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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering 2019 spring training

Posted on 11 February 2019 by Luke Jones

With Orioles pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Sarasota for the start of spring training on Tuesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. What would mark an acceptable — relatively and realistically speaking — major league season? I think Mike Elias would gladly take Cedric Mullins and a couple others looking like legitimate pieces for the future and a few veterans performing well enough to be traded. Avoiding 100 losses wouldn’t hurt.

2. Describing an $800,000 contract as even a “low-risk” signing sounds silly, but I liked the addition of Nate Karns to see if his arm injuries are finally behind him. His 9.3 career strikeouts per nine innings and above-average curveball fit nicely with what Elias and Sig Mejdal valued in Houston.

3. I’ll be curious to see which Baltimore pitchers start throwing their breaking pitches more frequently. The talent level is different, but veterans like Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole featured their breaking stuff more prominently upon joining the Astros. Spin rate is huge in Houston.

4. We’ve now heard Chris Davis talk about making adjustments to bounce back in three consecutive winters. Perhaps the new brain trust will find some magic fix to salvage some value from the remaining four years of his contract, but it’s all eyewash until April.

5. It could be now or never for Chance Sisco to show whether he’s a starting-caliber catcher or just a fringe backup type. The starting job is sitting there for the former second-round pick who will turn 24 later this month. Austin Wynns, 28, substantially outplaying him last year wasn’t encouraging.

6. After hitting well in limited duty last September, DJ Stewart will have his best chance this spring to prove he’s deserving of a starting corner outfield job, especially as Austin Hays needs to reestablish himself after an injury-plagued 2018 season.

7. If I had to predict the starting shortstop and third baseman, I’d pick Rule 5 pick Richie Martin and Renato Nunez. The latter played well late last year, but that’s easily the most depressing left side of the infield on paper since Cesar Izturis and a washed-up Miguel Tejada.

8. Martin and fellow Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson may not be up to the task at shortstop, but I’d prefer keeping Jonathan Villar at second base where he’s at his best defensively. Villar was worth seven defensive runs saved at second and minus-three in 18 starts at shortstop last season.

9. Coming off a 5.55 ERA last season, Mike Wright is now 29 and unlikely to stick on the roster simply because he’s out of options again, especially with the new regime. The same likely goes for the 28-year-old Donnie Hart, who posted a 5.59 ERA while struggling with control.

10. Dean Kremer is the non-roster invitee I’m most looking forward to monitoring. The 23-year-old led the minors in strikeouts last year and possesses a good curve that will appeal to the new front office. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitching for the Orioles at some point this season.

11. This can be said about a number of unsigned veterans, but it’s difficult to believe Adam Jones hasn’t found a job as camps open this week. He may not be the player he was a few years ago, but he can still fill a meaningful role for a contender.

12. As much as I loved the Elias hire and have liked what I’ve seen from Brandon Hyde so far, where are the marketing efforts and ticket promotions for a team that has very little to sell from a competitive standpoint? There needs to be much greater urgency in this area.

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Three Orioles prospects named to Baseball America’s top 100 list

Posted on 24 January 2019 by Luke Jones

The Orioles remain in the early stages of what’s expected to be a long rebuild, but the farm system isn’t completely bare for new general manager Mike Elias.

Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, left-handed pitcher DL Hall, and third baseman Ryan Mountcastle were named to Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list released Wednesday. It was the second straight year in which three Baltimore prospects were included in the publication’s preseason list.

Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade last July, Diaz ranked 37th on the list after batting .285 with 11 home runs, 15 doubles, 45 runs batted in, and 12 stolen bases in 416 plate appearances at the Double-A level last season. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder also posted a .392 on-base percentage and .449 slugging percentage.

Diaz homered twice in the MLB All-Star Futures Game just days before being traded to the Orioles, but he struggled with his new organization, hitting just .239 with a .732 on-base plus slugging percentage in 152 plate appearances for Bowie. His speed and arm give him the ability to play all three outfield spots, and the organization hopes his uptick in power during his age-21 season will continue into 2019.

Ranked 54th in Baseball America’s top 100, the 20-year-old Hall was Baltimore’s first-round pick in the 2017 draft and thrived in his first full professional season, posting a 2.10 ERA in 94 1/3 innings at low Single-A Delmarva. The lefty averaged 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings and allowed only 1.17 walks and hits per nine innings. His mid-to-low 90s fastball and curveball are considered plus pitches while Hall continues to refine his changeup, giving him a high ceiling in an organization long criticized for its inability to produce quality starting pitching.

