The Orioles enjoyed their first of two days off during spring training on Monday, and I hope you’ll enjoy the monthly mailbag. Questions have been edited for clarity and length.
Question: When do you think Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Heston Kjerstad will make their major league debuts? From Timothy Stahm via Facebook
Answer: Timothy, I think Rutschman will make his debut first, either late this season or next. Henderson, who has impressed early in spring training, hasn’t played above Rookie League ball. He’ll probably start the season at Delmarva, and the earliest I can see him in the majors is late next season, when he’ll be 21. Kjerstad hasn’t reported to spring training yet because of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and it’s impossible to predict when he’ll get to the majors.
Question: Where do you see Ryan Mountcastle playing the most games this year? From: Chris Galerizzo via email
Answer: That’s a good question, Chris. For now, it looks like left field, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up playing more first base or as the designated hitter.
I know the Orioles would prefer a younger player play the field, too, but DH is a position, and an important one, but the guess here is that if the outfield is as deep as it looks, Mountcastle winds up as the DH fairly often
Question: Rich, Just wondering how Zach Pop is doing with the team that claimed him in the Rule 5 draft. Any chance he is returned to the Orioles? From Warren Brock-via email
Answer: Warren, Zach Pop was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks and immediately traded to the Miami Marlins. Pop, who had Tommy John surgery in May 2019, has yet to pitch in spring training, but here are some comments from manager Don Mattingly, relayed by Christina DeNicola of MLB.com:
“I know Zach’s coming off of two years and hasn’t been in competition basically in over 20 months. So that’s a guy, you know, making sure he’s comfortable in game situations and getting back where he’s actually game ready, which is something different.”
The Marlins could place Pop on the 60-day injured list to begin the season, so I’m guessing he’s unlikely to return to the Orioles.
Question: When will it be enough? No matter what happens with the other players, fans (like myself) who have supported Mike Elias’ strategy thus far may begin to be apprehensive of it if Chris Davis heads north without him drastically improving. I get keeping him last season because of the discounted salary, but with vaccines and distancing protocols in place, a shortened season seems unlikely, is it not? Does anyone know if Elias/John Angelos will say enough is enough and cut CD if he doesn’t perform in spring training? From: Joe from Eastern Shore via e-mail
Answer: I don’t think it’s up to Elias to decide on whether to cut ties with Davis, Joe. The Orioles have shown a reluctance to release players with substantial money left on their contract. With a possible work stoppage next year, it’s possible that the team will just ride out the remaining two years of his contract, whether he’s healthy enough to play or not.
Question: My question is related to MASN. Has there been any word coming from the network about the lack of spring training TV broadcasts? To my knowledge, the O’s and Nats are the only two MLB teams not televising any spring training games. From: Jody Madron via email
Answer: Jody, Money is tight around baseball and certainly around MASN, too. In the past the Orioles and Nationals each had seven telecasts from spring training, and I think that in the final weeks of spring training there will be a few for each team.
Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins will be shown at 1 p.m. on the MLB Network.
I don’t think advertisers, who pay for nine-inning games in spring, would have been pleased with six- or seven-inning games, as we saw in the first week of spring training.
Question: When and where will the Baltimore minor league teams train before the season’s start? From Cathryn C. Girard, Esquire via email
Answer: Cathryn, spring training for the minor league teams will probably begin after the Orioles leave for the regular season, perhaps around April 1, and should be held at the Twin Lakes minor league complex in Sarasota.
Question: I have to tell you that I am so annoyed at how poorly the Orioles have treated Joe Altobelli over all these years. They have never done anything to honor his role in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. He is the reigning World Series manager for this team … Manager of the Year in both Leagues … Wonderful citizen, husband, father …. Please explain why this team hasn’t treated him better. From: Michael Thompson via email
Answer: Michael, Joe Altobelli managed the team for less than 2 ½ seasons and yes, he did win a World Series title in 1983, the last the team has won. However, he wasn’t ignored by the Orioles. He attended reunions of the 1983 team.
Altobelli was overshadowed by a large number of players on the team who played huge roles in its history: Three Hall of Famers — Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken Jr. — as well as Mike Boddicker, Al Bumbry, Rich Dauer, Rick Dempsey, Mike Flanagan, John Lowenstein, Scott McGregor, Dennis Martinez, Tippy Martinez and Ken Singleton. That’s quite a collection.
