’re not really looking to impress anybody at this stage. You want to get your work in.”

Overall, the Orioles seemed sharper in the field. Having José Iglesias at shortstop helped.

The relievers seem much deeper than they were a year ago.

Hector Velázquez, whom the Orioles acquired on March 8 on waivers form Boston but didn’t appear in a game, would have been a lock to be on the team last year. This year, he appears to have an excellent chance, but there’s lots of competition from Paul Hanhold, Brandon Kline, Travis Lakins and Cole Sulser.

Kohl Stewart, who got a late start because of biceps soreness, also could be in the mix for a starting job or a long reliever spot.

  • What was the biggest disappointment?

Left-handed pitcher Keegan Akin, the consensus choice as being closest to the majors, had a rocky spring. He was sent down after his March 10 outing.

Akin allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 9 2/3 innings in four games, three of them starts.

He walked only two and struck out nine, and that was a positive. In his four seasons in the minors, Akin has averaged more than four walks per nine innings, and last season at Triple-A Norfolk, he averaged just under five per nine innings.

Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann pitched better, and Zimmermann was on track to start the game that was canceled.

In limited duty, catcher Adley Rutschman was 1-for-9 didn’t look overmatched.

Cedric Mullins, who looked as if he had a chance to make the team as an extra outfielder, was cut last week when the team wasn’t playing. He hit .211 in camp.

Chance Sisco, who entered camp as the favorite for the No. 2 catcher’s job behind Pedro Severino, was just 2-for-14 (.143) when play was halted, but he had been slowed by a sore right hand. Sisco injured the hand when taking a foul ball.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    March 25, 2020 at 8:27 am

    What a great morning, especially in our current times, read a cool article on MLB network about too 5 catchers all-time for each franchise, then read Cobbs name, only bummer, then 9 deer came out in the field across from our house, my coffee seemed better than normal, granted, it was a lil chilly out, but all in all great way to start the day, thx Rich…

  2. CalsPals

    March 25, 2020 at 8:30 am

    All this talk about re-structuring contracts in the NFL, why can’t they do that in MLB? Is it because typically you hear about it regarding clearing cap space & MLB has no cap? Thx again Rich

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 25, 2020 at 9:25 am

      NFL contracts are not guaranteed, like baseball’s, so players can be signed to unrealistic deals and restructured. MLB executives have to accurately surmise a player’s useful professional life span when offering contracts.

    • CalsPals

      March 25, 2020 at 9:41 am

      Thx…

  3. NormOs

    March 25, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Question #1 How many major league pitchers did he hit? I still think he’s done
    Question #3 Well, if one starter is enough, yes. After that…………..

    From the looks of things we’ll have to push the START of the imfamous (or is it infamous) REBUILD up another year.
    Question #6 What year will that be? (Rich, take into consideration Old Norm’s age so don’t stretch it out too long. I only have so many games left to scream at the TV, but it does keep my heart pumping.

  4. TxBirdFan

    March 25, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Starting pitching remains my primary concern. Giving up 5-6 runs in the first few innings in EVERY hame is a morale buster for any team, even the Bronx Bombers.

    Rich – I’ve read that teams are being slow or reluctant to give ticket refunds. As a season ticket holder that worries me. What are the possibilities of the Players Union asking players to return a portion of their salary? They are earning a windfall right now.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 25, 2020 at 10:46 am

      Nothing has been decided, so I’m not going to speculate.

  5. mlbbirdfan

    March 25, 2020 at 11:31 am

    The Orioles have never given refunds. They force you to use the money next year. Always have. Far from ideal. But nothing new. We are season-ticket holders. They have our money. There is one thing we can do: look forward to 2021, when part or all of our season tickets will be paid for!

    • TxBirdFan

      March 25, 2020 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks mlbbirdfan! I’m a baseball and life long Orioles fan exiled in Dallas, so I have Texas Rangers season tickets. I feel bad for them since they are about to unveil a new retractable roof stadium. I still want a refund however for games not played.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        March 26, 2020 at 11:45 am

        Dude … I’m a Texan exiled in DC. Let’s make a trade!

    • TxBirdFan

      March 26, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      If the trade includes airfare I’m in! Thought you were moving to Paris Tx!

  6. willmiranda

    March 25, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks, Rich, for keeping the home fires burning. I think the biggest disappointment of spring
    training was how it ended. I feel sorry for the twenty or so guys on the bubble who don’t know
    if or where they’ll be playing when the game resumes. Can’t be easy, especially for those with
    young families.

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