Mountcastle is on the preseason list for the second straight year, dropping from No. 71 in 2018 to 90th this year. That drop is no reflection of what the 21-year-old did at the plate for Double-A Bowie, batting .297 with 13 homers, 19 doubles, 59 RBIs, and an .806 OPS in 428 plate appearances. Few doubt the 2015 first-round pick’s ability to hit at any level, but questions remains about where he’ll fit defensively after he was already moved from shortstop to third base in 2017. An organization source predicted last fall that Mountcastle would end up at first base, but Elias and the new regime will have the chance to make their own assessments.

The trio also appeared on the Baseball Prospectus top 101 prospect list released earlier this week with Diaz at No. 44, Mountcastle ranking 51st, and Hall coming in at No. 92

Despite ranking 21st on last January’s Baseball America top 100 list, outfielder Austin Hays was left off after an injury-plagued season that limited him to just 327 plate appearances. The 23-year-old batted only .242 with 12 home runs and a .703 OPS in 288 plate appearances at Bowie before undergoing ankle surgery in September.

Catcher Chance Sisco was on Baseball America’s list in each of the previous two years before a frustrating 2018 campaign in which he bounced between the Orioles and Triple-A Norfolk. Questions have persisted about his defense behind the plate, but Sisco, 23, also struggled mightily at the plate in 2018, batting just .181 with 66 strikeouts in 184 plate appearances for Baltimore and even posting an unimpressive .696 OPS in 151 plate appearances with Norfolk.

Below are the Orioles who have appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list since 2008:

2019: OF Yusniel Diaz (37th), LHP DL Hall (54th), 3B Ryan Mountcastle (90th)
2018: OF Austin Hays (21st), C Chance Sisco (68th), 3B Ryan Mountcastle (71st)
2017: C Chance Sisco (57th)
2016: none
2015: RHP Dylan Bundy (48th), RHP Hunter Harvey (68th)
2014: RHP Dylan Bundy (15th), RHP Kevin Gausman (20th), LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (65th)
2013: RHP Dylan Bundy (2nd), RHP Kevin Gausman (26th)
2012: RHP Dylan Bundy (10th), SS Manny Machado (11th), 2B Jonathan Schoop (82nd)
2011: SS Manny Machado (14th), LHP Zach Britton (28th)
2010: LHP Brian Matusz (5th), 3B Josh Bell (37th), LHP Zach Britton (63rd), RHP Jake Arrieta (99th)
2009: C Matt Wieters (1st), RHP Chris Tillman (22nd), LHP Brian Matusz (25th), RHP Jake Arrieta (67th)
2008: C Matt Wieters (12th), RHP Chris Tillman (67th), RHP Radhames Liz (69th), LHP Troy Patton (78th), OF Nolan Reimold (91st)

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Orioles non-tender Joseph, Beckham at deadline

Posted on 30 November 2018 by Luke Jones

New Orioles general manager Mike Elias made his first significant major league roster decisions Friday by not offering contracts to catcher Caleb Joseph and infielder Tim Beckham.

All other players on the 40-man roster were tendered contracts for next season, a list that included the arbitration-eligible trio of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, reliever Mychal Givens, and infielder Jonathan Villar.

Joseph and Beckham now become free agents allowed to sign with any of the 30 major league clubs.

A fan favorite and a member of the organization since being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur draft, Joseph was one of the final holdovers from Baltimore’s last two playoff clubs in 2014 and 2016. The 32-year-old’s strength was his defense, routinely ranking in the top six or seven in the American League in pitch-framing metrics and accumulating 38 defensive runs saved from 2014-17. However, his defense slipped substantially last season, making him expendable as he batted only .219 with three home runs, 17 runs batted in, and a .575 on-base plus slugging percentage in 280 plate appearances.

Joseph was projected to make roughly $1.7 million in arbitration. The expected free-agent departures of Joseph and five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones leave first baseman Chris Davis as the only remaining member of the 2014 AL East champion Orioles.

Beckham, 28, was acquired from Tampa Bay at the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline and provided an immediate spark, batting .394 with 18 extra-base hits in his first month with the club. However, injuries and struggles at the plate and in the field plagued Beckham in 2018 as he batted only .230 with 12 homers and a .661 OPS in 402 plate appearances while making 19 errors split between third base and shortstop. He missed two months of action after undergoing core muscle surgery in late April.