Incidentally, Altobelli was never Manager of the Year. The award was first presented in 1983, five years after he might have won it with the San Francisco Giants. He finished second to Tony LaRussa in ’83.
Question: What impact will delaying the minor league season a month have? Any idea who will stay at the alternate site? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: MLB is trying to keep the number of players who are at spring training sites as low as they can, and they hope that when the minor league season begins in early May, the Covid-19 infection rates will be down and vaccination rates up, Seth.
I would think that players who are in line to play for Norfolk will be the ones at the alternate site.
Question: Right now the Players Association and MLB ownership cannot seem to agree that the sky is blue. Do you see them reaching a deal or will there be a lockout/lost year? If it is lost, can MLB recover with their fan base? The Fernando Tatis Jr. contract was a big one for someone who has played less than two full seasons. Who won this deal, both sides, Tatis or ownership? There were reports that the Players Association wasn’t happy he signed for 14 years. From Dave Hersl via email
Answer: Dave, as much of an optimist as I am, I’m afraid there’s a good chance of a work stoppage next year, which would be disastrous for the game. However, I can’t see one lasting an entire season or even a large part of one. There’s too much to be lost, especially since 2020 and 2021 will see massive economic losses.
Fernando Tatis’ contract is good for the game. Baseball needs star players, and fans go to the ballpark to see big-name players, and I think it will encourage people to see if he’s worth all that money.
In terms of long-term contracts, very rarely are the general managers who negotiate them still around when they expire. The latter years of a long contract become someone else’s concern.
Question: What are the contractual rules when a player is claimed on waivers. Is the claiming team obligated to assume the existing contract of the acquired player or is there a negotiation? What is the rule if the player claimed had been signed to a minor league contract by the team waiving him? I wondered about this when I read an article in The Washington Post about a pitcher the Nationals had claimed on waivers. The team was full of praise about his potential. I wondered how come the O’s hadn’t claimed him if he was that good of a prospect. From Steve Cohen via email
Answer: Steve, when a team claims a player on waivers, they are assuming the contract. Very rarely are higher salaried players claimed. That’s because if a player passes through waivers, his old team is responsible for the large part of the contract and the new team pays the minimum salary.
Only players on major league contracts can be waived. Players on minor league contracts are either released or reassigned within the minor league system.
The player you’re referring to is Rogelio Armenteros, who was signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent, when Mike Elias was in charge of scouting. You can assume that Elias knew Armenteros well, and if he thought he’d help the Orioles, he would have claimed him.
Question: Other than Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, which young starting pitcher will be called up first this season? From Tom Duffy via Facebook
Answer: Tom, I think Michael Baumann will be first, perhaps followed by Zac Lowther. Alexander Wells, who hasn’t pitched yet because of an oblique muscle injury, might see action this year, but it could be after Baumann and Lowther.
Question: Any word on when an announcement could be made regarding capacity at Camden Yards at the start of the season? From: @plsorioles2
Answer: I would expect one in the coming days. Maryland has been very conservative on allowing fans at sporting events. They did allow a few thousand at one Ravens game and at one Washington Football Team game. I think it won’t be long until you see fans at Oriole Park.
Question: What stadium upgrades are the Orioles looking for? From: @barnslinger
Answer: I think the Orioles would like the ability to regularly hold concerts when the team isn’t playing as they did with Billy Joel in 2019. I think many of the improvements they’d like to make would be in the area between Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium, perhaps adding stores, restaurants and even housing. As John Angelos implied in an interview on 105.7 The Fan last week, it would require a partnerships between the city, state, the Orioles and the Ravens.
Question: If they only keep one of the Rule 5 pitchers, who do you think is most likely to be on the team for the start of the season? How many pitchers are out of options? Out of those pitchers how likely or do you think anyone will be traded to create room for pitchers not on the 40-man roster or for pitchers that can be sent back and forth between the majors and minors? From David Evans via email
Answer: David, I don’t think the Orioles will keep either Mac Sceroler or Tyler Wells. I think they have too many other candidates with major league experience for them to add one of the Rule 5 pitchers.
Shawn Armstrong, Jorge López and César Valdez are the pitchers without options. Matt Harvey and Félix Hernández don’t have options, either, but they’d have to be added to the 40-man roster. They could both be added if the Rule 5 pitchers were returned to the teams from which they were drafted.