It’s time for our monthly mailbag. I’ll answer more questions on Thursday. Questions may be edited for style, clarity and grammar.
Question: I think Ryan McKenna’s error in the second game of the season really ruined what relevancy he had on this team. He strikes out too much. Are there any right-handed hitters available in the minors with more pop and the same defensive metrics and credentials? From: Alan Reister via Facebook
Answer: Alan, a lot of fans are down on McKenna, particularly after his error. Another fan, @raubphil thinks the Orioles should demote McKenna and bring up Jordan Westburg.
The Orioles don’t have an outfielder at Norfolk who fits the fourth outfielder/pinch-runner role that McKenna fills. They do have Hudson Haskin, who’s hitting well for the Tides, but he’s just in his first few weeks at Triple-A.
If they’re looking for a replacement for McKenna, and I don’t think they are, they may have to seek one on the waiver wire.
Question: Does MLB keep track of which umpires have the highest/lowest percentage of calls overturned? Also, do they ever evaluate the reviewers? From: Rob Ewing via email
Answer: Rob, Major League Baseball does evaluate the umpires on both balls and strikes correct and calls overturned. The reviewers are other umpires who cycle in to serve as replay officials.
Because they have a strong union, umpires are rarely dismissed, but those who don’t measure up may not receive lucrative and prestigious postseason assignments or promotions to crew chiefs.
Question: My wife and kids all joined me at the Yard for the first time in several years, and the seventh-inning stretch fell flat for us. While the new pace of play is great — we really enjoyed it — when the seventh-inning stretch came, the fan favorite and Orioles/John Denver classic, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” got abbreviated due to less time between innings. Without warning, the music volume was dramatically turned down mid-song and the announcer came on to announce the next batter.
These traditions need to prevail and should not be abbreviated for the sake of the new pace of play. MLB — Give us back a few seconds, whatever it takes so that we can have our complete seventh-inning stretch. Don’t abbreviate John Denver at the Yard. Don’t clip Neil Diamond at Fenway. From: Brad Levin via email
Answer: Brad, you went on Easter Sunday when “God Bless America,” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” were all played. While there are exceptions for patriotic songs, MLB has long mandated two minutes, 15 seconds between innings, and just like the pitch clock, there are no exceptions for fan favorite songs.
Question: Which Oriole hitters do you think will benefit the most from the new shift rule ? Do you believe Chris Davis would have been the primary beneficiary of the new rule during his frustrating last few years ? From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, I think good left-handed hitters like Cedric Mullins as well as switch-hitting Adley Rutschman will see their averages go up. While Davis hit lots of balls into the shift, the shift doesn’t help a batter who often strikes out.
Question: Do you think you would ever see a manager go through five pitchers every game like Brandon Hyde does? I really believe today’s pitchers can’t hold a candle to yesteryear’s pitchers. I hate today’s baseball and all the pitching changes. I don’t know when this 100-pitch thing started but it can go away. If a reliever shuts a team down in the 7th, why not leave him in? I simply hate the way baseball is now played. From: Wade Warren via email
Answer: Wade, I’m not a fan of using many pitchers a game, either. While I enjoy today’s game, I’d much rather see a starting pitcher go deep into the game, and I think having marquee starters is part of baseball’s appeal.
I’m not a “things were better in the old days” guy, but I like complete games, or starters who can throw seven or eight innings, but I’m afraid we’re fighting a losing battle.
Question: Who is the Orioles’ most underrated prospect who isn’t on their top 30 list but should be? Via: @alberkwitz53
Answer: Albert, a sleeper would be catcher Maverick Handley, who was very impressive in spring training and is now at Triple-A Norfolk. I think Handley would be an excellent backup catcher in the future or someone the Orioles could use in a trade.
Note: In my original answer to Albert, I inadvertently wrote infielder Frederick Bencosme, who’s actually the 21st rated prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
Question: Who do you think the prospect to get the call will be? From: @Cmatt666
Answer: Chris, my guess is Joey Ortiz. If Ramón Urías had to be put on the 7-day concussion list, Ortiz would have been the guy called up. I think if there’s a need at second, short or third, he’s the most likely prospect to be recalled.
Question: What is the realistic expectation for John Means’ effectiveness this season based on other Tommy John cases? From: @LikeThinkin
Answer: That’s an interesting question. Another reader, Bill Connor, wants to know when Means might be ready to go on a rehab assignment.
The Orioles have said Means could pitch in July, so I would think he’d go on a lengthy rehab assignment. Pitchers are allowed 30 days, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Means got five or six starts, building up slowly, so that should start sometime in June.
As for his effectiveness, Justin Verlander returned from Tommy John surgery and was 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA last year, and while Means isn’t Justin Verlander, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him be just as effective as he was before his injury. The Orioles could certainly use a strong Means presence in the second half of the season.
Question: Any chance of a Zack Britton reunion in the near future? From: @ifollowonlyos
Answer: Britton has yet to sign with a club, and when he does I don’t think it will be with the Orioles. I haven’t heard him linked with the Orioles, and though he was a personal favorite of mine when he was here, he’s not close to the pitcher he was then. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can still pitch well and he signs with a team that’s well suited for him.
Note: The Orioles activated Keegan Akin from the paternity list and optioned Spenser Watkins to Triple-A Norfolk. Watkins did not appear in a game this weekend.