It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten lots of good questions. This is the second and final part for this month. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Why can’t the Orioles develop starting pitching? In 30 years I want to say that they’ve only developed three good pitchers — Mike Mussina, Erik Bedard, and John Means. It feels like the Rays develop three starters a year. That’s why when I see the struggles of Bruce Zimmermann, Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, and Zac Lowther, I’m not surprised. We’ll blow out their confidence and then trade them just like Jake Arrieta. And then they’ll develop elsewhere. Do you feel we rush our pitchers to the majors? Would they be better served leaving them at Triple-A for a full year to develop instead of being shuttled back and forth? From: Damon Stout via email
Answer: Damon, I think many fan bases have similar complaints. Starting pitching is hard to develop, hard to sustain and hard to keep. I would add three pitchers to your list — Chris Tillman, Zack Britton and Jim Johnson.
I know Tillman wasn’t drafted by the Orioles, but he was developed into a major league pitcher by them and was the most consistent starter on their winning teams of 2012-2016.
Britton and Johnson were drafted as starters, as nearly all pitchers are, and converted into relievers along the way. During those 2012-2016 years, the Orioles had dominant closers.
The Orioles are desperate for starting pitchers and most starters aren’t successful early in their major league careers. Look at Tillman. He went back and forth from 2009-2011 until he had sustained success. I think they’d love to keep their starters at Norfolk for a full year, undisturbed, but who are you going to start at the major league level.
Your argument is a good one, and runs counter to what a lot of fans think. Look how many want Adley Rutschman, who hasn’t played a full professional year, to catch in the major leagues while the Orioles want to give him a full year in the minors.
Question: What’s your view of how Mike Elias did this past offseason with free-agent pitchers? To me, he was way too conservative. From: @dcacb54
Answer: Dave, the Orioles weren’t going to sign a free-agent pitcher to a multi-year contract, but perhaps they could have pursued additional veteran pitchers with better recent track records.
I’m not sure if there was any interest in either Cole Hamels or Rick Porcello, two guys who didn’t sign with a team, and I don’t know if either of them would have been interested in the Orioles.
At this point, spending big money on a free-agent pitcher doesn’t seem to be a great strategy because you’d have to overpay, and those pitchers probably would rather pitch on a contender.
Question: Based on the current rebuilding plan, when do the Orioles become competitive? From: @TERP80
Answer: Bob, if everything works well, the team is improved next year and perhaps competitive in 2023.
It’s been a long five years for the fans, but perhaps next year with the arrival of some of the best prospects, the team will be more fun to watch.
Question: I keep thinking Keegan Akin would be better off in the bullpen. I realize the Orioles don’t have enough starters to make that happen right now, but any chance he ends up there long-term? From: @DoubletoughDyl
Answer: Dylan, you’re correct. The Orioles don’t have enough starters to try Akin in the bullpen, but if two or three young starters make the rotation sometime next season, I could see that happening.
Question: When, if at all, do you think Yusniel Diaz will make his major league debut? Two more healthy weeks? Longer? @andrewseth123
Answer: Andy, I think you’ll see Yusniel Diaz soon, perhaps even after the All-Star break, as long as he’s healthy. The Orioles have too much invested in him not to give him a long look. However, through Sunday, Diaz is hitting only .206 at Norfolk.
They have given long looks to their biggest prospects, and I think they have to find out if Diaz can be a starter in the outfield, but his injury history is worrisome.
Question: Why hasn’t Jahmai Jones been called up yet? He’s on the 40- man roster and already played in the majors in the past. He’s playing well in Triple-A and seems like a better option than Leyba/Urías/Valaika. From: Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman via email
Answer: Jeremy, Jahmai Jones was out for a month because of an oblique injury, and the Orioles want to see better defensive work at second base from him.
As with Diaz, I think they want to give him a long look and wouldn’t be surprised to see him come to the Orioles sometime this month.
Question: Why was Richie Martin playing center field when he injured his wrist? He seems to be a very good defensive shortstop and would have brought stability to the infield? From: Donald Driscoll via email
Answer: Donald, the Orioles prize versatility, and their plan was to have Martin available to play the infield and outfield. They’re moving their best prospects around and, yes, he absolutely would have been called up to replace Freddy Galvis when he was injured had he not been on the team already.
He’s supposed to begin playing in games early in August, and I think you’ll see him play sometime next month.
Question: How are the Orioles are doing with the analytics department? That was a big selling point in bringing in Elias and the guy that used to be a NASA engineer (Sig Mejdal). We don’t seem to hear much about it. From: John Lantz via email
Answer: John, I think that’s by design. Sig is a visible presence around the club. Sometimes, he’s on the field talking with Brandon Hyde during batting practice, and he’s made road trips with the team.
The Orioles don’t make public the type of data they use even though it would be interesting to find out what they’re using.
Question: Are the names of the players placed on waivers available to the public? I’m also curious as to whom, if anyone, they have not claimed over the past two years. Are names of players designated for assignment immediately made public? Again, I’m curious as to whom we have passed on. Finally, why didn’t management wait until Domingo Leyba was released and saved some money? From: Steve Cohen
Answer: Steve, the names of players placed on waivers are confidential. The Orioles have successfully claimed a tiny number of the players placed on waivers over the past two years. Players are placed on waivers nearly every day, and the Orioles pass on the vast majority of them.
