BALTIMORE—The Major League Baseball draft is eight days away, and the Orioles have the first pick. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias offered no clue on who the team may take with that pick.
“I’m being very frank about it. The short list that we have that’s five players long, I feel like we’re going to carry that for the next week, up until the draft day,” Elias said in a media briefing on Saturday.
Speculation has centered on Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones, Georgia high school infielder Termarr Johnson, Oklahoma high school infielder Jackson Holliday, Florida high school outfielder Elijah Green and Cal Poly infielder Brooks Lee. LSU infielder Jacob Berry has also been mentioned.
“I don’t expect there’s going to be a broad consensus in every corner of the organization on who to take, and also there is always late information the week of the draft so you have to be prepared for alternatives in case there’s something that moves the needle. I don’t think we’re really going to get much closer to narrowing things until the day of the draft.”
Elias has enjoyed the Orioles’ recent performance. They’ve won six straight and are three games under .500 for the first time since April 23rd when they were 6-9.
“I don’t get surprised about baseball,” he said. “I’m very happy. I’m very encouraged by it I’m very proud of our players and I credit them and the major league coaches with not the results of these games, but the style and effort level. We’re all seeing it is hard to do on a night-in, night-out basis at the major league level. I think this group deserves a lot of credit for that.
“There’s half the season left. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure we’ve got rough patches in store for us, but … I think this organization is in a very healthy spot and a lot of that is the players and the way they’re playing up here at the major league level right now … [and] obviously having an excellent group of minor league prospects behind them.
“What I see with how our front office and scouting groups and player development groups are going about things, I think we’re in store for a lot of good stuff here in the next few years. I’m very happy that it’s reflected right now during this stretch of play so plainly for our fans.”
Elias didn’t say if the Orioles’ improved play will change his strategy as the August 2nd trade deadline approaches.
“I think that in this job that every thing that I do or that we do has tradeoffs,” he said. “We do everything from a very global, very thoughtful perspective of what is the right thing to do for the health of the Orioles’ franchise, and all that is being taken in consideration for the draft and also for the trade deadline coming up. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re taking a look at everything when we make these decisions and we’ll see what happens.”
Zimmermann’s back: The Orioles recalled left-hander Bruce Zimmermann from Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Brandon Hyde said he will use Zimmermann in relief.
“Zimm’s going to go to the bullpen and be a long option out of the ‘pen,” Hyde said. “Our bullpen’s pretty taxed and to have somebody to be able to give multiple innings out of the bullpen was important right now.”
Zimmermann was sent down on June 16th with a 2-5 record and a 5.94 earned-run average in 13 starts. In his last four starts before he was optioned to Norfolk, Zimmermann allowed 24 runs on 39 hits in 19 innings.
At Norfolk, Zimmermann was 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in three games.
“He had a really nice start his last time out,” Hyde said. “Today would have been his start day, so he’s fully rested and ready to give us as many innings as needed.
“The reports are that his stuff has improved and gotten back to where it was. The changeup was better. It sounds like the breaking balls were good, too. He went seven innings his last time out and had some success. It’s always important to have length guys in your bullpen and with [Keegan] Akin only going [1 2/3 innings] last night and not having a ton of long guys down in the bullpen, it was important for us [today].”
In Zimmermann’s first six starts, he was 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA.
“My last couple of outings weren’t what they were compared to the beginning of the year,” Zimmermann said. “What I expect of myself or what they expect of a starter in the AL East.”
Zimmermann realized he could be demoted.
“It wasn’t a shock, and you take it as positive as you can” he said. “Looking at it positively as a way to take a step back, you come back stronger as more efficient and more productive … I would have liked to been able to work it out up here and finish up here and all that kind of stuff. Sometimes it take a step back to take two steps forward.”
Zimmermann is happy to rejoin his teammates after three walkoff wins in the last five games.
“To see the turnaround the team’s having success-wise, and the camaraderie and how the clubhouse was at the beginning of the season has been awesome,” Zimmermann said. “I think Trey stated it well. The club is having a ton of fun, and everybody is contributing when they need to, and it’s just a really good atmosphere up here now, and I’m happy to be back.”
To make room for Zimmermann, the Orioles optioned Beau Sulser, who pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings in Friday night’s game, to Norfolk. The move was made after the game.
Injury update: Elias said that 2020 first-round pick Heston Kjerstad, who’s hitting .468 at Single-A Delmarva, is meeting expectations. “His Delmarva debut has gone as well as it possibly could have gone,” he said. “It’s good that he’s feeling healthy, and I don’t think we’ll leave him there all year.”
Right-handed pitcher Carter Baumler, who’s also with Delmarva and is on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation, will be examined by multiple doctors. Bowie third baseman Coby Mayo is heading to the injured list because of back spasms. Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect who’s on the injured list because of a lat injury is progressing but not ready for baseball activities, Elias said.
Notes: With offdays on Monday and Thursday, the Orioles will juggle their rotation before the All-Star break. Hyde said that Jordan Lyles could start Tuesday’s game at the Chicago Cubs and July 17th at Tampa Bay, the final game before the break.