With the last-place Orioles limping into late May, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. We know the Orioles lack the talent to win, but the growing frequency of “ugly” losses is disappointing after they at least played fundamentally sound through much of the season’s first six weeks. There’s no excuses for throwing to the wrong base or botching the most routine of plays.
2. A stretch of 11 losses in 13 games is when Brandon Hyde really earns his money. Combating the mental fatigue of so much losing and knowing when to put your arm around a struggling player or give him the figurative kick in the tail are important aspects of this job.
3. Since taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first start of 2019, David Hess has allowed a major-league-worst 17 homers and sports an 8.27 ERA over 37 innings. The problem is the shortage of alternatives at Norfolk. You’d rather not rush Keegan Akin after just eight Triple-A starts.
4. Andrew Cashner is throwing his changeup a career-high 22.2 percent of the time and ranks in the top 10 in the majors in FanGraph’s changeup value metric. His fastball is also averaging just under 95 miles per hour in recent outings. He’s making a case as a rental trade chip.
5. Is it a coincidence Chris Davis went into a 4-for-26 slump with 17 strikeouts immediately upon being placed in the cleanup spot for the first time this season? It’s best to keep him in the bottom half of the lineup and limit his starts against lefty pitching at this point.
6. Stevie Wilkerson is unlikely to be a good fit for the leadoff spot with only two walks in 85 plate appearances entering Tuesday, but a .770 on-base plus slugging percentage and respectable defense in center field — a position he’d never played before 2019 — is called taking advantage of the opportunity.
7. With DJ Stewart on fire at Norfolk and Wilkerson starting most games in center, Joey Rickard could be running out of time to improve upon his .198 average. He has over 900 career plate appearances, meaning we should really have a good idea of what he is at this point.
8. Shawn Armstrong has been impressive in his first seven appearances with Baltimore, but his immediate placement in some high-leverage spots says much more about this bullpen than his ability. Incredibly, playoff-hopeful Washington has been even worse in relief this year.
9. Mark Trumbo is moving closer to a rehab assignment after beginning to play in extended spring games, but Hyde described the return timetable for Alex Cobb as “open-ended” Tuesday. The two are making a combined $27.5 million this season, more than a third of the entire payroll.
10. After homering in back-to-back games in his rehab stint at Single-A Frederick, Austin Hays figures to be moving up sooner than later. Meanwhile, Cedric Mullins entered Tuesday batting just .233 with a .666 OPS at Norfolk since his April demotion.
11. The Orioles gave up their 100th home run in just their 48th game Tuesday to best the 2000 Kansas City Royals, who needed 57 games to allow 100. Perhaps “2131”-like Warehouse banners are in order as Baltimore moves toward shattering the major-league record of 258 surrendered by Cincinnati in 2016.
12. Rebuilding isn’t fun. Some clamored for Baltimore to sell as early as 2015 to better position themselves for the future, but the organization kept kicking the can down the road for the low probability of contending. That all but guaranteed the painful rebuild you’re watching — or not watching — now.
With a new season upon us, here are nine questions on the rebuilding Orioles entering the 2019 campaign:
Will the Orioles be even worse than last year?
Their 115 losses last season set a club record and were the fourth most in the majors since 1900, but the Orioles now begin 2019 without Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zack Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, and Brad Brach, who all began 2018 with the organization and made meaningful contributions to previous playoff runs. Of the four other clubs to lose 115 games in a season since 1900, all won at least 11 more games the following year and only the 1962 Mets suffered triple-digit losses again. In other words, the probability of the Orioles plummeting to the same level of ineptitude remains low with many projection models forecasting somewhere between 98 and 105 losses. Still, looking at that Opening Day roster reminds you of those early scenes in Major League, doesn’t it?
How will manager Brandon Hyde handle his first season?
The former Chicago Cubs bench coach received positive reviews in his first spring camp for creating an upbeat and efficient working environment, but now the games count and the dark shadow of losing lingers. No one expects Hyde to be a miracle worker with a club that wasn’t constructed with any intention to contend, but how he handles a young clubhouse and how hard players compete on a nightly basis will reflect on his managing acumen more so than the AL East standings. The 45-year-old knew what he was getting into when he accepted this job in December and understands the organization’s focus on the big picture, but the reality of a long season is upon him. No matter how ugly it might get, the Orioles still have to show up and play the games.
Who will begin — or continue to — establish himself as a piece for the long run?