Players who are designated for assignment are immediately made public. Teams have seven days to trade, waive or release a player. Not all players who are waived have been designated for assignment first. Again, they’ve eventually claimed a small number of those designated for assignment.
In the waiver process, teams confidentially put in claims if they’re interested in a player. They’re awarded in reverse order of standings, and teams in the same league as the player being waived get first call.
The 14 other National League teams passed on Leyba, who was waived by Arizona, and he was awarded to the Orioles because they have the poorest record in the American League. I don’t know, and it’s not made public, if other AL teams were interested.
Since the process was confidential, the Orioles don’t know what other teams are doing, so if you’re interested in a player, you claim him. Otherwise, he’s a free agent and you might have to bid against multiple teams to grab him.
Question: Please explain how the minor league Rule 5 draft works. Are there rules in place on how a team must utilize the Rule 5 draftees in the minor leagues. From: Mike Quinn via email
Answer: Mike, eligibility rules for the minor league Rule 5 draft are the same as for the major league Rule 5 draft. If a player has been in the minor leagues for four years and he was older than 19 when signed or five years if younger than 19 when signed and not on the 38-player protected list at Triple-A, they can be drafted.
A claim costs $24,000 but, unlike the major league Rule 5 draft, it’s more like a purchase because that player can’t be returned.
Question: What are your thoughts on how Buck Britton is progressing as a manager in the Orioles’ system? Also, is Brady Anderson involved with the Orioles? From: Baltimore Castaway via email
Answer: Buck is highly thought of in the system. He managed Delmarva in 2018 and had a winning record. In 2019, he was moved up to Bowie and managed the team to the playoffs after a rough start. This year, he’s been entrusted with many of the best prospects and done well.
He seems to be well liked by his players, and he’s excellent with the media.
Brady Anderson does not have a role with the Orioles.
Question: Is there anything that would preclude the Orioles from scheduling a few ” O’s Stars of Tomorrow ” games with Norfolk, Bowie, and Delmarva playing an opponent at Camden Yards while the Orioles are on the road or have an offday? I think this could be a great public relations gesture if offered to Oriole fans at discount admission prices, and it would give all of us some hope that the future is bright even though the present is bleak. I’d love to see the O’s experiment with this idea unless there are legal issues that preclude it. From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, there’s nothing that precludes the Orioles scheduling minor league games at Camden Yards. In the final years of Memorial Stadium, Hagerstown, which was then the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate, played a game or two after an Orioles weekday afternoon game.
However, the number of people who go to minor league games is small, and while interest in the Orioles’ minor league affiliates is high, the Orioles would lose money by scheduling games in Baltimore.
The only way it could work is by playing a game after an afternoon game. I don’t think minor league games would draw very well as standalones.
I would certainly enjoy seeing those games, and I think avid fans would, too, but I don’t think there would be enough to make it profitable.
Question: What do you think might happen if the players from Aberdeen and Bowie are ready for the majors about the same time? Example: Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson, Joey Ortiz, J.D. Mundy, Adam Hall, A.J. Graffanino, Terrin Vavra, Toby Welk, Patrick Dorrian, and the outfielders? Do you think any of them get traded to keep the farm system strong? Also, do you know when Camden Yards may host the All-Star Game next? From: David from Parkville via email
Answer: The Orioles would be ecstatic if all those players you mention are ready for the major leagues at about the same time. It also would be highly unlikely.
As you know, David, players get injured and sometimes don’t perform well at higher levels. Some will weed themselves out, and if there’s a position at which the Orioles are weaker, they can trade from the surplus of infielders.
However, that’s a year or two away if these players continue to perform well.
As for the All-Star Game, as long as the MASN dispute remains unresolved, I can’t see Baltimore hosting the game, even though the team would like it.
Question: What’s the analysis as to Kevin Gausman’s success this year? Also, is O’s pitching coach Chris Holt back for good? From: @SRQOs
Answer: I haven’t gotten to see the Giants play and Gausman pitch this year. I loved dealing with Gausman when he was with the Orioles. He was a delightful and intelligent guy, and on Sunday was named to his first All-Star team.
In researching Gausman, I’ve found a couple of reasons for his success. He’s throwing his splitter really well and, as Grant Brisbee in The Athletic recently pointed out, he’s been relatively free of injuries. The Orioles never overworked him, so he doesn’t have the wear and tear of other 30-year-old pitchers.
If you put intelligence, talent and experience together, that’s great. Sometimes, it takes players a number of years to reach their peak.
Chris Holt has been back from his personal leave for about a month, and it doesn’t appear as if he’ll have to leave again this season.
Question: What is Bruce Zimmermann’s injury and when is he projected to return to the active roster? From: Ken from Leesburg via-email
Answer: Ken, Zimmermann is out because of left biceps tendinitis. Hyde said his timetable, which had him returning after the All-Star break, has been pushed back a week or two.