It’s time for Part 1 of our monthly mailbag. Part 2 will be on Sunday. Questions may be edited for style, length and clarity.
Question: Is Orioles’ pitching success sustainable with so many pitchers in no man’s land with innings pitched? From: @oldgrayroaddog
Answer: I think the Orioles recognized the issue when they went to the six-man rotation a week ago. When Tyler Wells comes back, in whatever role he comes back in, I think that will help. I think the innings peak of Wells, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez will be a major issue to watch in the final quarter of the season.
Question: Is there any update on the Orioles’ Dominican facility? From: James Chitwood via Facebook
Answer: @markers104 also asked this question, James. The Orioles are hoping that their new facility in the Dominican Republic will be completed by the end of the year.
Question: Rich, you have written multiple times why you are not worried about the Orioles moving. When deadline after deadline goes by it gets harder not to worry about it. What would make you worry about the lease not getting signed? From: Kevin Gish via Facebook
Answer: Kevin, Mike Beale also has a similar question. I’m not concerned because the Orioles want to stay and Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow them to move. At some point between now and the end of the year, I think a lease will be signed. Adding an entertainment zone to the area around Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium is a major undertaking, and that’s the holdup.
Question: My question is about the jersey number 7. When I was a kid it belonged to Mark Belanger. I seem to remember Billy Ripken briefly switching from 3 to 7. How come no one’s wearing 7? From: Kenny Vieth via email
Answer: Kenny, Cal Ripken Sr. also wore No. 7, and in his honor, that number has not been assigned to anyone since his death. The numbers 44, belonging to Elrod Hendricks, and 46, which was Mike Flanagan’s, have also not been assigned, though none of the three numbers has been retired. Adam Jones’ 10 has not been assigned to a player since he left, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was eventually retired.
Question: Has anyone asked Félix Bautista if he wants all of the “walk-up” fanfare? He seems like a shy guy. It seemed to me in the game against the Astros he was uncomfortable with it. It seemed like he would have just preferred to come in and pitch. Plus, nothing like challenging and motivating the other team. Felix seems to put enough pressure on himself, the extra fanfare is not for his sake. It’s for the fans. But not one fan in the stadium would have chosen the fanfare over not giving up the grand slam. From: Chester Wright via email
Answer: Chester, you are correct. Félix is a shy guy, but players could object to the introduction, and he hasn’t. It’s fun for the fans and the players, and I think teams don’t need additional motivation to face him.
Question: What’s the breakdown of the 78 series in which the Orioles haven’t been swept? Are there any five-game series? From: Bill Sundheim via Facebook
Answer: Here’s the breakdown, Bill: There have been 27 series in which the Orioles have gone 1-2, 21 in which they’ve gone 2-1, eight 3-0, six 3-1, five 2-2, four 2-0, three 1-3, two 1-1, one four-game sweep, and, in their only five game series, they were 3-2.
Question: The Orioles will have at least seven solid starting pitchers to select from next spring and all of them will be better positioned to throw more innings. Do we need to add a No.1 starter via trade? From: Dan Hudson via email
Answer: Dan, I think it’s possible that the rest of the season and postseason could reveal a No. 1 starter for 2024. However, two of their current starters, Jack Flaherty and Kyle Gibson, will both be free agents after the season, and their futures as Orioles are uncertain. I can count Kyle Bradish, Cole Irvin, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez, Tyler Wells and, if he’s healthy, John Means as returning starters. There’s too much of the season and postseason to be played to speculate on the offseason.
Question: Do you think the Orioles will try to sign Aaron Hicks in the offseason? From: Georgia Oriole Fan via email
Answer: Wayne, this is another question that’s best answered after the season. If Hicks plays strongly the rest of the season, the Orioles could attempt to re-sign him, but again, there’s too many games left to speculate.
Question: How is John Means doing in his rehab and what’s a likely date for his return to the major leagues? From: Andy Messer
Answer: Andy, Means has made two starts, totaling 3 1/3 innings. In his first, he pitched a scoreless two innings, allowing one hit. In the second, he allowed four runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings. His pitch count was 47 in the second start. Means is allowed a 30-day rehab, and could have four more starts if the Orioles and Means decide that’s appropriate. Using that timetable, he could return in the middle of next month.
Question: I can’t fully explain why, but I feel that closers having dominant seasons like Félix Bautista make better MVP candidates than Cy Young candidates. They more closely resemble everyday players and have that kind of impact on a team. I know that Bautista won’t surpass Shohei Ohtani for MVP, but what are your thoughts on this and do you see Bautista getting more Cy Young votes or MVP votes? From: Jeffrey Kendrick vis email
Answer: Jeffrey, I think Bautista should certainly be a candidate for the Cy Young Award. In 2016, I voted for Zack Britton, so I don’t have a problem voting for relievers. I think he’ll get much more attention in the Cy Young balloting, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see him receive some MVP votes if he continues to pitch as well as he has.
Question: Which of the Orioles’ Top 30 minor leaguers are eligible for the Rule 5 draft and how many will be protected? From: Frank A Culotta via Facebook
Answer: Frank, of the Top 30 Oriole prospects, four — Colton Cowser, DL Hall, Seth Johnson and Joey Ortiz — are already on the 40-man roster. The only two Top 30 prospects who will need to be protected this year are outfielders Hudson Haskin and Heston Kjerstad. Obviously, Kjerstad will be added to the 40-man roster if he’s not called up for the final weeks of the season, and I think Haskin will be protected, too.
Question: Will the ghost runner rule in extra-inning games prevail in the playoffs? Can a pinch-runner substitute for the ghost runner? Would be logical to keep Jorge Mateo on the roster if that is true. From: Samuel Goldberg via email
Answer: Samuel, the automatic runner at second base for extra innings will not be in effect for the postseason. Yes, a pinch-runner can substitute for the automatic runner, and the Orioles have used pinch-runners for the automatic runner. I think it’s possible that Jorge Mateo could be used as a pinch-runner in the postseason.
Question: What process do the Orioles have to go through if they wanted to trade prospects for another player down the stretch? From: Larry Schulz via mail
Answer: Larry, the only trades that can be made after the August 1st trade deadline are those involving players not on the 40-man roster, and the Orioles are not likely to trade prospects for a player not on the 40-man. They could conceivably claim another players off waivers, as they recently did with relief pitcher Jacob Webb, or a sign a player who has been released by another organization, as they did last year with Jesús Aguilar.
Question: What are the chances we see 19-year-old shortstop Jackson Holliday in Baltimore in September? From: Ravenous 128
Answer: I don’t think Jackson Holliday will play with the Orioles this season.