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It’s time for Part 1 of our monthly mailbag. We’ll have Part 2 tomorrow and another mailbag during spring training. Questions may be edited for style, length and clarity.
Question: What else could the Orioles add before Opening Day to make this team complete? From: Tim Fowler via email
Answer: Tim, I think the Orioles could use another late-inning reliever, but realistically, I think there aren’t many holes and it could be a deep one.
Question: I know the Orioles are first in overall minor league rankings, but do they have rankings for the international minor leaguers, and where are the Orioles? From: Larry Schultz in Sarasota via email
Answer: Larry, there aren’t separate rankings for international minor leaguers. They’re considered part of the overall minor league system. The Orioles had several international players in the most recent MLB Pipeline Top 30, and catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo is rated the 17th-best prospect in the minors.
Question: I heard a report about Jackson Holliday playing second during spring training. This would seem to move Gunnar Henderson to short and Jordan Westburg to third. How strong is this setup defensively? The team has now acquired two utility infielders. What if anything does this mean for Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías? From: Julius Silvestri via email
Answer: Julius, that’s a popular question. David Denham also asked a similar one. I’m not sure what the breakdown would be with Holliday on the team. I would anticipate lots of moving around, and I think it would be a strong infield. You’re correct that the Orioles acquired Nick Maton and Liván Soto last week, but I would think that Mateo, who Mike Elias indicated could be a backup centerfielder, and Urías have better chances to make the team.
Question: Is the Orioles’ goal for another starting pitcher who can be placed in the middle of the rotation? Would the Orioles consider a six-man rotation, and what role does infielder Connor Norby play? From: Cristian Sena in the Dominican Republic via email
Answer: Cristian, I think the Orioles are not in the market for another starting pitcher unless it’s for depth, and I wouldn’t think they’d be willing to spend a lot on that pitcher. I don’t think they’ll go with a six-man rotation because that means that the bullpen would be limited to seven relievers instead of eight. I think Norby will play for the Orioles sometime this season, but probably not begin the season with them.
Question: With new ownership in place, do you see any possible changes to the number of radio and television broadcasts in spring training? From: @Blackbirds83
Answer: Not for this spring training. The Orioles are going to broadcast 12 games on radio, and I think they’ll all be Friday, Saturday and Sunday games as they have in the past. The Nationals announced last week they’ll be televising seven games, and the Orioles are contractually obligated to the same number.
In the future, it’s possible that the Orioles bring back streaming of Grapefruit League games that aren’t on WBAL/98 Rock, and perhaps increasing the number of games on TV, but that’s for 2025.
Question: Who leads the team in batting average this year? From: @Patsman11261980
Answer: That’s one I’d never considered. How about Gunnar Henderson?
Question: When can Oriole fans expect another All-Star Game in Baltimore. It’s been 30 years since the last one. From: Kevin Aspelmeier via email
Answer: Kevin, the earliest the Orioles could host an All-Star Game would be 2027, and I think MLB will give the team one then or shortly after. The Orioles aren’t the only team that would like to have a game and have waited a long time. The Chicago Cubs had one in 1990 and the Toronto Blue Jays hosted it in 1991. They’ll probably be the Orioles’ toughest competitors for the 2027 game.
Question: I’m curious about Kyle Stowers. Is he the odd man out with Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad vying to make the team? From: SoFloOsFan via email
Answer: Jason, I think Stowers will have a tough time making the team out of spring training unless there are injuries to outfielders. If he has a good spring or a good start to the 2024 season, he could put himself back in the Orioles’ plans or be a good trade chip.
Question: Everyone is talking about the prospect of long-term extensions for some of our talented young players, but I believe our true O’s MVP and the person new owner David Rubinstein needs to sign to a long- term extension is Mike Elias. He has been the most critical element of our team’s turnaround and he will clearly be in high demand from a lot of MLB organizations with deep pockets. What do you think? From: Glenn Fuller in Laurel via email
Answer: Glenn, I agree that Elias is valuable, and I don’t know the details of his contract, but the Orioles would be wise to keep him in Baltimore.
Question: With new ownership and a very good team, this is a great time to be an Oriole fan. The Nationals are not very good. I think the Orioles should make an effort to get some of their fans back. Do you see that happening? From: Mike Beale via email
Answer: Mike, I think the Orioles have been successful in getting back some of the fans who normally attended Nationals games. Last season, the Orioles outdrew the Nationals for just the second time since the team was in Washington, and I think that will happen again this season.
Question: Is Adam Jones’ number 10 the next unofficially retired number for the Orioles? From: @GertietheDino
Answer: Theresa, it is already unofficially retired because it hasn’t been issued since Jones left the team in 2018. The question is, and I’m not sure of the answer, if number 10 will be retired permanently.
Question: How much of a player’s contract goes to an agent? From: John Miller via email
Answer: John, it’s generally between 4 and 5 percent.
Question: Jordan Westburg was quoted as saying he wants to be prepared to play all nine positions, if needed. Can he realistically go behind the plate in an extreme emergency? From: Ray from West Wyoming Pa. via email
Answer: I would be very surprised if we saw Jordan Westburg behind the plate, Ray. Teams always have an emergency catcher in mind, and it’s usually a backup infielder or outfielder, but they’re rarely needed. When Ryan Flaherty was with the Orioles, he caught pitchers in the bullpen in case he was needed to catch, but he never was. The only time I remember the Orioles needing an emergency catcher was on August 24th, 1983 when Lenn Sakata caught in the 10th inning and Tippy Martinez picked off three consecutive baserunners.
Question: Do you anticipate anyone new added to the group platooning as designated hitter this season? From: Rick Staley via email
Answer: Rick, the Orioles used 14 different designated hitters in 2023. Anthony Santander (47 games), Adley Rutschman (45), Ryan Mountcastle (22), Ryan O’Hearn (12) and Gunnar Henderson (11) were the most often used. I would guess that group would DH this year, and that Heston Kjerstad, who had six starts, will have some more.
Question: Was Enrique Bradfield Jr. invited to spring training? From: Don Fazio via email
Answer: Don, Bradfield was not invited, but I think he’ll be called over to Sarasota as an extra player. The Orioles only invited one extra outfielder, Daniel Johnson. There were a number of young outfielders I thought could be invited, including Dylan Beavers, Billy Cook and Hudson Haskin, but weren’t. I expect that they’ll get some playing time in Grapefruit League games.
Question: I realize that the Orioles didn’t sign a new lease until December but will we see any minor stadium improvements this year? A new sound system would be nice! From: M.G. Wilt via email
Answer: Marty, I have not heard plans for a new sound system or scoreboard for 2024, two things that are badly needed. My guess is that most changes will wait until after this season.
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