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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where the Orioles instructional league is underway

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The club’s best prospects arrived in Sarasota yesterday to get their learning on.

MILB: JUL 17 Gulf Coast League - GCL Twins at GCL Orioles
Top prospect Grayson Rodriguez isn’t done pitching in 2020.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

The American League portion of the Division Series began yesterday, and it was pretty much the worst possible result for any baseball fan who has a soul. The hated Houston Astros came from behind to outslug the Athletics, 10-5, while the also-hated New York Yankees pounded out a Game 1 win over the Rays. Ugh. I don’t think I can stomach a Yankees-Astros ALCS if that’s where we’re headed, though at least both those teams still have a ways to go before making that a reality.

In the meantime, the Orioles are staying busy. Yesterday they officially announced the kickoff of their fall instructional league at their spring training home in Sarasota, Fla. The camp will help the Birds give additional hands-on instruction to the bevy of prospects whose minor league seasons were canceled in 2020.

The full list of participants is here, and by my count, of the 27 Orioles prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 (excluding Ryan Mountcastle, Dean Kremer, and Keegan Akin, who are major leaguers now), 16 of them will be attending the camp. That includes three of the Orioles’ top four — Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, and DL Hall — as well as top-10 guys Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg. (No. 3 prospect Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ top pick in the 2020 draft, was left off due to an “undisclosed medical non-sports reason,” and you can probably guess what that is.) The full camp roster includes 22 players drafted in Mike Elias’ first two years in Baltimore.

For the most part, the O’s are inviting players in the lower levels of the system. Only two players at the camp, infielder Rylan Bannon and pitcher Zach Muckenhirn, have climbed as far as Triple-A Norfolk in their minor league careers. It makes sense — logically, the younger, less experienced players are the ones who have more to learn. The club declined to bring more fully-formed guys such as outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna, who likely would’ve played at Norfolk and possibly in the majors in 2020 had it been a normal season.

As I wrote last week, it’d be a hoot to keep up with the goings-on at the instructional league, but the O’s confirmed, sadly, that the public and the media will not be allowed to attend. That’s no surprise in the middle of a pandemic, but it’s a bummer. How are we going to get our daily reports about which hitters are putting on a show in batting practice, which pitchers have ticked their velocity up a few mph, and which prospects are the next stars in the making? The Orioles’ season ended just over a week ago and I’m already jonesing for news. Hopefully all goes well in Sarasota, even if the youngsters won’t be in the spotlight.

Links

Elias on Kjerstad’s absence from fall instructional league - School of Roch
Mike Elias talks about what went into the decision of which prospects to include and exclude from the camp roster. The good news is that nobody besides Michael Baumann is injured...except, I guess, Kjerstad? Would that be considered an injury?

Mountcastle’s rookie status; Fall frenzy; Hall of Famers lost - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Good news, folks: Ryan Mountcastle just barely maintained his rookie status, which means he’s eligible to win Rookie of the Year next season. Of course, last year at this time we were thinking the same thing about Austin Hays, and that didn’t exactly pan out.

MLB playoffs: Rival managers dish on Yankees vs. Rays ALDS - New York Post
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde chimes in on what makes the Yankees and Rays formidable postseason foes. In a perfect world, next October the Yankees and Rays managers will be interviewed about what makes the Orioles formidable postseason foes.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have five Orioles birthday buddies: 2019 two-gamer Matt Wotherspoon (29), 2007-09 righty Radhames Liz (37), 2013 righty Freddy Garcia (44), 1990 designated hitter Greg Walker (61), and the late Joe Frazier (b. 1922, d. 2011), an outfielder from the 1956 club.

October 6 has been an incredibly memorable day in Orioles history. Twice on this date, 10 years apart, the Orioles said goodbye to a Baltimore baseball legend — one a historic ballpark, the other the greatest player ever to suit up for the franchise. And I was lucky enough to be at both of them.

In 1991, the Birds played their final game at Memorial Stadium, the only ballpark they’d ever known in their then-38 year existence and one that hosted six World Series. Though the O’s lost to the Tigers, 7-1, the final score was an afterthought compared to the festive celebration that followed the game, as Camden Chatter Bill Duck wrote in 2014. The tuxedo-clad grounds crew placed home plate in a limousine to be driven to the club’s new home, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Then over a hundred former Orioles poured out of the dugout to take the field one last time, led by Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Jim Palmer, as the packed crowd of 50,700 cheered and sang Auld Lang Syne.

In 2001, the O’s again lost their season finale, but again, nobody cared, because it was the final game of Cal Ripken Jr.’s storied 21-year, Hall of Fame career. A sellout crowd of 48,807 at Camden Yards, popping flash bulbs and holding “Thank You, Cal” signs, cheered his every move, then erupted in a “one more year!” chant as he prepared to deliver his post-game speech. The governor, the mayor, and former president Bill Clinton were on hand for Ripken’s sendoff, while baseball stars past and present paid tribute in video montages throughout the night.

The O’s have also played six postseason games on this date, winning five of them:

  • In 1966, 20-year-old Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher in MLB history to throw a World Series shutout, beating fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in the final game of the Dodger lefty’s career. The Birds’ 6-0 win put them up two games to none in the Series, which they would go on to sweep.
  • In 1969, the Orioles finished a sweep of the Twins in the first-ever American League Championship Series, winning game three in an 11-2 blowout. Again it was Palmer who got the complete game victory, while the Birds’ bats were led by Paul Blair’s five-hit, five-RBI game.
  • In 1973, the O’s kicked off the ALCS with a 6-0 shutout of the Athletics, behind a shutout victory from — guess who? — Jim Palmer. Man, Cakes loves him some Oct. 6. He struck out 12 in his masterpiece, and a four-run Orioles first inning led the way for the offense.
  • In 1979, the Orioles clinched an ALCS series win over the Angels with an 8-0 shutout in game four, pitched by...Scott McGregor. Hey, it can’t be Jim Palmer every time. Ken Singleton had three hits and Pat Kelly put the game out of reach with a three-run homer in the seventh.
  • And in 1983, the O’s evened the ALCS against the White Sox by winning game two, 4-0. Gary Roenicke homered and scored three runs, while on the mound, Mike Boddicker racked up 14 strikeouts, which at that point tied an AL postseason record. (It’s since been topped three times, including by the Orioles’ Mike Mussina in 1997.)