The first overall pick of the 2008 amateur draft, Beckham was projected to make $4.3 million in arbitration, which made him an expensive option as a utility player on a rebuilding team.

Bundy is projected to make $3 million, Givens $2 million, and Villar $4.4 million in arbitration.

On Friday, the Orioles also parted ways with farm director Brian Graham, who had been serving as interim general manager after the departure of former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette in early October and before Elias’ arrival. Director of scouting Gary Rajsich was also relieved of his duties earlier this week.

Those departures add to an extensive list of positions Elias needs to fill as he continues to search for Baltimore’s next manager to replace Buck Showalter, whose contract wasn’t renewed after the Orioles’ historically-poor 47-115 season.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering second half of August

Posted on 15 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles wrapping a 1-5 homestand and one loss away from falling 50 games below .500, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The quest to outrun club history isn’t looking promising. The Orioles must go 27-14 the rest of the way just to avoid 100 losses and would need a 20-21 finish to have fewer losses than the 1988 club. At least they appear safe from the 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers?

2. Dylan Bundy’s regression has made a miserable season in the win-loss department that much worse. He’s allowed five or more earned runs in five of his last seven outings and owns an 8.33 ERA since the start of July. His stuff and command look mediocre and the results even worse.

3. Cedric Mullins needs more time to get comfortable roaming major league ballparks and his arm remains a question, but I like the energy he brings to the plate and teammates and coaches have been impressed with his poise.

4. Adam Jones didn’t have much to say Tuesday when asked about his early impressions of playing right field beyond there being “less running” for him. It’ll be interesting to see what his market looks like this winter, but easing his defensive burden should only help his bat.

5. Trey Mancini was one of several young players to struggle in the first half of the season, but he entered Wednesday sporting a .303/.344/.517 slash line with five home runs and 13 runs batted in since the All-Star break. His surge has been encouraging to see.

6. Paul Fry wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar after being acquired from Seattle early last season, but the 26-year-old lefty has a solid 3.15 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 20 major league innings. He might be the Orioles’ best reliever at this point, which I know isn’t saying much.

7. One of the questions entering the winter will be whether Tim Beckham is tendered a contract. The 28-year-old is under club control through 2020, but he’s making $3.35 million this year and will be in line for another raise in arbitration. His defense at shortstop isn’t cutting it.

8. As time passes, the less I like the Kevin Gausman deal. Seeing what Tampa Bay got for Chris Archer — who’s actually been fairly comparable statistically the last three years — confirms that. Average starters with two more years of control are valuable, but the Orioles were more interested in shedding salary.

9. Chance Sisco has a .217/.301/.337 slash line in 93 plate appearances at Triple-A Norfolk. Buck Showalter said recent reports about his defense have been positive, but the loss of confidence with the bat – his strength entering 2018 — is one of the season’s more undersold disappointments.

10. Many grouped Mullins and DJ Stewart together earlier this summer when discussing which prospects might be the next ones promoted, but the 2015 first-round outfielder is hitting .236 with 12 home runs, a .338 on-base percentage, and a .402 slugging percentage at Norfolk. That’s not exactly screaming for a promotion.

11. Austin Hays playing again for Double-A Bowie is encouraging and he’s had some decent games since returning, but I’d like to see the Orioles refrain from a September call-up. Let him finish out the Baysox season and then send him to the Arizona Fall League before starting fresh next spring.

12. The current version of the 2018 Orioles took the team photo Wednesday, prompting some giggles and press-box discussion. If Manny Machado and others no longer with the organization are ineligible, who is this year’s Most Valuable Oriole? I’d assume Jones wins, but maybe we just sit this year out?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting the All-Star break an unthinkable 39 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Even with a victory in the final game before the All-Star break that featured contributions from Manny Machado and Adam Jones, the Orioles remain on pace to become the fifth major league team since 1901 to lose 115 games in a season. Infamy continues to chase them.

2. Baltimore hadn’t won on consecutive days at home since its season-best four-game winning streak from May 9-12, and it had also been three weeks since the club won consecutive games. Overshadowed by the frustration and anger of the season is how truly astonishing it’s all been.

