BALTIMORE–Orioles vice president/general manager Mike Elias talked with the media on Friday about the team’s future amid a 15-game losing streak. He talked big picture, not specifics. He’s convinced, despite the worst record in baseball, that the Orioles are on the right track as an organization and in their development of young talent. He indicated that he would be open to using the free-agent market to help the Orioles field a competitive team during this process.
“My objective and North Star through this whole thing is maximizing playoff odds for the Orioles over a long horizon,” Elias said “We have based our decisions on that, based our prioritizations of investments with those goals in mind, and when the time comes that those are the best uses of our efforts and our resources, possibly as soon as this offseason, we will ratchet up those investments with those strategic goals in mind when it makes sense to do that.
“We’ll look at things. Things change by the week. We’ll look at things, and when that starts to be the case, we’ll do that, and that’s really the truth of what I can say. I’m looking forward to that day, which is coming closer and closer, to where our odds of reaching the playoffs will be ticking up, and I’m looking forward to that.
“This is a franchise that has historically demonstrated a very big capability to support a major league payroll and, in fact, it was almost done to a fault the last few years, and that’s part of why we’re at where we are now and why we’re doing what we’re doing now. That’s not going to last forever. We’ll do what it takes to get this team in a position to get back to the playoffs and fight for those playoff spots, and I hope that it’s really soon.”
Elias didn’t offer a vote of confidence for manager Brandon Hyde, but he did praise him.
“He and I have a great communication at all times, whether it comes to day-to-day roster management or big picture stuff … We knew this was going to be tough and take a while. He knew that, and we understood that. Now, 2 1/2-plus-three years in, I assess where we’re at in this project. We have a flexible landscape going forward with our major league roster and our major league finances.
“We have a top-of-the-league-type farm system. All of that infrastructure is updated, up and running and performing and allowing us to perform as we’re going to need to operate as the type of franchise that we are in the division that we’re in and the type of market that we’re in going forward.
“We have a number of players on this team that are looking to me and looking to Brandon, young special guys that are going to be part of a good team here. With all of that in mind, we’re very much on track with what we’re trying to do, which is bring this team back to the playoff competitive-caliber, year-in and year-out contention.
“I hoped that we would be able to avoid stretches of play like we’re in right now and seeing some of the things that we’re seeing … but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know it was a possibility at the beginning of this project or the beginning of the season that we’d find ourselves in these type of stretches and this type of play. Whenever it happens, it always causes me to self-reflect about things that I could be doing a little bit better and moves I should have made or things we could do better on a day-to-day basis, and we strive to do that, and continue to do that.
“This losing streak is not reflective of our large-picture goals that are very much way on track in my assessment and we’re going to continue to grind through it, and this is what Brandon and I talk about when things get tough like this. We see aspects of hope and progress that are coming and eventually will be at his disposal. That’s where I think where we’re at, but this has been a very trying couple of weeks for everyone in that clubhouse, including me.”
Kjerstad update: Elias said that Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ top pick in the 2020 draft and the second overall selection, was back in Sarasota, Florida. Kjerstad hasn’t played because of myocarditis, an enlargement of the heart.
“He’s progressing into a rehab status,” Elias said. “Getting back towards baseball activities, hopefully soon. As I’ve said all along, it’s a very tricky condition and something, being cardiac-related, we’re exceedingly cautious about, and continue to have a cautious mindset towards.
“Good news that he’s in that phase right now, and I think with the offseason being around the corner, we’ll have time on our side and proceed very carefully, and fingers crossed, hopefully have him for spring training. It’s been a very tough situation for him. He’s doing a great job, and the staff has done a great job with him.”
Left-handed pitcher DL Hall continues to rest, and Elias hopes that his elbow injury will heal in time for spring training.
Elias said it hasn’t been determined whether left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who sprained an ankle working out at Norfolk, will pitch again this season. “It’s going to be close,” Elias said.
Orioles add Ellis: The Orioles claimed right-handed pitcher Chris Ellis on waivers from Tampa Bay. Ellis pitched four scoreless, one-hit innings against the Orioles for the Rays on Tuesday night and was designated for assignment on Wednesday. To make room for Ellis, who will not be here for Friday night’s game, the Orioles designated Cesar Valdez for assignment. Valdez was 2-1 with a 5.76 ERA and eight saves in 38 games.
Notes: Infielder Terrin Vavra is at High-A Aberdeen on a rehab assignment. Elias expects him to be back at Double-A Bowie next week. Vavra has had a back injury. … Hunter Harvey, who’s on the 10-day injured list because of a lat strain, will pitch for Triple-A Norfolk in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. … Left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther will pitch Saturday for Aberdeen and on August 26th at Bowie, and should return to Norfolk after that. Lowther has been dealing with a shoulder injury. … Right-handed pitcher Isaac Mattson has joined Lowther on the minor league seven-day injured list because of soreness in his right shoulder. … Outfielder Ryan Higgins, the Orioles’ ninth-round pick, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a Florida Complex League game. … The Orioles released outfielder Ricardo Castro, who was playing in the Florida Complex Leauge. … Right-hander Carter Baumler, who underwent Tommy John surgery last year, is rehabbing in Sarasota, and the Orioles hope he pitches in a simulated game in the coming weeks. … Anthony Santander is out of the lineup because his left ankle is sore.