SARASOTA—The Orioles’ final Grapefruit League game is two weeks from Monday, and readers have lots of interesting questions this month for our mailbag. I’ll answer more of them on Thursday. Questions may be edited for length, style and grammar.
Question: Which way are they leaning with Tyler Wells? Starter or reliever? I like him coming out of the bullpen for two or three innings. From: Alan Reister via Facebook
Answer: Alan, if the season started today, I would guess that Tyler Wells would be in the bullpen, but of course that could change. I think Brandon Hyde will go with two or maybe even three pitchers in the bullpen who have substantial starting experience.
I think Wells, Austin Voth and Spenser Watkins are all candidates for this role.
Question: Last year, they used Wells as part of a piggyback early in the season. Can you see them doing the same thing with Wells and Grayson Rodriguez this season and maybe later when John Means comes back? From: John DeWitt via email
Answer: John, I think it’s possible, but if they use six starters, which is what a piggyback would mean, that would mean seven relievers instead of six. If you use Wells and Rodriguez for three or four innings, that puts them both out of commission. Last year, the Orioles were able to carry 28 players instead of 26 to start the season because of the truncated spring training, and that’s not the case this season.
Question: I know spring training stats mean very little, but is it possible that a veteran like Adam Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Ryan McKenna and Ramón Urías gets cut? There’s so much talent that deserves to play. From: @MojoTilty
Answer: Mike, I would be very surprised if Frazier, Mateo, McKenna and Urías are not on the Opening Day roster, barring injury. Yes, there is great talent here, and many of them will play with the Orioles later this season, but I think each of those players brings attributes the Orioles need now.
Question: Jorge Mateo is not hitting so far. Are you hearing any rumblings that his job is in jeopardy? From: David Denham vis email
Answer David, as of Monday morning, Mateo is hitting .200 (4-for-20), but more importantly, he’s playing excellent defense. He earned his job because of outstanding defense, and while his offensive production could be a factor later in the season, I can’t see him not starting the season at shortstop, barring injury.
Question: Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi has been impressive. Do you think he has a good shot of heading north with the Orioles? From: Kevin Gish via email
Answer: Kevin, I think Politi has been impressive, and the Orioles like his arm, and I think he has a good chance of beginning the season with them. I think the choice for the last spot in the bullpen may come down to Politi and an extra long reliever.
Question: Who will have the best career, Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson or Jackson Holliday? Who has the best hair? From: Damon Stout via email
Answer: Damon, I think they’ll all have excellent careers, and isn’t it refreshing to ask and not be wrong with any answer? I think they’ll all have terrific careers, and in an informal press box poll, Gunnar Henderson gets the vote for best hair.
Question: Other than Andrew Politi, are there any other players vulnerable to being picked up by other teams if they don’t make the Orioles? From: Scott Shindell via Facebook
Answer: Scott, Austin Voth is the only player out of options, but I can’t see the Orioles putting him on waivers. Some of the veterans who came to camp on minor league contracts could have opt-outs, but I’m not aware of any decisions that must be made before the end of spring training.
Question: Looking to get your candid view on what it’s like to cover an MLB team on the rise. You’ve been through all the bad times and ineptitude and gamesmanship and the abject dysfunction.
You have probably the most talented group of young players in the game. You have (in my opinion) the best GM in the game, you have a newly committed owner, and you have a once underappreciated manager who has come a long way toward becoming a very successful and respected skipper.
Just how different are things now for you covering this team? From: Baltimore Castaway via email
Answer: Mike, a similar question was asked by @MoCoOrioles. This spring training has been fun and drama-free. The biggest difference is that it seems that no matter the inning, there’s someone interesting to watch.
Later in games, you can see Colton Cowser, Jackson Holliday, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Joey Ortiz, César Prieto or Jordan Westburg. That wasn’t always the case.
Question: With the shortage of first base prospects, do you think that Heston Kjerstad and Coby Mayo will start the season at Bowie and that one or both might play some first base? From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Bill, I think that both Kjerstad and Mayo will start the season at Bowie. While they both may play some first base, Kjerstad is seen primarily as an outfielder and Mayo as a third baseman.
Question: Do you think Gunnar Henderson will get out of his spring training slump? From: Peter Goodman via email
Answer: Peter, I think that Gunnar Henderson will have an excellent season, and that even though he’s only 2-for-19 (.105) entering Monday’s game, it’s not a big deal.
Henderson, like all regulars, doesn’t play consistently in the early part of Grapefruit League games. I expect him to play often in the final 12 days of games after Wednesday’s offday.
Question: Any chance the Orioles and Nationals could switch leagues? I would have insisted on this when the Nationals came in had I been in charge – there is such a payroll imbalance for us to compete with. From: John Miller via email
Answer: John, I have heard chatter that if the major leagues expands to 32 teams, there would be major realignment and one of the ideas that I’ve heard tossed around is to put the Orioles and Nationals in the same division.
While the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox have large payrolls, so do the Mets, Braves and Phillies, so I think there may be just as much an economic imbalance in the NL East as there is in the AL East.