The late-spring demotions of catcher Chance Sisco, outfielder Austin Hays, and lefty reliever Tanner Scott took much of the air out of this balloon for fans desperate to at least watch interesting prospects in what’s expected to be a losing season, but Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins certainly stand out on a 25-man roster consisting mostly of fringe placeholders and veterans likely to be long gone before Baltimore’s next competitive window opens. With so many changes over the last year, we forget Mancini has just two full seasons under his belt as he tries to find more consistency after a rough first half in 2018. Meanwhile, Mullins opens 2019 as the starting center fielder, but Hyde and general manager Mike Elias have shared the potential they see in Hays as an eventual center fielder, which should serve as motivation for the incumbent. There are fair questions about his throwing arm and ability to hit from the right side, but the switch-hitting Mullins will have his opportunities to establish himself as an everyday player this season. Though not exactly prospects, Miguel Castro, David Hess, and Jimmy Yacabonis are under-the-radar pitchers who could benefit from the analytical advances introduced by the new regime.
Which veterans will play well enough to become trade chips?
The reward for guys like Jonathan Villar, Andrew Cashner, Nate Karns, and Mark Trumbo having good seasons is a likely ticket out of Baltimore as Elias aims to add more talent in the farm system. That’s just reality in the early stages of a rebuild, regardless of how much an organization might say it values veteran leadership. The cases of Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens will be more interesting to monitor as they’re both under club control through 2021 and would carry more trade value than the aforementioned names if they can rebound from their underwhelming 2018 performance levels. Some might add Alex Cobb to the list of potential trade chips, but the 31-year-old would have to pitch exceptionally well for another club to be willing to commit to the additional $29 million he’s owed beyond 2019.
What will happen with Chris Davis?
We’re all aware of the historic nightmare that was last season for the 33-year-old first baseman, but where does the new Orioles regime go from here with a player who is still owed $92 million over the next four seasons and will be collecting deferred money long after that? Davis fared a little better late in the spring, but he still batted .189 with 19 strikeouts in 44 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League. It will be interesting to see where Hyde uses him in the batting order – Davis batted third or fourth for much of the spring before dropping to sixth in Monday’s finale – or how long he sticks with him as a starter if he looks like the same guy from last year. Everyone hopes a new front office and coaching staff can salvage some semblance of value, but the Angelos brothers will be the ones to make the ultimate call on Davis’ status if he’s no better this year. It’s one thing to talk about Davis as a sunk cost on a losing club, but Mancini has already been pushed to left field and a strong 2019 from Mountcastle — who worked extensively at first base this spring — will have him knocking on the major-league door. You don’t want Davis blocking other young players ready for the majors.
How will the Rule 5 picks fare?
The Orioles will enter a season with three Rule 5 picks on the roster for a second straight year as reliever Pedro Araujo has a couple more weeks to go to fulfill his requirement in the majors and new Rule 5 infielders Richie Martin and Drew Jackson both made the team. It appears Martin will begin the year as the starting shortstop despite a difficult finish to spring training while Jackson was used in a super utility role this spring. A rebuilding club desperate for more talent is smart to carry promising Rule 5 picks, but let’s hope the practice brings more value than it did for Dan Duquette. For all the roster headaches and shorthanded situations the Orioles endured carrying Rule 5 players while trying to contend from 2012-18, those players netted a total of 1.1 wins above replacement in their time with the organization.
When will more interesting prospects be arriving in Baltimore?
Aside from Sisco and Scott, Hays appeared to be the next prospect on the cusp of the majors before spraining his thumb over the weekend. Beyond that trio, many fans will follow how Yusniel Diaz and Ryan Mountcastle fare at Triple-A Norfolk with hopes of them making their major league debut later this season. Of course, how Elias handled Sisco, Scott, and Hays – three prospects already having major league experience – should make everyone take pause about the development timeline for any prospects at this point. The Orioles are prioritizing player development over attempts to squeeze out a couple more wins at the major league level or to appease fans hoping to watch more exciting young players. That said, other names acquired in last year’s deadline deals – many of whom already made cameos in Baltimore — appear likely to show up at some point this season. Lefty Keegan Akin, a 2016 second-round pick, and 23-year-old right-hander Dean Kremer, acquired in the Manny Machado trade, are two starting pitchers to monitor in the high minor leagues.
How much innovation and experimentation will we see from a club with nothing to lose?
