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Wednesday Bird Droppings: The World Baseball Classic is in the books

Japan wins, the world loves baseball, and the final stretch of spring training.

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World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

The World Baseball Classic is over and no current or former Orioles emerged victorious. But perhaps some future ones did? You see, in this alternate reality I am imagining the Orioles signing Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $500-million deal in the offseason. But I would also be fine with Roki Sasaki and his 100+ mph fastball on my favorite team too.

Japan beat the United States 3-2, and it ended in storybook fashion. Ohtani came out of the bullpen to record the final three outs. After walking Jeff McNeil to open the frame, he got Mookie Betts to ground into a double play, bringing his club teammate Mike Trout to the plate. Six pitches later, Ohtani struck out Trout on a slider just off the plate to clinch the championship.

Much of the talk about the US throughout this tournament centered around roster composition. The lineup was widely considered the best that any WBC team had ever put together while the pitchers were viewed less favorably.

But in the final it was the bats that lost their way. They US went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. That included the Orioles’ own Cedric Mullins, who started in left field, and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two left on. He wasn’t alone in his struggles. Paul Goldschmidt (0-for-4, two strikeouts, four left on) had a bad night too, and Trout struck out thrice.

Beyond the performances of any individual or team, it should be noted that this year’s WBC was a resounding success worldwide. TV ratings have been solid in the US despite direct competition with March Madness, and the international numbers are even better. In-person attendance has been great, and the environment created has been palpable through the TV screen.

Not quite 20 years old, the WBC has taken some convincing to get sports fans on board with its significance. But the tournament is hitting its stride, and should only continue to get stronger as MLB players get more involved.

On the Orioles front, they beat the Red Sox 6-2 on Tuesday. Adley Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle both hit first-inning home runs off of Chris Sale while Cole Irvin got the win on the mound, tossing five innings and allowing two runs. They head to Dunedin today for a game against the Blue Jays. Dean Kremer starts, and there will be a stream with Blue Jays announcers. First pitch is 1:07.


Orioles Notes: Rodriguez, Means, Santander | MLB Trade Rumors
Included is the note that Grayson Rodriguez is not guaranteed an Opening Day spot due to his need to have his innings managed this year. That makes sense, but the Orioles can do that with him in the bigs. Not to mention, there are the incentives for placing top prospects on your Opening Day roster should they then compete for end-of-year awards. My expectation is that Rodriguez heads north with the O’s, but it is understandable if he is occasionally skipped in the rotation or has his starts artificially shortened.

‘Like a dream’: Santander returns to Orioles camp after Classic |
Anthony Santander is a player that Orioles fans are aware is quite good at this whole baseball thing, but I’m not sure the larger baseball-watching world knows much about him. His success at the WBC should be further incentive for players on the fence about taking part to go for it.

Orioles infield prospect Jordan Westburg’s ‘morbid’ mentality pushing him toward majors | The Baltimore Sun
Jordan Westburg is part of that mix of high-minor infielders that the Orioles are, seemingly, content sending back to Triple-A for just a little longer. But maybe a late-spring trade of Jorge Mateo or Ramón Urías changes that calculation.

Balks the biggest difference in Givens this spring | Roch Kubatko
Roch mentions that Terrin Vavra played some first base this week. Another part of the Orioles continued search for a left-handed option behind Mountcastle at that position. The fact that they still haven’t just penciled Santander into that role makes me think that whatever he’s showing them on the dirt this spring has been worrisome.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • Andrew Susac turns 33 today. The catcher appeared in nine games behind the plate for the 2018 Orioles.
  • Mike Morse is 41. His Orioles stint lasted just 12 games in 2013.
  • The late Billy Goodman (b. 1926, d. 1984) was born on this day. He spent half of the 1957 season bouncing around the Orioles’ infield.

This day in O’s history

1981 - Orioles manager Earl Weaver is suspended three days for removing his team and forfeiting a spring game against the Royals because the umpires had not provided him with an official batting order.

1997 - The Orioles trade infielders Manny Alexander and Scott McClain to the Mets for reliever Héctor Ramírez