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Thursday Bird Droppings: King Felix is coming to Orioles spring training

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The Orioles signed Felix Hernandez to a minor league contract. It’d be fun if he pitched well for the O’s.

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

Hello, friends.

There are now 56 days remaining until the next scheduled Orioles game, which is Opening Day. We’ve got less than two weeks to go until pitchers and catchers are set to report to Sarasota for spring training. Baseball is on its way back, unless MLB alters the trajectory.

We have some actual Orioles news to talk about today! It’s turning into a busy week here in Birdland. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported on Wednesday night that the O’s are signing longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez to a minor league contract with a big league spring training invite. According to Heyman, Hernandez will make a $1 million salary if he makes the team.

One of my general rules for talking about baseball is that it’s not worth reacting too much to any minor league signing. I am breaking my own rule on this occasion because Hernandez has had such a brilliant career that he’s interesting on his own, even as a minor league guy invited to spring training who might not make the team.

Yes, it’s been something like four years since Hernandez being on your favorite baseball team was exciting, as he was bad in 2018 and worse in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season, when he had been with the Braves. He’ll turn 35 shortly after the currently scheduled Opening Day. His fastball only averaged about 90 miles per hour in his last two seasons and batters lit him up for a 91.9mph exit velocity in 15 starts in 2019.

These are not exciting trends. And yet... it’s King Felix. For anyone out there who might have had some misguided lament over Alex Cobb being traded and a lack of “veteran presence” in the starting rotation, it’s hard to beat adding a guy who debuted in 2005. It will not be hard to root for him to find some success in an Orioles uniform. There’s no guarantee that he will even wear one in the regular season. But it’d be fun if he did.

I’d rather see Hernandez than Wade LeBlanc or Thomas Eshelman. And if Hernandez works out enough to make the team but doesn’t work out enough to perform in the regular season, well, then he can end up getting shuffled out of the way for someone like Zac Lowther or Michael Baumann, at least one of whom will hopefully be ready to push up to the majors by August.

Around the blogO’sphere

Alex Cobb on trade: “I was pretty surprised by it” (School of Roch)
Cobb heard from his agent about the pending trade on Monday morning at 7:30, so he had about 40 hours or so of limbo before the trade became official. He said he feels like even if he pitched well in 2021 in Baltimore he’d still have “unfinished business” with not quite living up to the signing.

How the AL East stacks up behind the plate (MLB.com)
Here’s hoping the Orioles portion of the 2022 version of this article is more interesting than the 2021 version.

Signing pitchers like Alex Cobb didn’t help the Orioles. It’s time they develop their own starters. (Baltimore Sun)
This is a real preaching to the choir situation, as the Cobb signing was bad on the day it was made and never got better. I hope Mike Elias is better at signing free agents to help out a good team whenever the Orioles reach this point. Hopefully they get to that point before Elias is fired.

Prospect positional rankings and other notes (Steve Melewski)
Melewski reminds those hoping for an Opening Day rotation including like, Zac Lowther or Alexander Wells to pump the brakes on that excitement because it’s not happening.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

Today in 2011, the Orioles finalized a deal that brought future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero to Baltimore on a one-year contract. The signing annoyed me a lot at the time and Guerrero wasn’t good here, but we’ve seen worse moves over the past decade.

Of all of the players to ever play the Orioles, not a single one has been born on this day.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: peculiar American “Emperor” Joseph Norton (1818), pioneering pilot Charles Lindbergh (1902), civil rights activist Rosa Parks (1913), musician Alice Cooper (1948), and gold medal gymnast Carly Patterson (1988).

On this day in history...

In 960, the first Song dynasty emperor of China, Zhao Kuangyin or, as he reigned, Emperor Taizo, was coronated. Song reigned for more than 300 years.

In 1789, the first Electoral College met, unanimously selecting George Washington to be the first President of the United States.

In 2004, Facebook was founded.

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And that’s the way it is in Birdland on February 4. Have a safe Thursday.