3. Chris Tillman being bypassed in favor of a bullpen game Sunday should speak volumes about where he stands with his rehab assignment coming to an end. Not even a Jimmy Yacabonis illness could bring him back to the majors.

4. The question isn’t about whom to fire as much as determining who deserves to stick around for the pending rebuild. How do Buck Showalter and his coaching staff come back from such a historically poor season? What’s the justification for maintaining the status quo? It’s a tough sell.

5. Beyond trades involving pending free agents, a top second-half priority needs to be getting Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini on track. Both are too young and talented to have played like this. The Orioles need these two to be pillars around which to build or at least potential trade chips.

6. After being optioned to the minors for the second time in a month, Chance Sisco needs to be left alone for a while. I have doubts about what we’ve seen from him so far, but making him a regular on the Norfolk shuttle isn’t going to help matters.

7. I certainly wouldn’t give away Mychal Givens and his current 4.28 ERA, but the organization’s reluctance to trade him is too shortsighted. No one should be off the table when you’re facing a multiyear rebuild, especially factoring in the volatility of relievers.

8. In his first 23 games since returning from his benching, Chris Davis has batted .176 with five home runs, a .245 on-base percentage, and a .388 slugging percentage. That actually represents improvement, too. He sits at minus-2.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

9. The Orioles entered the break last in the majors at minus-87 defensive runs saved, and the cause isn’t players being out of position as Showalter suggested this past week. Players with more speed and better defensive skills are needed rather than a surplus of designated hitters with gloves.

10. An addition to begin changing that narrative would be Cedric Mullins, who entered Monday sporting an .820 on-base plus slugging percentage for Triple-A Norfolk. It’s time to start seeing what the 23-year-old center fielder can do in the majors.

11. Brooks Robinson being hired as a special assistant is a great move, but I can’t stop thinking about how long overdue it is. This is something that should have happened from the moment “Mr. Oriole” left the broadcast booth 25 years ago. Better late than never though.

12. Now, is there any chance John and Lou Angelos can do something about THIS?

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Orioles designate Alvarez for assignment, promote infielder Wilkerson

Posted on 19 June 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have shaken up their 25-man roster prior to the start of a three-game set in Washington.

In addition to officially recalling catcher Caleb Joseph from Triple-A Norfolk to replace the demoted Chance Sisco, Baltimore has designated struggling veteran Pedro Alvarez for assignment and selected the contract of infielder Steve Wilkerson from the Tides.

With Mark Trumbo beginning the season on the disabled list, Alvarez had a good opening month, batting .237 with six home runs, 13 runs batted in, and a .933 on-base plus slugging percentage. However, the left-handed slugger had struggled mightily since May 1 with a .115 average and .424 OPS in his last 57 plate appearances.

In 127 plate appearances this season, Alvarez was batting .180 with eight homers, 18 RBIs, and a .698 OPS.

Wilkerson, 26, was batting .290 with three home runs, nine RBIs, and an .862 OPS in 70 plate appearances for Norfolk since returning from a 50-game ban for amphetamine use. The 2014 eighth-round pick is a switch hitter and was very much on the organization’s radar as a potential utility infielder prior to the announcement of his suspension this past offseason.

He batted a combined .305 with eight homers, 45 RBIs, and a .798 OPS between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie last season and also hit .317 in the Arizona Fall League. Wilkerson has played all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots in the minor leagues, but his most extensive action has come at second base.

Batting .273 with two home runs, 14 RBIs, and a .702 OPS for Norfolk since being demoted by the Orioles last month, Joseph was in the starting lineup against the Nationals on Tuesday. According to STATS, he and younger brother Corban Joseph are now the 28th set of brothers to be teammates in the majors since 1980 and just the second set in Orioles history, joining Cal and Billy Ripken.

First baseman Chris Davis was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game as he continues to work on making adjustments in a woeful offensive season in which he’s batted just .150 with a .454 OPS. He has started in just two of Baltimore’s last 10 games and hasn’t recorded an extra-base hit in over a month.

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Sisco’s demotion latest head-scratching development for Orioles

Posted on 18 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Hours after Chance Sisco was originally penciled into Sunday’s lineup, the Orioles sent the 23-year-old catcher to Triple-A Norfolk.

It was a surprising announcement since manager Buck Showalter had just implied after the 10-4 win over Miami that Sisco was scratched due to being under the weather.

