In another world in which the inevitability of injuries didn’t strike, the Orioles rotation may already include star-studded talent, whose front office is working to rebuild it to be successful. A healthy one would be John Means and Grayson Rodriguez. DL Hall may not have suffered the blow of his injury last season.
But in this reality, injuries are as much a part of the game as the ball and the strike – especially for the pitcher. Those injuries can come at any time, and they’re not picky about whether a player is a highly likely prospect or a key cog in Baltimore’s plans. There is no election.
“Baseball is tough,” said executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. “That’s all I can say. It’s tough. Tough game to have everything click at the same time, but we’ll just keep grinding.”
The Orioles can only do so much, even if those injuries have stalled rebuilding. First, it was catcher Adley Reutsman, whose right tricep strain began as a major league spring training run that prevented him from making the opening day roster. Rodriguez then suffered a Grade 2 right side hamstring strain, which Elias said on Sunday could end his 2022 season.
Hall had a stress reaction in his left elbow last year and Means had Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery in April. He put an end to Baltimore’s plans. Without those major setbacks, the rotation could boast three standout weapons—a proven big leaguer and two top prospects—as well as Ratsman, the top prospect in baseball, at the back of the plate.
But as those injuries mount—and the production from Rutsman now that he’s in Baltimore is behind expectations—there’s a reminder. Rebuilding requires patience, and while Orioles fans have already gotten through a 100-loss season in each of the last three completed campaigns, more patience will still be needed.
The Orioles were closer to Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, at the big league level. He checked nearly every box in Triple-A, earning the International League’s Pitcher of the Month award for May. Now Rodriguez could be out until September, if not longer, prolonging the waiting game for the organization to fully arrive to rebuild.
“It really stinks,” Elias said. “It’s just a repetition of what happened with Ratschman, in terms of timing. They put in so much work, you’re sitting there and you’re basically through your triple-A experience. It happens. It’s adversity. .
Elias attempts to spin that adversity as a positive, pitching the idea that Rodriguez will be stronger once he is back. But the delay is tiring at the same time.
No pretense that Baltimore would have been a win-now team, this season the injuries to Hall, Means, Ratschman and Rodriguez were avoided. The Orioles always appeared a year away, with 2023 aiming to start rolling the ramp.
Reutschmann hits the ball hard, but has little to show for it, averaging .137 through 51 batters, and he is 0 for his last 17. The message there is patience too.
“It’s such a small sample right now. You can’t worry about the results,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It’s a hard level to break through. And he’ll be fine. We just need to be patient and stay positive and support him.”
Means may not be back on rotation until the middle of next season. Hall stays in Triple-A, working on his pitch count, proving he can go deep in outings. And Elias thought Rodriguez would break 2023 spring training with the Orioles, but without the wealth of experience he’s gained this year.
“You look at the whole league, this stuff happens,” Elias said. “When I was in Houston, we had a time in 2014, Carlos Correa broke his ankle because he was about to be promoted from High-A to Double-A. At the time, it was tough. But you got through it And that’s what he is. And that’s what will happen to Grayson: a blip on the radar screen.
But when there are many blips, it becomes more taxing. And this requires more patience, even if more than enough patience has already been spent.
After all, Elias said it best: “Baseball is hard.”
What’s to come?
The Orioles kick off Monday ahead of a two-match series against the Chicago Cubs at Camden Yards. From there, Baltimore travels to Kansas City and Toronto, to play four games each, pitting Rutsman against the player chosen directly after him in the 2019 draft.
The last time the Royals and Orioles met, infielder Bobby Witt Jr was at Camden Yards, but Rutsman was not. There is some commonality between the players, which extends beyond draft placement. With Reutsman’s scramble in 13 games, Witt did just that, hitting .184 with 15 strikeouts and no homers in the same time frame to start his major league career.
Since then, Witt has turned things around. He now has seven homers with an average of .224. For all the tough contact from Rutsman, expect a similar turnaround as Witt.
what was good
Last week, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle hit 11 times in seven games and hit just .179. But when they won the two-run home race on Sunday, it took seven more days to go.
“There was a little bit of despair behind that,” Mountcastle said. “I had good batting for the last week or so. It just felt like things were not going according to me. It felt great to take him out. ,
In his seven games this week, Mountcastle crushed three homers and hit .292. He walked five times and got out only twice. That performance is close to what Mountcastle expects from himself.
What was not?
The Great Wall of Baltimore was a rough week. It looked so impressive, the New York Yankees and even Trey Mancini criticized it extensively – and how complicated things were for a right-handed hitter attempting to hit home runs.
But as the weather warmed, the ball flew off the bat and went up that mountain, as if the extra 20-something feet and six extra feet in wall height might not have engaged the hitter at all. There were bombs from Mountcastle and Ramon Ureas in successive at-bats on Wednesday. Then Austin Hayes added a three-run shot to the wall on Saturday.
Still some bombs were taken, but the wall is not as much of a hindrance in June as it was before.
on the farm
Hall scored the first Triple-A win of his career on Sunday, conceding two runs for two hits in five innings. He dismissed a season-high nine batsmen and completed five innings for the first time. His development has been slow, a precaution following his season-ending elbow injury in 2021.
But as Hall finds success at Norfolk, there is a chance a promotion could be on the way – if he proves to Elias that he is capable of pitching deep in games. As the rebuilding took a hit with Rodriguez’s injury, Hall’s progress is modest, albeit modest.
Cubs @ Orioles
Tuesday, 7:05 pm
radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM