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Thursday Bird Droppings: The three weeks until Opening Day edition

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The Orioles will be playing real baseball that counts in 21 days. They’ll need all that time to figure out their rotation.

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, friends.

There are now 21 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day. It’s only three weeks from today! The uniform number 21 is currently in use by Austin Hays, and has also been worn by Nick Markakis, David Segui (the first time) and 1984 Orioles reliever Mark Brown, who is of no known relation to this blogger.

The Orioles were victorious in their latest spring tune-up on Wednesday afternoon, knocking off a Marlins split squad that included former Oriole Jonathan Villar. On the way to a 5-3 victory, David Hess gave up a two-run dinger to Villar. O’s batters walked nine times, including two by Austin Hays. The O’s are now 7-5-1 in Grapefruit League action.

Their spring schedule continues with a 3:05 contest at home against the Twins today. This game will be on the radio on 105.7 in Baltimore. There is no television broadcast, home or away.

Among the pre-game updates manager Brandon Hyde gave to Orioles media yesterday was the tidbit that he’s starting to work backwards from Opening Day to figure out his starting rotation. That makes sense. The people who will be going every fifth day need to be lined up for the right days and they need to have their innings built up so that they’re ready to go as deep into a game as their skill will take them. Still unknown is who those guys are actually going to be.

There are a whole lot of starting pitcher candidates in camp. There are veterans looking to get another season in MLB like Wade LeBlanc, still young-ish guys like Kohl Stewart hoping to reclaim the skill that gave them prospect hype, prospects O’s fans have been hoping for a couple of years, and the guys who ended last season as presumptive 2020 rotation members by virtue of either their performance or contract status - John Means, Alex Cobb, Asher Wojciechowski.

Due to the illness that passed through O’s camp early on, and some small injuries here and there, some guys haven’t showed up in the Grapefruit League games much or at all. Stewart has zero appearances and may not get one until Sunday at the earliest. Cobb has thrown only an inning. Veteran Tommy Milone didn’t do a scheduled sim game on Tuesday due to a sore neck. Time’s running short for guys to keep muddling along and stay in the Opening Day rotation picture.

What do you think the starting rotation will look like right now? Will a Rule 5 guy like Brandon Bailey sneak his way in there, or a rookie like Keegan Akin? One guy who seems to have taken a step towards a spot so far in camp is LeBlanc, who gave up a run over three innings yesterday. Something’s probably gone wrong (or for LeBlanc, very right) if LeBlanc remains in the rotation by 2020’s end, but there are worse guys to start out there.

Around the blogO’sphere

Orioles following CDC playbook after coronavirus scare hits close to home in Sarasota (Baltimore Sun)
One person in Sarasota is being treated for the coronavirus, so this is the first (I think) - and hopefully the last - O’s-related coronavirus mention. It seems that MLB has recommended teams curtail the “fan hands a baseball, player signs the baseball” practice as a precaution.

Some Orioles observations halfway through spring training (School of Roch)
Roch wants to make sure everyone is prepared for the possibility of Renato Núñez playing some third base, as well as the Orioles running more often. Also, if you missed the memo, the Orioles Australian pitching prospect prefers to go by Alexander Wells.

Davis among most impressive Orioles halfway through camp (Orioles.com)
I’ve said this before and will probably say it again: I don’t know if anything Davis has done so far will end up meaning anything, but before camp began I wouldn’t have guessed even this much good was possible. So it’s certainly something interesting for as long as it lasts.

Mike Elias on Chris Davis, other topics during Orioles.com coverage (Steve Melewski)
Elias joined the O’s online game stream this week. He sounded positive about how Davis has looked so far, but also offered a reminder of why he doesn’t put too much stock in spring results: “Sometimes the lights go on and pitchers are working on attack plans and advanced analytics comes out where they are pitching with attack plans. Teams aren’t doing that as much in spring training.”

Breaking down the Orioles starting pitching candidates after two trips through spring rotation (Baltimore Sun)
The short version is the Orioles are going to have to start making decisions about who to give more and more innings instead of just throwing everyone out there.

Mountcastle’s play in left has Orioles feeling all right about his future (Baltimore Baseball)
My hopes for this experiment are slightly higher than the Núñez at third base experiment, but that’s still not very high. I’ll be glad if Mountcastle surprises me.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

Today in 1996, legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of four picks by the Veterans Committee that year.

There are a few former Orioles with birthdays today. They are: 2012-13 three-gamer and DC local L.J. Hoes, 2002/04-07 pitcher Erik Bedard, 2000-01 starting pitcher Jose Mercedes, and 1993-98 outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: mapmaker Gerardus Mercator (1512), painter Jan van der Heyden (1637), magician Penn Jillette (1955), football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (1966), comedian Aasif Mandvi (1966), and voice actor Yuri Lowenthal (1971).

On this day in history...

In 1616, Nicolas Copernicus’s On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres was added to the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books. It was published 73 years previously.

In 1770, British soldiers fired into a crowd in Boston, killing five people, including Crispus Attucks, recognized as the first casualty of the eventual Revolutionary War. The Boston Massacre proved to be a powerful turning point of colonists sentiment in favor of independence.

In 1872, George Westinghouse patented his invention of a railway air brake. The same basic design, with some improvements, is still in use on trains today.

In 1912, during the Italo-Turkish War, Italian forces used airships for reconnaissance. This was the first time in military history that airships were employed.

In 1963, three country music artists, including Patsy Cline, were killed when their plane crashed in Camden, Tennessee.

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And that’s the way it is in Birdland on March 5 - or at least, until something happens down in Florida later. Have a safe Thursday.