“I’m afraid he’s coming down with [something],” Showalter said. “He hasn’t slept in two or three days. … Just talking to him before the game, his energy level. He was ready to go. Just didn’t think it was in his best interest with the off-day tomorrow, but we’ll see. A lot of factors. That was the principal one. He just hadn’t slept any. It’s hard enough to play this game when you have.”

Sisco went from starting to being pulled from the lineup to being optioned to the minors in a little over six hours. Weird.

To be clear, the rookie isn’t exactly having a great season and has numbers that would definitely warrant a demotion if the club were even remotely in contention. He’s batting just .218 with a .328 slugging percentage and has struck out a whopping 35.5 percent of the time, a rate not far from Chris Davis territory (37.6 percent). However, his .340 on-base percentage is third on the club behind only Manny Machado and Danny Valencia, and a number of others on this roster deserve to be jettisoned before Sisco if we’re basing this solely on performance on a last-place club.

Sisco’s defense has been scrutinized throughout his professional career, and he had thrown out just one of the last 18 runners attempting to steal after surprisingly gunning down nine of the first 18 this season. His average pop time — the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder at the base a runner is attempting to steal — is still too slow and his arm strength lacking while his pitch-framing metrics also rank among the bottom catchers in the majors, according to Baseball Prospectus.

His defense undoubtedly remains a work in progress, but bench coach John Russell is also regarded as a superb catching instructor to continue to oversee Sisco’s development at this level.

The timing of this demotion doesn’t seem to make much sense for a club that is 30 games under .500 and going nowhere, but the Orioles are instead expected to summon the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph back to the majors. One could argue that Sisco might benefit from a mental break and a potential confidence boost playing for the Tides, but you won’t find a major league climate with less pressure from a competitive standpoint than Baltimore right now. He also spent his entire 2017 minor-league season with Norfolk, seemingly leaving little for him to prove at that level.

What does he need to work on that can’t be done while continuing to play in Baltimore?

The Orioles have used a catching carousel all season, going from the tandem of Joseph and Sisco to open the season to Sisco and Andrew Susac to Sisco and Austin Wynns to the current pair of Wynns and Joseph. Sisco’s demotion isn’t the end of the world nor does it mean the Orioles have soured on him to any great degree, but it does appear counterintuitive to what this season should be about the rest of the way.

Odds & ends

In an already-lost season from a competitive standpoint, you’re left to look for moments such as hard-throwing rookie Tanner Scott striking out Justin Bour with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a four-run game on Sunday. Scott is averaging an impressive 12.5 strikeouts compared to 3.1 walks per nine innings this season. … Trey Mancini had been 4-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season before his RBI single in the third inning of Sunday’s win. He batted .340 in that department as a rookie. … Jonathan Schoop drew four walks during the Miami series after registering only seven over his first 47 games. You hope that increased level of patience is a sign of better things to come as the 2017 All-Star second baseman is batting just .212 with a .626 on-base plus slugging percentage. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he issued a walk and is averaging 5.2 free passes per nine innings. He needs to get on a roll and cut down on the walks to improve his trade value. … Sunday marked the first time the Orioles enjoyed a lead of four or more runs since May 24 in Chicago. … The Orioles scored a combined 27 runs on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They scored a total of just 18 runs in 11 straight home losses between those holidays.

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Orioles officially recall rookie catcher Austin Wynns

Posted on 05 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Those clamoring for a youth movement as the Orioles languish in last place will get their wish at one position at least.

Catcher Austin Wynns was officially recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday and will join fellow rookie backstop Chance Sisco on the 25-man roster as the Orioles begin a two-game road set against the New York Mets. The promotion was originally to take place Sunday if not for the postponement of the final game of the series against the New York Yankees. Catcher Andrew Susac was optioned to Norfolk after Saturday’s game, creating the open roster spot.

The 27-year-old Wynns will be making his major league debut and will wear No. 61. Long known for his defensive abilities, the 10th-round pick of the 2013 draft from Fresno State has shown respectable offense for the Tides this year. Wynns was batting .257 with four home runs, four doubles, 16 runs batted in, and a .718 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Wynns’ right-handed bat will likely platoon with the lefty-swinging Sisco, whom manager Buck Showalter has tried to protect against left-handed pitching this season. Sisco, 23, is hitting .210 with two homers, six doubles, 15 RBIs, and a .655 OPS in 117 plate appearances.

