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If the Orioles are going to have the kind of success they had in 2023 — when they won the American League East and 101 games — they’ll need some things that happened this past season to happen again in 2024. Here are a few:
Stay healthy: For the second straight season, the Orioles were among the healthiest teams in baseball.
According to Spotrac, the Orioles had 15 players on the injured list, tied with Cleveland for the second fewest in the majors, and their 912 days lost to injuries were the fifth fewest.
In 2022, they were even healthier with just 13 players on the injured list, fewest in baseball, and 790 days lost to injuries, second fewest.
In 2023, the Orioles did lose some key players to injuries — outfielders Cedric Mullins, Aaron Hicks, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and catcher James McCann were on the injured list — but no position player had a month-long injury.
In both seasons, the Orioles lost their most experienced starter, John Means, who had Tommy John surgery in April 2022 and didn’t return to the active list until this past September.
The only other starter to miss time was Kyle Bradish, who was out the minimum 15 days when he suffered a bruised foot off the bat of Texas’ Josh Jung.
Besides Means, the Orioles’ most serious injury to a pitcher came when closer Félix Bautista suffered an elbow injury that was repaired by Tommy John surgery last month. He’ll miss all of 2024.
The Orioles didn’t have an outfielder on the injured list in 2022, but Mullins and Hicks each had two stints in 2023.
Find more surprises: A year ago, relief pitcher Yennier Cano seemed to be a likely candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster.
Cano, who had been acquired from Minnesota in the trade that sent All-Star reliever Jorge López to the Twins on August 2nd, 2022, had a horrible start to his Orioles career. In three games, Cano gave up nine runs in 4 1/3 innings for an 18.69 ERA, but as moves were made throughout the offseason, Cano stayed on the roster.
Though he didn’t start the season on the 26-man roster, he was recalled two weeks into the season and ended up with 72 appearances, most on the team, a 2.11 earned-run average and eight saves.
With Bautista unavailable, Cano could end up as the Orioles’ primary closer in 2024.
At this time last year, left-handed reliever Danny Coulombe was an unknown who’d pitched for five organizations, but despite a 2.92 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Twins, they couldn’t find room on their roster. As spring training ended, he Orioles purchased his contract.
Coulombe had a 2.81 ERA and his first two major league saves in 61 games and was shocked to be recognized by a fan when walking with his children, the first time that’s happened.
Ryan O’Hearn was languishing with the Kansas City Royals in late November 2022. O’Hearn hit just .219 with a .683 OPS in five seasons with the Royals, who were never in contention during his time there.
Like Cano, he didn’t start the season with the Orioles, but he hit .289 with an .801 OPS, 14 home runs and a career-high 60 RBIs. While Mountcastle was on the injured list with vertigo, O’Hearn proved indispensable as a first baseman/designated hitter.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias found Cano, Coulombe and O’Hearn, and he’ll need to find some others for 2024.
Avoid long losing streaks: The Orioles ended the regular season with the fourth longest streak in baseball history of not being swept, 91 consecutive series.
Their three-game sweep by Texas in the Division Series doesn’t count in regular-season records, although it brought a disappointing end to a season in which they were 101-61.
They haven’t been swept in a series since May 13th-15th, 2022 when they lost three games at Detroit.
The 1903-1905 New York Giants are next on the list with 105 straight sweepless series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals hold the record with 124 straight series followed by the 1906-1909 Chicago Cubs (115).
If the Orioles can avoid getting swept through their July 26th-28th series with San Diego, they’ll set baseball history with their 125 consecutive sweepless series.
The Orioles did have a four-game losing streak in 2023, but it was over two series. They won their first game of a three-game series with Cincinnati before losing the final two games. They lost the first two games of a three-game series with Minnesota before winning the final game on July 1st.
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