Orioles ready for minor league Rule 5 draft; Kurkjian wins Career Excellence Award; Call for questions - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles ready for minor league Rule 5 draft; Kurkjian wins Career Excellence Award; Call for questions

If there hadn’t been a Major League Baseball lockout, the Winter Meetings would be taking place in Orlando Florida, and concluding Wednesday afternoon with the Rule 5 draft.

The major league Rule 5 draft is on hold, pending a Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the minor league Rule 5 draft will be held on Wednesday afternoon.

The Orioles have had success with major league Rule 5 picks, taking first baseman/outfielder Jay Gibbons in 2000, infielder Ryan Flaherty in 2011, left-hander T.J. McFarland in 2012, outfielder Anthony Santander in 2017, and right-hander Tyler Wells in 2020. However, they haven’t had similar success in the minor league draft.

Each team is limited to protecting 38 players on its Triple-A roster, and teams pay $24,000 for each player claimed. Unlike the major league Rule 5 draft, teams don’t have to keep a player at a certain level. It’s more like a purchase, and they can be assigned to any level in the minors.

Last year, the Orioles selected three players — right-handed relievers Ignacio Feliz and Rickey Ramirez and catcher Chris Hudgins.

Feliz was 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA and two saves in 12 games at Low-A Delmarva but was 0-3 with a 9.33 ERA in nine games for High-A Aberdeen. Ramirez was 4-1 with four saves and a 4.05 ERA in 23 games in the Florida Complex League and Delmarva. Hudgins hit .198 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 60 games for Double-A Bowie and played three games for Triple-A Norfolk.

One of the better-known Oriole minor league Rule 5 picks was catcher Martin Cervenka, who was taken in 2017. Cervenka, a native of the Czech Republic, played 12 games with Norfolk in 2019 but moved on to the New York Mets’ organization in 2021.

Infielder Corban Joseph, brother of Caleb, was taken by Oakland in the minor league Rule 5 draft after playing 18 games for the Orioles in 2018. Joseph played with the Athletics, San Francisco and Pittsburgh in 2019 and was in the Washington Nationals’ organization in 2021.

The players drafted in the minor league Rule 5 draft are more likely minor league depth pieces, but if there are catchers available, the Orioles could take one.

Kurkjian gets highest honor: Tim Kurkjian, the longtime ESPN.com columnist and analyst for ESPN, was voted the winner of the Career Excellence Award by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Kurkjian will receive the award during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, New York on July 22nd-25th.

From 1986-1989, Kurkjian covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun and competed against Evening Sun writer Ken Rosenthal, a senior writer for The Athletic.

Rosenthal admires Kurkjian, who he freely admits regularly bested him on a highly competitive beat, teaching him in the process.

“That’s the greatest impact he had on me,” Rosenthal said. “You had to work. I sort of knew that … but I had never covered a team like the Orioles. I had come from a smaller paper in New Jersey.

“Watching him work, that was the first thing, and it was really intimidating because he was really just relentless. He taught me a lot about the game itself, unwittingly by the way he approached it.”

Kurkjian would tell Rosenthal and other writers how difficult the game was to play.

“The message was: ‘Don’t rip these guys so easily. This game is hard, and it’s hard to play. You have to understand that.’

“It was a combination of work and baseball itself, which I didn’t really know that well. I was really green in that regard when I came to The Evening Sun. Honestly, I didn’t even know how to calculate a lot of the statistics. I just didn’t know the game that well, and here I am with a guy knew it arguably better that anybody in the country.

“You couldn’t help but figure out the lessons he was teaching.”

Like Rosenthal, who works for Fox and the MLB Network, Kurkjian, Jayson Stark and Peter Gammons have combined successful television work while continuing to write.

“He showed, and Jayson Stark did, too, that guys like us could be national guys, and that was something that I had never really considered,” Rosenthal said.

Kurkjian beat out the late Marty Noble, who was a longtime New York writer, and Allan Simpson, the founder of Baseball America.

He’s the second Baltimore writer to win the award. Sam Lacy, who worked for the Baltimore Afro-American, won the award in 1997.

Newman wins award: Orioles broadcaster Melanie Newman won the 2021 Ballpark Digest award for MLB broadcaster of the year.

Newman, who has worked on Orioles radio and television for the past two seasons, also broadcast games for YouTubeTV and ESPN in 2021.

Call for questions: In the coming days, I’ll be answering questions from readers. Please leave them in the comments below or email them to: [email protected].

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