Entering a season with expectations lower than they’ve been at any point in the history of the franchise, the rebuilding Orioles should embrace the opportunity to innovate and experiment, making it refreshing to hear Hyde reveal plans to use an opener in the second game of the season against the New York Yankees. Why not dive even deeper into infield and outfield positioning and explore new ideas for pitch sequencing, bullpen usage, and batting orders? Why lose with conventional practices when you can at least explore some new ideas and theories contenders might be afraid to try? Perhaps the Orioles even discover an edge or two that might help in the future when they’re ready to contend again. Much of this work with technology and analytics will remain behind the scenes, of course, but any new ideas making their way to the field will be interesting.
What will attendance look like at Camden Yards?
Asked to give his pitch for why fans should still come to the ballpark this season, Elias offered the following on Tuesday:
“We’re doing things the right way, the way that they need to be done. The end goal here is not to try to cobble together a one-year-wonder .500 club that could be a disaster if it doesn’t work out right and then we spend a few years digging out of that hole. We want to put together a perennial contending organization. And we’re initiating that process. We know how to do it. We’re going about it the way that we need to go about it. In the meantime, there’s going to be young talent on the field. These guys are going to be hustling, playing hard. There are going to be ‘tools’ as we say in the scouting world — big talent out there — that we can watch. And we’re in a wonderful baseball environment here in Camden Yards and here in the Inner Harbor. You come appreciate the sport and see some good baseball and watch this team grow.”
While I agree with those sentiments, expecting fans to pay major-league prices to watch a rebuilding team is a lot to ask, especially with attendance having already fallen annually since 2014 when the club was coming off a 96-win season and still in the midst of its competitive window. The Orioles ranked 26th in the majors in average attendance (20,053 per game) last year despite there being some hope of contending entering 2018. To be clear, no one should be crying the blues for an organization that’s cut its payroll in half over the last 18 months, but an empty Camden Yards hurts nearby businesses and seasonal stadium workers. The “Kids Cheer Free” initiative is a positive step that will be continued this year, but more ticket deals, promotions, and imagination are required if the Orioles hope to draw people to watch an inferior on-field product.
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The Orioles will begin the 2019 season without one of their few established veterans in the lineup as Mark Trumbo will be placed on the injured list.
The 33-year-old designated hitter and outfielder is working his way back to full strength after undergoing surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee last September. Manager Brandon Hyde told reporters in Sarasota that Trumbo simply isn’t ready to play regularly after receiving limited at-bats this spring. The right-handed slugger is 2-for-12 with a walk in 13 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League.
Entering the final season of a three-year, $37.5 million contract, Trumbo was limited to 90 games last year before ultimately electing for season-ending surgery. He batted .261 with 17 home runs, 44 runs batted in, and a .764 on-base plus slugging percentage in 358 plate appearances, a solid rebound from 2017 when he posted a career-worst .686 OPS.
With the organization in the midst of a massive rebuild, the best scenario with Trumbo would be a healthy return in which he produces enough to become a trade chip this summer. He is set to make $13.5 million this season.
How the designated hitter spot will be used in Trumbo’s absence remains to be seen, but Hyde could turn to the likes of Renato Nunez — who’s been nursing a sore right biceps — and Trey Mancini, which would improve Baltimore’s defensive lineup in the process. Nunez has been competing with Rio Ruiz for the starting third baseman job this spring while Mancini again appears destined to play primarily in left field with both Trumbo and Chris Davis still under contract.
The status of scheduled Opening Day starting pitcher Alex Cobb remains unclear after he left Saturday’s spring start with right groin soreness. The injury does not appear to be a long-term concern, but the ailment may prevent him from taking the hill against the New York Yankees on Thursday afternoon. Veteran Andrew Cashner could take his place if Cobb isn’t deemed ready to go in the next day or two.
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With the non-waiver trade deadline upon as and three pending free agents having already been dealt, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Adam Jones has earned the right to refuse any trade and decide what’s best for him and his family, regardless of what anyone else thinks. He doesn’t owe the Orioles or fans anything after representing the organization and city with great pride for a decade. It’s that simple.
2. On the flip side, the Orioles aren’t obligated to re-sign Jones if they don’t feel he fits with a youth movement that does have several outfielders in the pipeline. The organization just needs to express that in a respectful way to a man who’s been so important to the franchise.
3. Any perceived tension between Jones and Dan Duquette isn’t necessary. Whatever middling prospect the Orioles might receive for Jones isn’t making or breaking the rebuild, and keeping the veteran outfielder for two more months isn’t going to ruin Cedric Mullins’ development. A bitter breakup would be a shame.
