There were many surprised observers when Spenser Watkins re-signed with the Orioles five days after he became a free agent. Watkins had three strong starts with the Orioles in 2021 and was 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA after the third.
From then on, Watkins lost seven straight starts and ended the season with an 8.07 ERA.
He signed a minor league deal, which allowed him to report to spring training during the lockout, and started the first Grapefruit League game. Though he didn’t start the season on the roster, he was on the taxi squad and was added to start the fifth game.
Watkins allowed one run on four hits in three innings in the Orioles’ 5-4 loss to Milwaukee on April 12th. On Monday night in Oakland, he was better, giving up one run on two hits in five innings in the Orioles’ 5-1 loss to the Athletics.
With John Means on the 60-day injured list and top prospects Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish remaining at Triple-A Norfolk until Oriole officials think they’re ready for the next step, Watkins might have a chance to stick around for a while.
Manager Brandon Hyde said before Monday’s game he wasn’t going to name Tuesday’s starter. It’s expected to be Chris Ellis, who had a 2.36 ERA in six late-season starts with the Orioles. Ellis, like Watkins was dropped from the 40-man roster, but he didn’t re-sign with the Orioles until spring training began. Room must be made on the 26- and 40-man rosters for Ellis.
If you’re looking for Zac Lowther, he’s allowed four runs on five hits in six innings in two appearances at Norfolk.
Catching Hyde’s eye: Several times in the last week, Hyde has lauded the team’s catching. Robinson Chirinos and Anthony Bemboom haven’t added much offensively. They’ve yet to drive in a run, though Hyde said Chirinos’ 10-pitch at-bat on Sunday that ended in a walk was the key in the Orioles’ five-run inning against the Yankees.
But they’ve been strong behind the plate in handling pitchers and blocking pitches.
In his first three seasons as manager, Hyde had Pedro Severino as his starting catcher. He was cut loose after last season.
Severino provided some offense, hitting .248 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs. While he had a 1.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and a defensive WAR of .6, he was tied for the American League lead in passed balls (10) for the second consecutive season. Oriole pitchers threw 66 wild pitches in 109 games while Severino was catching, and he threw out 23 percent of runners attempting to steal, a career-low.
Catchers are in short supply, so it was no surprise when Severino signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for $1.9 million, a raise from his $1.825 million he earned with the Orioles. Severino wasn’t on hand when the Brewers came to Baltimore last week because he’s serving an 80-game suspension for PED use.
Adley Rutschman will soon become the Orioles’ catcher, perhaps by next month, and he’ll provide improved defense and offense.
Eisenberg retires: John Eisenberg, who’s had a long and distinguished career in Baltimore sportswriting, announced his retirement from daily work last week.
Eisenberg was best known for his thoughtful columns for The Sun, and in recent years has written for the Ravens’ website.
He’ll continue to write books. Eisenberg is currently at work on a book about the history of Black quarterbacks, due out next year. It will be his 11th book, and he’s written excellent ones on horse racing, football and baseball.
His works on the early days of the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers are outstanding. My personal favorite is “The League,” a masterful history of the NFL’s early decades.
Eisenberg has written two stellar baseball books of interest to Orioles fans, “From 33rd Street to Camden Yards: An Oral History of the Baltimore Orioles”, and “The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken and Baseball’s Most Historic Record.”
John’s was never the loudest voice in the press box. He allowed his voice to be heard in his well-researched and well-written columns and books, and it’s great news that in retirement, he’ll continue to write and spend more time with his family, including his young grandson.
Besides thoroughly enjoying John’s work over the years, I received something vital from him, his recommendation. In 2011, after nearly 20 years of freelancing, John urged ComcastSportsNet to hire me as its Orioles reporter.
Thank you, John.
For a few years, John, who covered the Ravens for CSN’s Baltimore web page and I were colleagues, which was a tremendous thrill, and it allowed me to cover the team full time for the first time.