The Orioles’ 60-game 2020 season starts on Friday in Boston against the Red Sox, and it’s time to answer some questions from readers.
Question: Should the focus be on competing this season since it’s conceivable any team could get hot for two months, or push the kids out there to help their growth regardless of immediate won/loss results? From @benstandig
Answer: I prefer the latter approach. While a less talented team’s chances are mathematically better in 60 games than in 162, realistically, the Orioles don’t have enough to contend.
In order to make the postseason, the Orioles would have to beat out at least two of the following teams — Yankees, Rays, Twins, Astros, Athletics, Angels and Red Sox, and I think that’s highly unlikely.
I’m eager to see Ryan Mountcastle get a full shot as well as Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer receive opportunities to start meaningful games.
Question: Why haven’t the Orioles added Bruce Zimmermann to their 60-man player pool after his strong spring? From: Bill Connor via email.
Answer: I was a little puzzled, too. Zimmermann was supposed to pitch on March 12, but that was the day that spring training was halted because of Covid-19
I asked Matt Blood, the Orioles’ director of player development, if the team had immediate plans to add Zimmermann in a video conference call on Sunday, and he said he expected him to be added, but perhaps not imminently.
As well as Akin and Kremer, I’m eager to see how Zimmermann handles major league pitching, and I would expect him to get a call to go to Bowie soon and eventually pitch for the Orioles sometime during the 60-game season.
Question: Rich, if extra innings start with a runner on second base, is the pitcher charged with an earned run allowed if that runner scores? Example: man on second, first batter bunts him to third, second batter hits fly ball to center, runner tags up and scores, third batter grounds out to short. From: Lou Spahn, Port Charlotte, Florida via email
Answer: The pitcher would not be charged with an earned run. For statistical purposes, the runner reaches on an error, but it’s not counted in individual or team errors.
Question: Who is the face of the franchise in 2020? From Rivka Meiselman via email
Answer: At this point, it doesn’t look like there is one. For years, Adam Jones was the unofficial face of the franchise. Last year, Trey Mancini’s outstanding performance and personality made him the Orioles’ go-to guy.
With Mancini out for the season after colon cancer surgery, there’s no obvious choice but that could always change with a breakout year.
Two players to watch are Austin Hays and Anthony Santander.
Question: How could pitchers 50-plus years ago throw 16 innings, 200 pitches without arm injury? Means has arm fatigue already; pitchers are held to 100-plus pitches; so many guys have Tommy John surgery. Is it only because pitchers today throw harder than they did years ago, or am I missing something? Look how many complete games Palmer had (211). From: Bob Stier, Loganville, Pennsylvania via email
Answer: It’s absolutely true that many pitchers in the past threw more innings and complete games. It’s also true that many pitchers had their careers ended prematurely because of injuries.
Sandy Koufax’s career ended when he was 31 because of an arthritic elbow. Don Drysdale’s career ended with a torn rotator cuff at 32.
Today, Koufax could have continued after Tommy John surgery, and so could Drysdale.
In recent years, Mariano Rivera pitched effectively until he was 43, and Bartolo Colon pitched until he was 45 in 2018.
Question: Rich, we’ve seen a lot about how the dugouts are being expanded to allow for social distancing, but are there any special accommodations being made to the bullpens? I get that they have more space because of the practice mounds, but they’ll be more pitchers and maybe the extra catchers would be there as well.- Cedar from BaltimoreBaseball.com
Answer: Cedar, I’ve seen Oriole games in three parks in the last three nights, and in each of them, it seems the pitchers are keeping socially distant in the bullpen.
Major league bullpens are larger than you think, and even with 10 pitchers, two bullpen catchers and a coach, there’s enough room for all of them without violating the distance rules.
Question: How is Adam Jones doing in Japan? Is there a site where I can check on former O’s? What will happen with our minor league players? Hoping for 24 wins. Do you think we’ll get them? Do you foresee any trades? Johnathon Meekins via email
Answer: As of Tuesday night, Jones is batting .243 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 28 games with the Orix Buffaloes in the Japan Pacific Baseball League.
Those numbers are available on BaseballReference.com and npb.jp
Hopefully, the minor leaguers who aren’t at the Bowie alternative site will get to play in an extended fall or instructional-type league, health permitting.
Twenty-four wins would be ambitious, but the Orioles again are in the talent accumulation mode, so they’re not obsessing on the win total.
The trade deadline is August 31, and trades will be difficult to make since just five weeks of the season will have been played, and many teams will still think they’re in the race.