4. I do wonder if Jones might reconsider as the remainder of his $17.33 million salary makes him a good candidate to clear waivers for a trade in August. Passing on going to a contender is a missed opportunity from a baseball standpoint, but other factors are understandably important to him.
5. Understanding Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach should have been dealt months or even years ago, Duquette still received good value for rental commodities and has surprisingly done an effective job voicing the franchise’s new direction, but it would mean more if he were under contract beyond this season.
6. It’s a new day when the Orioles are the ones acquiring international signing bonus slots and the stated intentions are encouraging, but let’s see them sign Victor Victor Mesa and increase resources and international scouting in the coming months before offering too much praise. Organizational malpractice shouldn’t be easily forgiven.
7. Brach ultimately being nothing more than a salary dump should be a cautionary tale when the organization expresses reluctance in dealing Mychal Givens — or any other reliever for that matter. Of course, the 28-year-old’s 4.78 ERA doesn’t make him a sell-high candidate at the moment.
8. Jonathan Schoop is hitting .360 with nine home runs, seven doubles, and a 1.056 on-base plus slugging percentage in July, raising his average from .197 to .244. It would have been interesting to see what his trade value would have been if he’d started that hitting surge a month sooner.
9. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy both have underwhelming ERAs hovering around 4.50 this season, but the Orioles are absolutely right to have a high asking price for two young, controllable starting pitchers, even if they’ve mostly been league-average types so far in their careers.
10. Short of signing a contract extension, Schoop shouldn’t be reporting to spring training in Sarasota next February if the Orioles have truly learned their lesson and are serious about rebuilding the right way. Waiting until this offseason to trade him is fine, but it needs to be done then.
11. I don’t think it’s impossible for the likes of Danny Valencia, Mark Trumbo, and Andrew Cashner to be on the move in August, especially with some cash accompanying the latter two. I could see Cashner drawing some interest from a contender trying to shore up the back of its rotation.
12. With trade talk about to calm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Orioles play a little better the final two months as they’ll be adding youth. Of course, that’s an incredibly low bar as they need to go 31-25 just to avoid 100 losses. I said a little better.
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2. Machado has repeatedlystated his desire to stay at shortstop, but that’s a bigger issue for free agency than a contender needing a third baseman for 2 1/2 months. He was a pro deferring to J.J. Hardy for years, so this shouldn’t be any different, especially having a chance to win.
3. Any serious objection to trading Machado to the Yankees is based only on emotion. If theirs is the best offer, the Orioles would be foolish not to accept. Refusing to trade him to the Yankees won’t prevent him from signing in the Bronx if that’s where he wants to be.
4. The idea that the Orioles will deliberately keep Machado until after the All-Star Game in Washington was only a theory presented by another baseball executive to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, but that even being a possibility speaks to the negative perception of the organization. That must change.
5. Zach Britton has averaged a season-best 95.8 miles per hour on his sinker in each of his last two outings. That’s an encouraging sign and should ease some concerns about his poor performance and underwhelming velocity over his first eight outings of the season.
6. Meanwhile, Brad Brach’s trade value has been torpedoed by a 4.63 season ERA and a 7.50 mark since June 7. At this point, I’m not sure he’ll fetch much more than what the Orioles got for Tommy Hunter in 2015, a deal that brought only “Quad-A” outfielder Junior Lake.
7. In this era in which minor-league prospects are valued more than ever, packaging Machado and Britton together seems like a sound approach to land the two or three talents you really covet from another organization. Contenders can never have enough bullpen help, making that a formidable rental duo.
8. It’s hardly shocking there hasn’t been more out there about Adam Jones as marquee talents like Machado dominate headlines, but he remains a solid trade piece. His defense in center is a big topic of discussion, but don’t forget the remainder of his $17.33 million salary owed for 2018.
9. With that in mind, you’d like to see the Orioles be willing to eat some money in an effort to sweeten the pot of prospects coming their way. Including some cash could really improve a deal with a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
10. Time will tell what talent the Orioles secure in trades, but it’s encouraging seeing them target a number of prospects at the Single- and Double-A levels. The worst thing they could do is insist on major-league ready talent — with a lower ceiling — in an effort to be competitive in 2019.
11. His defensive struggles and a $13.5 million salary for 2019 are major obstacles, but Mark Trumbo is doing what he can to present himself as a long-shot trade piece. He entered Tuesday second on the Orioles with 12 homers and owns an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage. It’s still doubtful.
