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Saturday Bird Droppings: Pondering spring training storylines

Pitchers and catchers are coming, the Delmarva staff is tailored to the players, Mejdal speaks, and Kjerstad is ready.

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Birdland!

Spring training starts this coming week, and a few of the Orioles’ brightest pupils are already in Sarasota. But we are still more than a month-and-a-half away from the games actually counting. So, we will need to fill up blog space with storylines of some kind. What will they be?

The configuration of the starting rotation feels like an obvious one. Mike Elias has made it seem like newbies Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin are the only ones etched in stone. The rest of the five-man set-up is to be determined. However, there seems to be an internal push for Grayson Rodriguez to impress and earn a spot, and it’s tough to see Dean Kremer or Kyle Bradish being left off. But we will see. Injuries and poor performance can happen.

Related to that: DL Hall’s immediate fit is a mystery. The team wants him to start games, and given his raw ability it’s hard to disagree. That is how he could provide the most value. But will he ever have the control to make that work? Still just 24 years old, it might be worth it to spend one more season finding out.

Then we have the infield situation. Gunnar Henderson is going to play everyday somewhere on the dirt. Will it be shortstop or third base? Regardless of which it is, he will be displacing either a Fielding Bible winner or a Gold Glove winner. But it’s not only the left side that has questions. Adam Frazier seems likely to start at second base, but that will leave the Norfolk infield awfully crowded with Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, and Jordan Westburg set to duke it out for innings at their preferred positions.

Whatever the team settles on in late March is likely to look much different by August (or even earlier). Frazier’s on a one-year deal, so there is no incentive for the team to firmly commit to him if they feel a youngster is ready to step in. Similarly, Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías are known commodities, for better or for worse, that the Orioles can move on from if they feel the time is right. You have to imagine that time comes for one of them at some point this summer.

How bullpen roles shake out is a universal question at just about every big league camp. The Orioles have a good group of arms that has largely carried over from 2022. But they did hedge their bets with the return of Mychal Givens and rule 5 pick Andrew Politi, not to mention the possibility that Tyler Wells heads back to the ‘pen after a season spent starting. It feels like a solid unit, but you never really know with relievers.

Off the field questions will continue about ownership and what the plans are for extending the Camden Yards lease. Any evidence to suggest the Orioles will do anything other than remain in Baltimore for a long, long time simply does not exist. But it’s natural to ask the question until it is no longer relevant.


How Orioles’ Delmarva coaches helped ease transition for international prospects: ‘They can just be’ | The Baltimore Sun
Some really neat “behind the scenes” stuff on the happenings down at Delmarva last summer. As the Orioles continue to increase their presence in Latin America, these sorts of set-ups will be even more important to easing the new players in the organization and setting them up for success.

Audio: Sig Mejdal on Analytics, Eric Longenhagen on His Journey Here | FanGraphs
We hear from Mike Elias a lot, but not as much from assistant GM Sig Mejdal. Here’s an opportunity for just that!

After AFL MVP honor, Heston Kjerstad is ready for big league spring training shot | Steve Melewski
The 2022 season was important for Kjerstad. He got back on a professional field, played at two levels, and even tore up the Arizona Fall League. Now in 2023 he will surely look to rocket up the Orioles’ minor league system. My guess is he goes back to Aberdeen to begin the year, but a promotion to Double-A Bowie sometime mid-summer feels entirely possible. That puts him in position for a 2024 MLB debut should everything go to plan.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • César Cabral turns 34 today. The pitcher appeared in two games for the 2015 Orioles.
  • Brian Matusz celebrates his 36 birthday. The Orioles top draft pick in 2008, the southpaw went on to spend eight seasons in Baltimore from 2009 through 2016, eventually moving from the rotation to the bullpen, where he settled in as a LOOGY type. Matusz particularly excelled against Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, holding him to a line of 4-for-29 in his career.
  • Matt Lindstrom is 43 years old. A longtime reliever in the bigs, Lindstrom came to the Orioles along with Jason Hammel in a trade ahead of the 2012 season and was then dealt that summer to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Joe Saunders.

This day in O’s history

1987 - The Orioles sign infielder Ray Knight to a one-year deal worth $475,000 plus incentives and an option for an additional season.