It’s time for the first part of our monthly mailbag. Part 2 will run on Tuesday. Questions may be edited for length, style and grammar.
Question: If the Orioles keep this up into the summer, do you think they trade for a legit higher-end pitcher? If yes, what’s the most realistic trade bait? Any other position you think they would/should look to upgrade. From: Ben in Bethesda
Answer: Ben, yes, I think if they’re in the playoff push in July, they would deal for a high-end starting pitcher and deal from their surplus of infield and outfield prospects. I also think they could deal for another bullpen piece or two in case there are injuries or underperformance. Additionally, I wouldn’t be shocked if they added another power bat, but that would be a much lower priority.
Question: I was wondering about the continued progress of Jackson Holliday and if you felt he’d be promoted anytime soon to Double-A Bowie? From: Paul Thornton from Lutz, Florida via email
Answer: Paul, I think if Jackson Holliday continues to play well, he could be playing at Bowie after the All-Star break. My guess is that the Orioles would like to give Holliday a couple of months at Aberdeen and allow him to finish the season with a couple of months at Bowie.
Question: What kind of a message is Mike Elias sending when he brings up Joey Ortiz and Kyle Stowers and doesn’t bring up Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg? Looks like control to me. I know they’re not on the 40-man roster. From: Ray Kowatch via Facebook
Answer: Ray, questions about the arrival of Cowser and Westburg were the most popular ones submitted this month. Cowser was placed on the minor league injured list with a strained left quad on Saturday.
I think Cowser and Westburg will be brought up when there’s a sustained opportunity for them to play regularly, not sporadically as Ortiz does and Stowers did during his two stints here.
I don’t know if Ortiz will stay when Ramón Urías returns from the injured list, but because Urías’ absence was predicted to be a relatively short one, they felt Ortiz could handle less-than-regular playing time more easily than Westburg.
With Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander all playing well, regular playing time seems to be out of the question for another outfielder. I don’t know how long Cowser might be out, but I thought Westburg would be called up before him.
Question: What is the thought process regarding stocking players? Would teams keep players in the minors even if they are good enough to be on a major league roster for another team? How do players feel about this?
Is it an issue that ever becomes a problem? Or is it simply a non-issue? The rules are the rules and that’s why players only have so many options, eventual free agency, From: Danny Arnspacher via email
Answer: Danny, several of the top prospects on Norfolk are good enough to be on another team’s major league roster. It’s a unique problem for the Orioles because they’ve drafted well since 2019.
As you suggest, players who have been in the minor leagues for six years and aren’t on a 40-man roster can file for free agency, and those who aren’t on the 40-man roster and have been in the team’s system for four years for players drafted out of high school and three years for players drafted out of college are eligible to be drafted.
It’s frustrating when good players don’t have an opportunity to be promoted on a contending team, but until they’re eligible for free agency, either minor or major, there’s nothing they can do about it.
Question: Fifteen members of the Orioles’ 40-man roster were acquired by Dan Duquette, including Félix Bautista, DL Hall, Grayson Rodriguez, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander.
Will Duquette ever get the credit he deserves? From: Jim Cumbie via email
Answer: Jim, it’s the way of the baseball world for the people in charge when a team wins to be given the credit. Duquette gets a lot of credit for winning teams from 2012-2016 even though J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado Chris Tillman and others were acquired by Andy MacPhail, and Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters were drafted before MacPhail arrived.
Question: If the pitch clock runs down, does the ball add to the pitcher’s pitch count? Has anyone thrown over three times and been charged with a balk? Is there any penalty if the catcher throws to first to try to pick off runners? If the automatic runner in extra innings scores, is the pitcher charged with an earned run? From: Dennis Littleton via email
Answer: Dennis, a pitch clock violation does not add to the pitch count. In an Orioles game last month, an opposing pitcher was charged with a balk for disengaging from the rubber and two unsuccessful pickoff attempts. Catchers are not penalized for throws to first, and the pitcher who allows the automatic runner to score is not charged with an earned run but is charged with an earned run for subsequent runs.
Question: Who will get cut when the Orioles decide to add Mychal Givens and Dillon Tate to the roster? From: John Flato via email
Answer: That’s another popular question, John. It depends on what moves the Orioles make in advance of Givens and Tate’s additions. In recent weeks, the Orioles have made some moves that were hard to predict in advance, adding and subtracting Drew Rom and adding Cole Irvin as a reliever.
Those are moves that I never would have predicted and affect the composition of the bullpen, so I’m reluctant to predict who would come when Givens and Tate are added—even though Givens’ addition could come quickly.
Question: I am wondering how the automatic balls and strikes calling is working out in Triple A and if you think we will see this in the majors maybe next season. I think umpiring is a tough job and professionals deserve 100 percent accurate calls. From: John Miller via email
Answer: The automatic balls and strikes is used in half of the Triple-A games. In a six-game series, it’s used for the first three games and conventional umpires are used in the second three games. In those second three games, challenges are allowed. The ABS system is used for challenges.
According to players who’ve played in Triple-A this year, they’re more comfortable with the challenge system than relying totally on the ABS system.
I think it’s coming to the major leagues, but after the radical changes, which I think have worked out well this year, I wouldn’t think you’d see ABS in 2024.
Question: Can you give us a status on major and minor league players on the injured list, particularly guys who have been out for more than a month? From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Bill, the only Oriole who’s been out for more than a month is John Means, who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and should be back in July.
As I mentioned before, Colton Cowser is on the injured list with a left quad strain. Catcher Maverick Handley was also placed on the injured list on Saturday with inflammation in his left hand.
Of top minor league prospects, Norfolk outfielder Hudson Haskin is out with a hamstring injury, pitcher Seth Johnson is recovering from Tommy John surgery last August and may not pitch this season, and pitcher Carter Baumler had shoulder surgery in the offseason and it’s not known if he’ll be able to pitch this season.
Question: Some of the Oriole players use an interpreter during interviews. Does the club pay them or do the players cover some of their cost? From: Richard Poffel via email
Answer: Richard, teams are required to provide an interpreter for any non-English speaking player.
Question: After watching Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez so far this season, I’m wondering why the Orioles keep these two players in Baltimore when they’re both struggling big time. Henderson looks lost at the plate, and his defense is not that great.
Rodriguez really hasn’t shown me much. Sure, his fastball is steadily in the upper 90s, but he seems to have trouble locating his pitches. Right now, Rodriguez appears to be more of a thrower than a pitcher. From: Warren Brock via email
Answer: Warren, I think both Henderson and Rodriguez should stay in the major leagues and will stay.
Henderson is batting only .192, but unlike a lot of players with low batting averages, he’s walking often. His on-base percentage is .336, which is just below Austin Hays’ .342.
I think his play at third is improving, and he’s not hurting the team.
You wrote this before Rodriguez allowed two runs on four hits in five innings in the Orioles; 6-5 win in 10 innings over Toronto on Saturday, but he continues to improve, and I don’t think either Henderson or Rodriguez have anything to learn at Triple-A.
Question: The Orioles are doing well right now, but do you think they’ll drop more games if the starting pitching doesn’t improve? From: Heidi Tennyson Bertaux via Facebook
Answer: Heidi, I think the performance of the starters will be a key to the season. Kyle Gibson and Kyle Bradish have pitched deep into games this week, and Dean Kremer has done better recently. If they can get consistent six-inning starters from Bradish, Gibson, Kremer and Tyler Wells, with an occasional seven-inning start mixed in, then I think that will really help.
Too many five-inning starts would put too much pressure on the bullpen.