It’s time for our monthly mailbag, and we’ve received many excellent questions. I’ll answer some of them today and more on Tuesday. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.
Question: Where are last year’s Orioles who were cut or released this year? From: Russ Vriezen via email
Answer: Russ, the most prominent player from 2021 who isn’t here this year is Pedro Severino, who signed a contract with Milwaukee. But he’s serving an 80-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing-drugs.
Infielder Pat Valaika is playing for Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s organization. Third baseman Maikel Franco is with the Washington Nationals. Catcher Austin Wynns is with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in Philadelphia’s organization.
Among pitchers who appeared in at least 20 games, César Valdez is with Triple-A Reno in the Los Angeles Angels organization; Adam Plutko is playing for the LG Twins in South Korea; Thomas Eshelman is with Triple-A San Antonio in San Diego’s organization; and Shawn Armstrong, who was with Miami, is a free agent.
Question: How much longer do you think the Orioles are going to stick with Rougned Odor at second base? I know he’s cheap and a good teammate, but what’s the point? Any prospects to get some looks at second base? From: Kjbsball via email
Answer: Kyle, Odor is not a long-term answer at second, but for the moment, there’s not a really good alternative. Terrin Vavra, who’s on the 40-man roster and was hitting well at Norfolk, is sidelined with a right hamstring injury.
Entering Saturday, Jahmai Jones, who’s also on the 40-man roster, was hitting .198, and Rylan Bannon was hitting .256, but he’s more of a third baseman. Bannon is also on the 40-man roster.
When Vavra returns, he’ll be a candidate for a promotion.
Question: Rich, whatever happened to the two prospects the Orioles received in the Andrew Cashner trade? I don’t see them listed anywhere. From: George Gabel vis email
Answer: George, Noelberth Romero, an outfielder, was hitting .296 at Delmarva entering Saturday’s game. Elio Prado, the other outfielder, is in extended spring training in Sarasota.
Question: Why is the contract status of Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde such a secret? From: Ray Kowatch via email
Answer: Ray, it’s because Mike Elias has chosen to keep them private. Like all fans, the writers who cover the team would like to know what the status of Elias and Hyde is, but when Elias was asked about it, he said that he doesn’t want to disclose the contractual status of anyone in the baseball operations department.
Question: Hi, Rich, what happened to Hunter Harvey? From: Steve Sanmillan via email
Answer: Steve, the Orioles put Harvey on waivers last November and he was claimed by the San Francisco Giants. The Giants waived Harvey in March, and he was claimed by the Washington Nationals.
Harvey pitched two games for Triple-A Rochester and four games for the Nationals before he was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a strained right elbow.
Question: Rich, with the Oriole starters pitching so well and the impending call-up of Grayson Rodriguez, and maybe DL Hall a bit later in the season, is Hyde going to consider a six-man rotation? With so many of them on innings limits it would seem to make sense, but I’ve never heard Hyde discuss it. From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: Dave, you make a good point. With Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells, and later Rodriguez and Hall on limited innings, perhaps a six-man rotation will be considered. Hyde discussed it the other day and said that he wasn’t ruling it out, but it was too early to consider it. He said that if the Orioles went with a six-man rotation, it means taking a pitcher out of the bullpen, which could complicate things.
Question: What types of modifications and improvements will the Orioles look to be making with the recently created allocation for Oriole Park at Camden Yards from the Maryland Stadium Authority? We just had the left-field wall pushed back—which is a terrific and long overdue modification. What else is there to do on the field? From: Baltimore Castaway via email
Answer: Mike, your question is a good one, and Karen Dunn Helmick has one that ties in, wanting to know if there has been any progress with the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Karen, last month, the Maryland State Legislature approved $1.2 billion to be spent on improvements for Oriole Park as well as M&T Bank Stadium. That money can be spent only if the Orioles sign a long-term lease, which is expected in the coming months.
Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos has spoken in general terms about improvements, some of which have to be coordinated with the Ravens. There’s been talk of a retail area between the two stadiums, and perhaps a hotel or housing being built.
Inside the stadium, the seating could be upgraded. Unlike ballparks built in recent years, there’s no premium seating behind home plate or near the dugouts. The club level could be modified, too.
In many newer ballparks, fans can see the action while they’re at the concession stands on the concourses. That’s impossible here. Perhaps that changes.
I’m hoping for a much bigger and more informative scoreboard and an improved sound system.
Question: Is reliever Conner Greene still with the Orioles? Would Trey Mancini only be used to gather new prospect returns in a trade, or is there a chance they could look for some major league-ready players at third base? From: JT Bazzett via email
Answer: JT, Conner Greene is pitching for Norfolk. I’m not sure what the market for Trey Mancini would be. In most trades, Mike Elias has received prospects who are not major league ready in return for veterans, and the guess here is that he’ll continue to do that.
Question: Your thoughts or opinion on the number of Oriole pitchers going down with elbow/shoulder injuries in the first month of season. Off-season program? Overused before the Orioles drafted them? I have read that over 67 percent of pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery were throwing breaking balls before 14 years of age. I believe this injury/surgery trend will continue as all teams continue to look for 95-plus per-hour pitchers as the complete-game pitcher disappears from the game. Curious about your thoughts. From: Larry Rosetti via email
Answer: Larry, I received a similar question from Bob Stier. Last season, the Orioles had one of the lowest number of days on the injured list in the majors. We’ll see about this year.
People around baseball have been worried about pitchers sustaining injuries this year because of the shorter spring training. Bob referred to the season-ending surgeries of John Means and Chris Ellis.
There is an emphasis on pitchers throwing harder, and perhaps that’s somewhat to blame. Others believe that pitching is just an unnaturally stressful act, and if you do it long enough, injuries will occur.
Take Justin Verlander. He’d been generally healthy in his career, but he needed Tommy John surgery in 2020 at 37.
Many fans cite older pitchers not breaking down as often, but I’m not sure I buy that. Take Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, whose careers ended at ages 30 and 33. Perhaps if sports science had been more advanced in the 1960s, their careers could have continued.
Like many, I miss the days of complete games and seven- or eight-inning starts, but with people running baseball being more careful, perhaps careers are being lengthened by being cautious with pitch counts and innings limits.