12. When you’re 40-plus games under .500 in July, all trade possibilities should be on the table, including players with years of club control remaining. Are the Orioles really going to be back in contention by the time Kevin Gausman (post-2020), Dylan Bundy (post-2021), and Mychal Givens (post-2021) hit free agency?
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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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Baseball’s 2016 home run champion has finally returned to the lineup for the struggling Orioles.
Sidelined with a right quad strain since spring training, Mark Trumbo was activated from the 10-day disabled list for the start of a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night. The Orioles also recalled infielder Engelb Vielma from Triple-A Norfolk and placed infielder Luis Sardinas on the DL with a lower back strain. Outfielder Joey Rickard was optioned to Norfolk after Sunday’s win over Detroit to make roster space for the returning Trumbo.
The last-place Orioles hope Trumbo can provide a spark to an offense ranking 28th in the majors in runs scored per game (3.5) and tied for eighth in the American League in long balls (32). The 32-year-old was batting sixth and serving as the designated hitter for the series opener against the Angels while the hot-hitting Pedro Alvarez was making his second straight start at third base.
Trumbo went a combined 5-for-24 with a double, three runs batted in, two walks, and five strikeouts in a six-game rehab assignment split between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.
The Anaheim native is coming off a down 2017 campaign in which he batted just .234 with 23 homers and a career-worst .686 on-base plus slugging percentage. Trumbo is in the second season of a three-year, $37.5 million contract signed after his 2016 All-Star campaign in which he batted .256 with 47 homers, 108 RBIs, and an .850 OPS, all career highs.
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With the Orioles continuing their struggles in a 7-3 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. After a 3-for-4 performance that included two home runs, Manny Machado is slugging .713, which is higher than the on-base plus slugging percentage of every other member of Sunday’s lineup except for Pedro Alvarez. He’s doing his best to try to carry an inept offense so far.
2. It’s difficult to recall the Orioles starting a less impressive bottom third of the batting order than Anthony Santander, Caleb Joseph, and Luis Sardinas. Of course, the fifth and sixth spots — Chris Davis and Tim Beckham — haven’t been much better.
3. Opponents entered Sunday 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position against Andrew Cashner, but we witnessed a market correction as he allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings. I’ll still gladly take his 3.60 ERA through his first five starts.
4. Cashner was strong through his first three innings before laboring mightily the second and third times through the order. However, his strikeout numbers continue to be surprising as he recorded seven over his six frames.
5. He received an assist from the strategy to have Rajai Davis bunt with runners on first and second and no outs in the third after Sardinas had just made an error. I understand Cleveland has struggled offensively, but that helped short-circuit a major threat so early in the game.
6. The Orioles struck out only once through the first six innings against two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, but that allowed him to keep his pitch count at a reasonable 74. They weren’t hitting the ball particularly hard despite him lacking his typical swing-and-miss stuff.
7. Normally you’d admire Santander forcing Kluber to throw 12 pitches in a seventh-inning strikeout that drove up his pitch count, but that merely paved the way for Andrew Miller to enter in the eighth. Pick your poison.
8. Speaking of Miller, Sardinas striking out on four pitches in the eighth was as predictable as it gets. I suppose that’s the joy of having a two-man bench over the weekend with Trey Mancini temporarily sidelined.
9. Brad Brach needed to keep the deficit at one and give Manny Machado a chance to tie it in the ninth, but he was tagged for three runs. His 5.19 ERA and Mychal Givens’ 5.91 mark haven’t given the bullpen a chance to stay afloat without Zach Britton.
10. The Orioles entered Sunday last in the majors at minus-14 defensive runs saved. The defense may not have factored too heavily into this loss, but it continues to be difficult to watch.
11. Mark Trumbo will resume his minor-league rehab assignment Monday, but he’ll need to stack some at-bats after missing so much action dating back to early March. Meanwhile, Pedro Alvarez has seen his average fall to .214 after going 0-for-11 over the first three games of the Indians series.
12. This is the fifth-fastest Orioles club to fall 10 games below .500 and is tied for the third-worst start in franchise history after 22 games with only the 1988 Orioles (1-21) and the 2010 team (4-18) being worse. At least they have 140 games to turn it around, right? Right?
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With the Orioles enjoying a day off after a series loss against Toronto, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. The Orioles lineup scoring five runs in Wednesday’s win hardly qualifies as an offensive explosion, but that came after plating only seven runs in the first five games at Camden Yards and opponents twice taking no-hitters into the eighth inning. The bats have been colder than the weather.
