It’s time for the second part of our monthly mailbag. Thank you for your questions, which may be edited for grammar, length and clarity.
Question: Wouldn’t it be wise to offer Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman extended contracts before the Orioles lose them in free agency? From: John Flato via email
Answer: A similar question was asked by @MrNoFoxGiven, who wanted to know about extending Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle.
John, Gunnar Henderson’s agent is Scott Boras, who is generally not in favor of his clients signing long-term contracts early in their career. As for Rutschman, I agree that the Orioles should attempt to extend him sooner than later. I haven’t heard anything about interest on either side. Mountcastle will be eligible for arbitration after this season, and while it’s possible the Orioles could extend him, I haven’t heard anything about that, either.
Question: Brandon Hyde had used Félix Bautista two days in a row and then didn’t use him Saturday night when the Orioles lost in extra innings. I realize some closer candidates are currently injured and the Orioles might have a different outcome when they return. Is this Hyde’s personal decision not to use his regular closer more than two days in a row, or is this what other managers are also doing? From: Steve Inge via Facebook
Answer: It was Hyde’s decision not to use Bautista three days in a row. He has never pitched more than two days in a row in his career, and many other managers also share that philosophy.
I think that could change late in the season, but I can’t imagine seeing Bautista three days in a row this early in the season.
Question: Why did the Orioles wear black jerseys last Sunday? From: @PatrickCassat
Answer: Patrick, Grayson Rodriguez was given the option of whether the team should wear orange or black jerseys, which are usually worn on Fridays, and he picked black.
Question: What did Creed Willems do that’s helped his performance this season? How about Trace Bright? From: Damon Stout via email
Answer: Damon, Creed Willems is a 19-year-old catcher who was drafted in the eighth round of the 2021 draft. He had a rough season at Delmarva last year, but he’s off to a terrific start with the Shorebirds. He came into spring training in outstanding shape, and he’s still very young, and he’s repeating a level this year.
The Orioles brought him to some Grapefruit League games as an extra player, but he never got into a game.
Bright was the Orioles’ fifth-round pick last year, and the right-handed pitcher, who was coached in travel ball by Orioles broadcaster Ben McDonald, is off to an excellent start at High-A Aberdeen, striking out 18 batters and walking just two in his first eight innings, allowing just one earned run and five hits.
He’s an excellent prospect, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the next Top 30 list.
Question: Do you think it was a mistake to let Franchy Cordero go after spring training? Two homers against the Birds recently. You think he was under real consideration? From: Lance Lillen via email
Answer: Lance, you were one of a number of readers who commented on Cordero’s hot start. He’s cooled off considerably since then and is now batting .200.
Cordero was competing with Lewin Díaz, Josh Lester and Ryan O’Hearn for a left-handed hitting DH, first base/outfielder position.
Ultimately, the Orioles decided against keeping any of them on the roster that left Sarasota because they wanted to keep a bench of Ryan McKenna, Kyle Stowers and Terrin Vavra.
O’Hearn is now with the team while Stowers is in the minor leagues, and I think if Cordero had not opted out of his minor league contract after spring training that the Orioles still would have chosen O’Hearn over Cordero. O’Hearn has more major league experience than Cordero and is a better fielder.
Question: I was surprised, but thought it was a good move when Cole Irvin was sent to the minors. Since he has only this one move to the minors, what would be the scenario if he comes back to Orioles and again pitches poorly? If the O’s release him, would they still need to pay his whole 2023 salary? Would that be true [needing to pay whole 2023 salary] for anyone else who might be released if a bunch of the young guys at Triple-A or Double-A join the club during the season? From: Robert Stier via email
Answer: Bob, I was also surprised when Irvin was optioned to the minors. A player, like Irvin, with one option remaining, can be sent to the minor leagues multiple times in the same season.
If the Orioles chose to release Irvin, they would have to pay him the balance of his remaining salary for the season. That would be the case with other players as long as they haven’t signed a contract that pays them different salaries depending on whether they’re in the majors or minors.
Question: How are the Orioles going to deal with a surplus of starting pitchers? It seems like, if everyone’s healthy, some very good pitchers will be in Norfolk. From: @karks88
Answer: Eric, that’s obviously a good problem to have. Currently, Irvin is at Norfolk, and so is DL Hall because he started late due to a back injury. If Irvin has another good start or two, the Orioles may want to recall him, and they’d love to see Hall in a position to help them, and I think that time is coming, too.
