What to look for from the Orioles in July and beyond - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

What to look for from the Orioles in July and beyond

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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There was plenty to be concerned about as June began for the Orioles. On May 31st, general manager Mike Elias announced that two pitchers who’d been in the projected rotation, John Means and Tyler Wells, would have season-ending elbow surgery.

A third starter, Kyle Bradish, would leave the June 14th game against Philadelphia early and, within a week, would have Tommy John surgery. Bradish was pitching brilliantly, and having Bradish, Corbin Burnes and Grayson Rodriguez in a possible playoff rotation was exciting to think about.

Next came the loss of a key reliever, left-hander Danny Coulombe, who had surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow. The Orioles are hoping he can return in September.

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Losing three starters and one of their most dependable relievers is a formidable challenge for a team hoping to match last year’s success and make a deeper playoff run. But first the Orioles would have to tackle June, with its one offday and 29 games in 30 days. They finished 17-12 and percentage points ahead of the Yankees for first place in the American League East.

There were consecutive series with the Braves, the Phillies, Yankees, Astros and Guardians, followed by a four-game series against the Rangers, who won the World Series and eliminated the Orioles in three games in the Division Series.

Each of those teams could be playing in October, even though the Rangers have a lot of ground to make up. The Astros, who had a difficult start to their season, swept the Orioles in three games and are on the fringes of the wild-card race.

The Orioles took two of three against the Braves, Phillies and Yankees before getting swept in Houston and losing two of three to the Guardians, who now have the best record in the American League. The Orioles’ five-game losing streak was their worst in more than two years, but they rebounded to win four straight, including three against Texas.

June represented their third consecutive month with 17 wins, quite an accomplishment when you consider the schedule and the absence of some key pitchers.

Here are some things to look for as July begins:

Orioles’ All-Stars: Six Orioles — catcher Adley Rutschman, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, shortstop Gunnar Henderson, outfielder Anthony Santander, third baseman Jordan Westburg and designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn are finalists for the American League All-Star team.

Rutschman, Mountcastle and Henderson lead the fan voting while Santander, Westburg and O’Hearn are second. Fans can vote until noon Wednesday, and the starters will be announced on Wednesday night. Pitchers and reserves will be announced on Sunday.

Burnes, the Orioles’ top starting pitcher, should make the All-Star team, too.

Easier schedule: On Tuesday, the Orioles begin a six-game road trip in Seattle, which leads the American League West, and play their final three games in Oakland, which will move to Sacramento next season for a few years on its eventual way to Las Vegas.

The Orioles return on July 9th for three games against the Cubs, then play three games against the Yankees before the All-Star break.

The All-Stars can stay in Texas because the Orioles will visit the Rangers after the break, then the Marlins for three games before ending the month with San Diego and Toronto at home.

Four of those teams: Chicago, Miami, Oakland and Toronto are currently in last place.

Trade talks heating up: With less than a month to go before the trade deadline, the Orioles will be linked with many players. The Orioles could use another starter to replace Bradish and another back-end reliever to buttress their current closer, Craig Kimbrel

As July 30th nears, the Orioles will have more pitchers to choose from. The Rangers and Tigers, both out of playoff contention at the moment, could be sellers, as well. Others will join them later in July, and the Orioles should be able to get some pitching help.

It will be fascinating to see which prospects the Orioles will be willing to surrender for help.

When will more prospects arrive? Third baseman Coby Mayo has compiled outstanding statistics at Triple-A Norfolk, even with missing a month with a fractured rib.

Mayo doesn’t have anything more to prove in the minor leagues, and perhaps his time with the Orioles is coming soon.

Jackson Holliday will spend some more time at designated hitter for Norfolk as he recovers from right elbow inflammation. Holliday’s stats haven’t been great with the Tides since the Orioles sent him back in late April, but there’s no panic because there’s no opening for him right now.

Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers have played with the Orioles this season, with Stowers hitingt .286 in 17 games. But with Heston Kjerstad showing off his power, it may be hard to have both Stowers and Kjerstad on the Orioles this season. Without an injury, there doesn’t appear to be room for Norby in the coming weeks.

What individual goals should we be looking for? Henderson could challenge Chris Davis’ team home run record (53 in 2013), and while the Orioles don’t care about pitchers’ wins, Burnes and Grayson Rodriguez each have nine and have outside chances to win 20. No Orioles pitcher since Mike Boddicker in 1984 has won 20.

Craig Kimbrel is one save away from tying Francisco Rodriguez for fourth place on the all-time saves list. Kimbrel and Boston’s Kenley Jansen, who both have 436 saves, have been chasing Rodriguez this season.

Note: To make room on the roster for Burnes, who just returned from the paternity list, the Orioles optioned left-handed reliever Matt Krook to Norfolk after Sunday night’s game.

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