2. Thirteen games isn’t a big sample, so how much can the offensive struggles be attributed to tough luck? The Orioles rank 23rd in batting average on balls in play (.280), but they lead the majors in strikeouts, are 25th in hard-contact percentage, and rank 27th in line-drive percentage. Discouraging signs.
3. Chris Davis collecting two hits on Wednesday was encouraging, but the thought of him trying to bunt on a 1-2 pitch in the eighth inning of a one-run game like he did Monday night would have been lunacy a few years ago. He looks so lost at the plate.
4. Coming off a career season, Jonathan Schoop figured to break out eventually, but his start had been brutal aside from a 7-for-13 series against Houston. Before his two-hit performance on Wednesday, Schoop had gone 3-for-40 with no extra-base hits against non-Astros opponents.
5. It’s a shame Dylan Bundy has received such poor run support early. From his sparkling 1.35 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings to a .283 opposing BABIP that’s actually higher than last year’s, everything about the start of his season beyond the empty win column has been Cy Young-like.
6. Kevin Gausman turned in a solid performance against Toronto, but his average fastball velocity this season is 92.3 miles per hour, virtually identical to Bundy’s (92.2). For someone who’s consistently averaged 95 mph and frequently reached the high 90s, that’s a potential red flag.
7. The bullpen pitched to an impressive 2.42 ERA over 26 innings in the New York series, but the group sports a 6.21 ERA against everyone else. Wednesday marked the first game in which the bullpen didn’t allow a run, but no one said it would be easy without Zach Britton.
8. Mark Trumbo’s setback that Buck Showalter wouldn’t call a setback isn’t good news, but Pedro Alvarez is currently sporting a .462 on-base percentage. Alvarez isn’t known for his consistency, but the Orioles could have an eventual problem since you don’t want either slugger playing defense regularly.
9. Chance Sisco has had trouble hitting breaking balls, but his throwing has been solid and he’s shown ability to drive the ball the other way. I expect Caleb Joseph to pick it up offensively, but Sisco will push for more playing time sooner than later if he keeps this up.
10. Andrew Cashner has posted a 2.50 ERA, his strikeout rate is up, and he’s missing more bats than he has in a couple years. A few young pitchers have also gravitated to him in the clubhouse, which is a perk as long as he’s getting the job done on the mound.
11. Acknowledging the circumstances that left the bullpen in poor shape at the start of the week, I still didn’t like the Orioles disrupting the start of Hunter Harvey’s season at Double-A Bowie. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about him not making an appearance this week.
12. The offense has been poor, the defense isn’t what it used to be, the bullpen has been inconsistent, and the starting rotation remains a sustantial concern despite having more upside than recent seasons. Beyond singling out Bundy or Manny Machado, what exactly is this club’s strength?
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BALTIMORE — The Orioles have hit the pause button on Mark Trumbo’s rehab assignment just a day after it began at Double-A Bowie.
The right-handed slugger went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts serving as the Baysox designated hitter on Tuesday, but he didn’t feel fully confident with the quadriceps he strained last month, prompting the training staff to shut him down for the time being. Trumbo returned to Camden Yards on Wednesday and will travel with the major league club to Boston this weekend, but it remains unclear when he’ll resume his rehab assignment and be activated from the 10-day disabled list.
“He just felt like last night, he just didn’t feel like pushing it,” said manager Buck Showalter, who didn’t want to classify the shutdown as a setback. “He thought he still wasn’t comfortable with that. I’m proud that he felt comfortable telling us that because you don’t want that setback that pushes it way back.”
The Baltimore lineup has struggled mightily to open the season, but Pedro Alvarez has been very effective as the designated hitter, the job primarily occupied by Trumbo last season.
The Orioles recalled infielder Engelb Vielma from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned right-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey back to Bowie. The move once again gives Showalter a full bench after the Orioles had carried an extra pitcher in the bullpen over the last few days, a result of some short starts and two extra-inning affairs at Yankee Stadium last weekend.
Harvey, the organization’s top pitching prospect, was called up to the majors on Monday, but he did not appear in a game. He will now make his Double-A debut for the Baysox at Harrisburg on Saturday and is expected to pitch two or three innings.
According to Showalter, the results of the magnetic resonance imaging exam on outfielder Colby Rasmus’ left hip were favorable with no surprises, but it remains unclear when he’ll return from the DL.
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