It would be a great thing if all the starters were pitching well and healthy, but that rarely happens. On Tuesday, Brandon Hyde said he didn’t want to put starting pitchers in the bullpen, but maybe he’ll change his mind if your dream scenario comes to pass.
Question: What position players do you see coming up to the majors this season and next season, and who do you see leaving the O’s to make room for them? Looks to me like we have so much infield and outfield talent, and no place for them to go when they are ready. Answer: John Miller via email
Answer: Your question was a popular one. @PaulMoss70 asked a similar one.
Just like in the scenario raised in the previous question, having too many players performing well in the majors and minors is a wonderful thing. Some of the players Paul mentioned — Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, Colton Cowser, Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers, who are all at Norfolk — are all highly thought of, and, with the exception of Stowers, are waiting to make their debuts.
If they play well and others in the majors don’t, then the Orioles will make room for them. They may package some of them along with others not mentioned to make a deal for a position of need, perhaps another starter or reliever.
Question: What’s the reason for holding Jordan Westburg or Connor Norby in the minors? Just so Adam Frazier can play? From: @Mudbeard
Answer: Michael sent his question in before Frazier homered on Wednesday night. Others have similar suggestions. @RaubPhil thinks Westburg should be up to replace Ryan McKenna.
I think Westburg will make his major league debut, but he has played only 11 games at Norfolk this season and he’s hitting .265 with three homers and nine RBIs, but I think McKenna can help them as a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement and pinch-runner.
Norby is hitting .303 in 15 games, and he has played only 24 games at Triple-A. I think it’s possible he makes his debut, too, but I think Frazier’s left-handed bat and his steady play at second is valuable to the team.
The Orioles could decide to move on from Frazier later in the season, but I would be surprised to see Westburg, Norby or Ortiz come up soon—without an infield injury—unless they performed well for an extended time and a current infielder underperformed for an extended time.
Question: With the struggles of the starters and the abundance of young talent in the minors, is it time for the Orioles to shop around some of the young guys or even some on the current major league roster in exchange for a solid starting pitcher? From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: Dave wrote this question before Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer delivered strong starts. I think the Orioles will wait because they have Cole Irvin and DL Hall at Norfolk, but I think they definitely will consider making a move closer to the August 1st trading deadline.
Question: With the bases now about 4 inches closer together because of size change, and pickoff attempts to first limited to two, the success rate to steal a base seems to be greater. Certainly for the Orioles. Is the league rate more successful overall? From: Lyle Diamond via email
Answer: Lyle, another reader, Dave Robinson, wants to know if more runners in scoring position have come home because of the new rules.
Dave and Lyle, through Wednesday, teams are scoring 4.61 runs per game, up from 4.28 runs per game for the entire 2022 season. Teams have been successful in 80.6 percent of their stolen base attempts, up from 75.4 percent last year. I’m sure this, along with banning the shift, has contributed to more runners in scoring position coming home.
Question: It seems that more batters are being beaned this year (including the O’s Ramón Urías) than in years past. Could these beanings be a result of the pitch clock, and pitchers feeling rushed on the mound? Your thoughts. From: Warren Brock
Answer: Warren, through Wednesday’s games, there have been about the same number of hit by pitches this year as they were last year. In all of 2022, there were .42 hit by pitches per game. This year, there have been .43 hit by pitches per game.
Question: Could it be that Jorge Mateo didn’t get Gold Glove consideration last season is because he makes it look sooo easy? From: Robert Benedict via email
Answer: Robert, that’s hard to answer because unlike the awards that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote on, Gold Gloves are awarded based on a formula.
Voting by managers and coaches, who can’t vote for players on their own team, is 75 percent of the vote. The other 25 percent is based on analytics.
I think Mateo should have been given greater consideration for the Gold Glove last year, and perhaps he’ll get greater consideration this season.
Question: Gunnar Henderson seems to be struggling at the plate. He did not have a good spring training. Is there anything to be worried about? From: Phil Cooke via email
Answer: Phil, Henderson is batting .176, but his on-base percentage is .373. While Hyde has said several times that his struggles are common to young players, his high walk total, 15 in 16 games, indicates that he’s not swinging wildly. I would be astounded if he didn’t start hitting well soon.
Note: Spenser Watkins, who’s at Norfolk, was placed on the injured list with a laceration of the fourth finger on his right hand.