The catcher position has been a problem all season for the Orioles as Opening Day starter Caleb Joseph was optioned to the Tides last month after hitting just .182 in 80 plate appearances. Susac went 3-for-26 with 12 strikeouts in his stint with Baltimore.

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Orioles demote Joseph, call up catcher Susac from Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 17 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Beginning an 11-game road trip with the third-worst record in baseball, the Orioles have made a notable change to their 25-man roster.

Veteran catcher Caleb Joseph was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and catcher Andrew Susac was recalled from the Tides ahead of Thursday’s series opener in Boston. Joseph, 31, has struggled mightily at the plate this season, batting just .182 with 24 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances. The 28-year-old Susac was batting .296 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in for the Tides.

Joseph and rookie Chance Sisco each started seven of Baltimore’s first 14 games in May in what had developed into a timeshare after the former began 2018 as the primary catcher. Susac was in Thursday’s lineup with Red Sox left-hander David Price taking the hill, but Sisco figures to continue seeing regular playing time against right-handed starting pitchers.

Known for providing above-average pitch framing and defense in the past, Joseph has declined in those departments in 2018. He ranks just 61st in Baseball Prospectus’ pitch-framing metrics after finishing no worse than 11th in any of the previous four seasons. Joseph has also had issues blocking pitches and has already committed four errors after having just three all last year.

Those underwhelming defensive numbers made it easier for the Orioles to send Joseph to the minors since he’s been so poor at the plate. He posted a respectable .700 on-base plus slugging percentage last year, but he infamously failed to collect a single RBI in 141 plate appearances in 2016, another season in which he was demoted to the minors.

In 274 major league plate appearances, Susac has batted .232 with seven home runs and a .695 OPS.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following doubleheader split with Tampa Bay

Posted on 12 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles splitting their twin bill with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore saw its four-game winning streak snapped in the nightcap, but this week has been a decent diversion from how poor the 2018 season has been. Even if the Orioles had won the second game, they still would have been on pace to lose 110 games. Instead, it’s 114.

2. The story of the day was David Hess, who shook off an early three-run homer to win his major league debut and register a quality start over six innings, equaling the total number from Chris Tillman and Mike Wright in their combined nine starts this season. He deserves another start.

3. Hess used all four of his pitches effectively and recorded five of his seven swinging strikes on his slider. Scouts have said he lacks a dominant pitch, but many believe the right-hander is a legitimate major league pitcher, either as a starter or a reliever.

4. Pitching on short rest wasn’t ideal, but Hess had the benefit of being promoted to work in a starting role. Hopping on the Norfolk train as a long reliever isn’t easy when youngsters are typically rewarded for pitching well by immediately being optioned right back to the minors.

5. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches in the third inning of the first game, the Orioles’ first back-to-back homers of the season. Machado had homered in three straight games before the nightcap while Schoop clubbed two homers on Saturday. Fun to watch.

6. Schoop’s second home run was the 92nd of his career, tying him with Brian Roberts for the most homers by a second baseman in Orioles history. This is your latest reminder that he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.

7. Watching Hess followed by Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens to close out the victory was a reminder that the cupboard isn’t entirely bare for the Orioles despite a very unsettling future. It’s easy envisioning Scott and Givens leading the back end of the bullpen in the coming years.

8. Who didn’t expect catcher Chance Sisco’s first major league stolen base to be a swipe of home? Seth Smith had Baltimore’s last steal of home prior to Saturday. A pair of speed demons right there.

9. With Buck Showalter wanting to avoid using Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro and having used Givens and Scott in Game 1, the lack of bullpen depth was painfully exposed as Jimmy Yacabonis, Pedro Araujo, and Mike Wright combined to allow six runs, seven walks, and a hit batter. Yuck.

10. Saturday was underwhelming for Alex Cobb, who allowed three earned runs, two homers, and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. In fairness, he had retired seven straight and was settling in at just 69 pitches before a lengthy rain delay brought his night to a premature end.

11. The Rule 5 pick Araujo has been scored upon in five straight outings, walking three and plunking another while recording two outs Saturday. I’ve stated my disdain for the Rule 5 draft obsession repeatedly, but you might as well keep him when you’re already 16 games below .500 in mid-May.

12. An offense that plated 26 runs in the previous three games had one hit through five innings of the nightcap and failed to take advantage of runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth, managing only one more run and leaving the tying run on third.

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