Pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to spring training on Tuesday, but baseball missed its latest opportunity to attract fans’ interest after Sunday’s Super Bowl because of the lockout. In the meantime, we have the second part of our monthly mailbag. Questions are edited for length and clarity.
Question: Do you perceive the new hitting coaches adjusting the young hitters’ approaches with new outfield dimensions? From: Alan Riester via Facebook
Answer: Al, I haven’t had a chance to meet Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, the new co-hitting coaches, but I would think they’d want the hitters to take full advantage of the ballpark’s new dimensions.
Question: Will the Orioles consider expanding their food choices at Oriole Park at Camden Yards? Family members are vegan and with the proliferation of vegan food choices, do you think the Orioles will have more items that appeal to them this season? From: Mtairyordge via email
Answer: George, according to the Orioles, they’ll be featuring three vegan-friendly items at the Birdland Fresh Stand this season: Vegan Hot Dog, Beyond Sausage and Beyond Burger.
Question: Will Mets manager Buck Showalter attempt to pick up some of his guys? Maybe Mullins, Mancini and DJ Stewart would be Buck targets? From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Bill, I think many teams would like Cedric Mullins, but the price tag for an up-and-coming star centerfielder would be high, and I can’t see any team meeting the Orioles’ asking price for him.
Trey Mancini could certainly be traded and, with the National League adopting the designated hitter this season, there are lots of teams he could be traded to if the Orioles decide to let him go.
I think DJ Stewart is unlikely to be traded to the Mets. They seem to have a number of left-handed hitting outfield/DH types.
Question: Do you think that Buck Britton is being groomed to become a major league manager, possibly with the Orioles? He’s worked with a lot of the young players who will make up the core of the big league club going forward, and he’s had success in the minors as well. From: Michael Fleetwood
Answer: Michael, I would like to see Brandon Hyde get a full season managing the team with some of its best prospects.
Britton has impressed many in the organization, and there are a number of fans who feel like you do. I think managing in Triple-A with many veterans who have already played in the majors will be a good test for him.
Question: Are there any free-agent pitchers left for the O’s outside of the obvious like Matt Harvey? From: Mike Davis via email
Answer: Mike asked this question before Harvey’s testimony in the Tyler Skaggs trial, which could affect his career.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, there are about 35 free-agent starters, including top-shelf candidates such as Zack Grienke, Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodon. There are some former Orioles on the list — Chris Ellis, Thomas Eshelman and Wade LeBlanc.
There are a number of pitchers on the list who could be in the Orioles’ price range — Chase Anderson, Tyler Anderson, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Matt Moore and Vince Velasquez.
Question: Have you heard of any players the Orioles may be interested in selecting in the Rule 5 draft? From: Patrick Tracey
Answer: Patrick, the Rule 5 draft is one of the first things that will occur after the lockout ends. I think the most likely areas the Orioles will look for are relief pitching and perhaps a catcher.
According to MLB.com, the top catchers available are Tampa Bay’s Blake Hunt, their No. 15 prospect; the Yankees’ Jake Breaux (No.18); and Houston’s Yainer Diaz (No. 13).
Some top-ranked pitchers are right-handers Robinson Pina (No. 20) from the Angels, Oakland’s Brady Feigl (No. 24), Pittsburgh’s Tahnaj Thomas (No. 13), and left-handers Seth Corry (No. 11 from San Francisco) and Tim Cates (No. 18 from Washington.
Question: If MLB changes the amateur draft, do you think the teams should play a balanced schedule or play every team equally so no team is at a disadvantage? If there is a lockout will MASN televise Norfolk or Bowie games? From Don Driscoll via email
Answer: Don, I like the schedule the way it is. I think playing the other AL East teams 19 teams a year makes for rivalries. I don’t think playing the AL Central and West teams as often as the AL East would be as enjoyable for the fans, and I think the Orioles like having the Yankees and Red Sox play three series in Baltimore each year for financial reasons.
I wouldn’t expect minor league games to be televised if the lockout continues into April. They’re expensive to produce, and I don’t think Norfolk or Bowie games would get a large audience, though I would watch.
Question: I know the Orioles aren’t going anywhere but with the recent development that the Orioles are using tax credits with the stadium authority to get the wall construction paid for, and the reduction in ticket sales and sponsorship, any thoughts on the financial health of the organization? From: Uncle Leo via email
Answer: Leo, I’ll leave that speculation to economists and fans.
Question: What’s the current timeline for putting a team on the field that can compete for first place in the AL East? From: Jason Perash via Facebook.
Answer: Jason, Cristian Sena from the Dominican Republic has a similar question. I think if the prospects play well this year and next, 2024 could see a truly competitive Orioles team.
Question: Why spend all that money on new fences when the Orioles moved home plate back in the past? From: Michael Zeiger Sr. via Facebook
Answer: Michael, the Orioles did move home plate back in 2001, but it was returned to its original position the next year. They apparently discussed that option again, but after much study thought that moving the left-field wall back and raising it was a fairer way to tackle the issue.
It’s created a lot of discussion among fans, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays.
Question: Why isn’t Tyler Wells included as a pitcher with MLB experience who can start? The Orioles have three or four pitchers at the back of bullpen who could close games. Unless they trade or add another experienced pitcher, they could have a pitcher with his upside and MLB experience. You lose nothing to give a try in spring training. From: Mitch via email
Answer: Tyler Wells did strong work as a closer late in the season, Mitch. The Orioles did think about him as a possible starter, but because he hadn’t pitched in two seasons, they wanted to limit his innings.
They have a number of potential starters who have already started for the team or in the minor leagues — Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann. They need to look at them as well as Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith. Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall aren’t far away.
From all those candidates, the Orioles ought to be able to build a rotation. While closers are often converted starters, Wells is doing a good job where he is. Spring training is likely to be short, and there won’t be much time to experiment this year.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB