As the Orioles pick up the pieces from bad news on Grayson Rodriguez and the return of John Means, our Camden Yards insider Luke Jones examines the obvious pitching deficiencies and how general manager Mike Elias might plan to keep the team headed in the right direction this summer. Especially the bullpen.
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Luke Jones, Nestor Aparicio
Nestor Aparicio 00:00
What about w n? S? T, Towson, Baltimore, Baltimore positive hope you’re setting the dial as these Orioles are making their way back into your hearts, certainly into your your calendar and your schedule. We are putting the Maryland crabcake tour together. We’re doing lots of lots of great stuff around here. But But set your Darwinian 1570. You know, Dennis and I are gonna have a conversation about this week they were trying to take a ham radio out of cars. So before I even get into this with Luke and Cedric Mullins and the Orioles and the weekend and the homestand and the guardians and I hope I don’t slip up and say tribe, it’s all brought to you by the Maryland lottery. We’re gonna be doing the Maryland crab cake tour. Gosh, I’ve got a list here. That is so extensive that I don’t know where to begin, but we’re going to be spirits West. We’re going to be chants Bob, we’re coming to the Barstow restaurant Hollywood casino in Perryville. On the 28th of June 29. We’re going to be failing at Lexington Mark and I think it’s the end of the old market as well. We’re going to be the Beaumont on July 28 through an A lunch thing. And then we’re kicking off our 25th anniversary all of it brought to you by our friends at window nation 866 90 nation you didn’t do this when there’s go call me over the weekend. He said he’s getting some windows window nation. We’re gonna be kicking off 25 years of WNS t na and 1570 so I remind you to set your am radio dial on the third of August also my mother’s birthday at costus in and Dundalk gonna be there most of the day and then celebrating again on Friday August the fourth so August 3 fourth big big days around here for wn St. We’re gonna be celebrating with this guy who it only felt like he was with me when Deion Sanders and John Ogden and Mike Flynn were chasing us up and down Harford road from potty hill station to the barn and into Tracy’s in the Bowman where there’s pictures of me and a very, very young, unshaven, Marshall yonder it is baseball season here and Luke Jones joins us now. And look I put these crabcake tours together. I’ve been going to places where I’m thinking football I got an icy delights over in front of the places where I drank wine with the late great Jim fossil and, and But baseball season and I’ve talked about this if you go to the front of Baltimore positive loop, you’ll see it every conversation I’m having is about people coming back to the ballpark. Sound system sucks the food’s not so good. parkings better they figured some things out then things a little better. You get an out get a beer, too well, a lot of people at the ballpark. And then we get into like the real life crises of the things that put me on the radio Luke, which is start pitching. outfielder gets hurt late in the game, huh? Not hitting the ball for a week, huh? All this happening at home, huh? bobblehead night, huh? Those ugly jerseys? Man. All of this has happened since the last time you and I got together. Like in a long weekend. It’s like the NFL gonna play one game a week. But five awful or five wonderful things can happen in five days. Over a holiday weekend. How are you? I know you spent most of the weekend mowing lawn and watching baseball. I was basketball, football. I mean, my wife had the USFL on the other day. She’s like they’re typing in sound. I’m like they are piping in sound. But they didn’t have to pipe in sound down where you were.
Luke Jones 03:15
That’s absolutely right. And a lot of what you just mentioned, I mean, first of all, I do want to single out the fact that we’ve reached Memorial Day, that is often the checkpoint you hear so many longtime baseball scribes, longtime baseball fans, those who have seen good seasons and bad seasons and everything in between. It’s kind of really that first meaningful check point where you say it’s still early but it’s not really that early anymore. Yeah,
Nestor Aparicio 03:42
channel the late great Clem Florio here during a racing month. And and if Clem were here, right now, you would love Clem, you wouldn’t want to go play Bochy with Clem, behind. In a meet she’s right next to the church. And Clem would say, look, tell me we’re a contender. Tell me we’re a contender. This is the time right to say you’re a contender,
Luke Jones 04:03
right? No question about it. And even after losing three of four over the weekend and scoring What was it 11 runs over the 46 innings that followed that big eight run seven thinning in the Bronx last Wednesday night which to your point feels like a long time ago when so much has happened over the
Nestor Aparicio 04:20
years. I was in New York when they were playing right when Cortes pitched I was I was in Manhattan I saw people getting on trains you and I have gotten together from the BIA a lot of great food by the way saw a great show. But cog cheese that feels like four weeks ago that they were playing the Yankees it’s it is amazing. When you watch them nine innings a night and the nine innings happened two hours and 20 minutes sometimes when they’re not hitting the ball and the games get over. There’s a pacing of this that that is as work that’s way back into my life that feels like where you been.
Luke Jones 04:54
Yeah, I mean it’s I don’t know if it feels quite that long for me, but it’s it’s the ebbs and flows of a bay spa season and so much of what you just mentioned, and what I just mentioned, you know, the bats have gone, cold, quiet, whatever you want to call them over the last few games, you lose three out of four over the long holiday weekend to let’s keep in mind a really good Texas Rangers team that they lost two out of three to no shame in that, especially on the heels of what the what the Orioles had done on the road against Toronto and the Yankees. But I think a couple of things that really come to mind in terms of what’s a concern, as far as just the ebbs and flows of a 162 game schedule. And what’s a legitimate concern, and I think a couple of legitimate concerns did pop up over the weekend. And it didn’t really have anything to do with the results on the field. It was one, we find out on Friday that John means suffered a setback not related to his elbow, but strained a muscle in his elbow, shoulder blade, upper back area that has slowed down and paused his rehab, so to speak, there had been a lot of optimism that he’d be ready to go for July. So you have that he’s still fully expected to pitch but it’s probably going to be August. And realistically speaking, and this was always the case with John means. How do you know? You know, what, how impactful was he going to be coming back from Tommy John surgery, we’re
Nestor Aparicio 06:19
counting on him, right? I mean, you and I were but but but but they start winning. And it’s a lot. And then you start looking as I would always say to you, at any point, and I said this to you, when Buck was winning, which you love to point out all the time, that you know that we did win around here. And when we did, I would always say where’s the cavalry, who’s coming over the hill, and over the hill back then was oh, we’re gonna go get the six foot seven left hander and rent him for Eduardo Rodriguez who may be still paying forward a decade later one way or another you see him once in a while. But But literally, where’s the cavalry? Right and in this case, you would say well, they got the number one prospect in baseball Rodriguez they have a top ish prospect in DL hall that they believed in right then you have this guy has actually done it and done it at a high level and he was coming on when they had nothing but him and Cedric moments three years ago, right. And and that’s not there. I mean, this is this is how you get your heart broke Luke, right? I mean, things start to go wrong. And then you see where the adjustments are. And I Hey, I’ll give Elias credit. A lie sat in the dugout with at least one of the two wn St. Representatives to field some questions over the weekend. And that felt more like a real baseball thing to Pat Killick would have been doing 30 years ago around here, to, to front face the fans and say, We’re real pennant race, and we realize pitching is not good enough. And it leads to stand up and say that and say, here’s another reason why we have means and then Rodriguez, you know, like, yeah, that’s its own thing. And that’s its own, we can spend an hour on that. But this is to your point. The boat is hit some rocks on Memorial Day, but the boats in really good position. But you look at it and you say, Man, this is a real baseball. These are the problems he only had in Boston in New York before, for all these years. Right.
Luke Jones 08:15
Right, exactly. And let’s be clear, when we’re talking about this, we’re talking about a team that hit the third you know, they’ve officially hit 1/3 of the way through the season on Memorial Day, and you’re 34 and 20. At that point, you’re on pace to win over 100 games. That’s even after having lost three of four, your bullpen is right there. If not the best in baseball. It’s right there. I think they concluded Monday or they went into Monday. I think they were second in the majors and bullpen era. I think they led the league and bullpen wins above replacement. The offense, while it struggled here recently, overall has been much better. And it has been good and has been a you know, top 10 in Major League Baseball caliber offense through its full body of work. But you’re looking at the starting rotation even though it was better in May than it was in April. That’s still the area of the club where you’d say some improvement can be made some additions could be made there and when you’re looking at John means is one of those potential additions and then you find out he’s got a muscle strain in his upper back and that doesn’t mean he won’t pitch. That doesn’t mean he can’t help them in August and September, but that’s where you’ll look at it and say How realistic is the impact that that he’s going to be able to make and then a few hours later, a Grayson Rodriguez just gets completely lit up and hit very hard continues to struggle with fastball command. Look, I’m not giving up on Grayson Rodriguez or anything like that far from it. But I think it’s a reminder of no prospects or prospects right? I mean, there’s no
Nestor Aparicio 09:54
for me is in the aftermath of this. There’s the rose colored glasses of Ben McDonald and you And Palmer’s tweets. If he’ll be back, you’ll be better than ever. And then there’s mine where I’m like, thing. It worked that way for you, Jim. It didn’t really work that way for you, Ben, that you didn’t you know, Ben was never better than ever. You’re like, but we waited on Ben to be better than ever. Always. Right. And then Ben got hurt with Palmer. I mean, and I think over the weekend watching him struggle for the broadcast with Melanie Newman was just awful television. And then they were getting their ass kicked and made it even worse. It was bad sports radio was bad. But But Palmer’s acerbic way and his greatness, I mean, I just, I cannot express to someone your age, because you didn’t see a pitch every night I did as a kid, somebody even older than me, who’s really looking at it through a lifetime. He’s so outstanding, and so on a different level than everybody else intellectually about pitching and just the way he sees the world. He’s, he’s a gem. And at the at this crisis moment, to have him around talking about it. I think it’s wonderful. But just to say he’s coming back and going to, I don’t know, I don’t I don’t know. I mean, we’re, I’d love for him to come back. I’d love for means to come back. But I’ve watched baseball all my life. I don’t I don’t really know where that wall is that where you come up. And you were great until you got here. And Messina would be the only thing I can compare it to. And Rodriguez reminds me Messina a little bit in stature a little bit in delivery, just the way that he could be his ceiling and his potential for how good Messina was in the midst of McDonald’s and Sutcliffe and key and that when we would see this five nights in a row, the way the Braves fan solid for 15 years, how hard it is to be Jim Palmer, how hard it is to be Ben McDonald, how hard it is to be Ben McDonald. And I there’s a weight on this kid. And the one thing that I keep hearing Palmer say over the weekend when he’s talked about it, because I listen to Palmer when he talks to me, because I’m always looking to pick something up. To think that the team needs him. And that’s a whole different place to be than just trying to hang on when team sucks, you’re getting the ball, every fit. They were John means was three, four years ago, where you’re kind of pitching for yourself pitching to win, but you’re 31 and 52 as a team, and there’s 18,000 in Cleveland, and you’re just trying to do your job, you just stay focused. This is a different thing for Rodriguez right now, I think. And I think it’s heavier for him, given the expectation of the team. And whenever he comes back, he’s in a pennant race. And that’s, I just think it’s a different place than anything we’ve seen here in a long, long time.
Luke Jones 12:52
It is, you know, I’m not so down on it from the standpoint of you know, that he can’t be a factor or be really good for them, even this year, you know, certainly long term. But even this year, I think when you look at him, a couple things that really stick out. One is secondary stuff has typically played really well. You know that look at his changeup. You look at the numbers against his breaking pitches. For the most part, it’s been good, two really good. Where he’s really fallen into trouble is with his fastball and with his cutter that he’s mixed in, which hasn’t thrown that a lot. But when he has it’s been hit hard at times. So, you know, I think one the fastball command hasn’t been good enough, I think and Brandon heights talked about this, he talked about this, before his start, which there had been a lot of encouraging feelings because of how well he had pitched in Toronto and his previous timeout, but talked about the idea that stuff will get you through the minor leagues, right, you can throw fast balls out of the strike zone at 99 against double and triple A hitters. And third guessing, you know, they’re, they’re panicked, right? I mean, they’re, they’re just trying to make contact and they’re gonna win. And then you
Nestor Aparicio 13:59
also get a reputation at a ball and double A, that you’re, you probably get a preferred strike zone at that level, from the minor league umpires that if you throw it and it’s somewhere near you might get an edge that bet that other pitchers might not get at that point.
Luke Jones 14:16
You might, you might, you know, I don’t know if that comes into play quite as much with the way things are changing from, you know, from an umpiring standpoint, from a standpoint of having an automated strike sizing, all of that, but, but I think more so with that Nestor is that pitch that’s three inches off the plate. A minor league hitter is much more inclined to swing at that than a major league hitter. Right. So So I think your point there as well taken either, however you want to interpret it, but no, I look at his fastball. And I’ve even talked about this with a couple other reporters and you’ll look at some adjustments that even some Orioles pitchers have made over the last couple years where they found some success after struggling initially, maybe mixing in a little bit more of a two seam fastball. You know get no Getting a little bit more movement that way. But really for him, it’s his fastball command. And the other thing that he’s struggled with is when things start to snowball just grooving one, right. I mean, just whether it’s, you know, you kind of lose your head, whether you just kind of lose your mechanics, whatever it is. I mean, we saw that the pitch he threw to Seeger was just awful.
Nestor Aparicio 15:22
So I will say to you, and this is out of love, I mean this right? For me, the only thing I thought about was Brad Pennington, in that moment, like literally right and I know you’re familiar with that. I remember being in my my aunt Clara’s house in Delaware, watching that in the teal uniforms and Griffey in the backdrop and the whole deal. And I don’t know that Brad, I mean, Brad was a real prospect and Brad’s a Facebook friend. And I didn’t want to invite him on Facebook. But I will in the show in the framework of the show and the framework of Oreo references on a weekend where I brought up Greg Olson and those, those hideous jerseys. Thank you, Chris, The Verge was the one that came up with that, by the way, I would just say that there was a brad Pennington moment of holy ish, that’s a drop, like, ouch. He’s gonna think about that. He’ll be thinking about that on a bus ride next month, he’s gonna be thinking, like, literally, that’s a rocky moment. He’s got to get up. You know what I mean. And that’s why when I saw McDonald and Palmer sort of offering Twitter encouragement, I thought he might not be back for a while. And if he comes back the the pressure on him in July in August, that mounts if they give him the ball on a Tuesday night, and they’re in a pennant race, and he can’t go out with the seven era again. And I think every fan saw what happened on Friday. And just if there’s gonna be a recovery, I mean, that’s it’s a, it’s quite a knockout punch to their alleged number one starter, who we all had visions of sugar plums in August and him coming in and being Messina, right or whatever, being really good, being really good all summer, and being a part of a really good team. And it turns out, he hasn’t been really good. Still a really good team, but he’s not a part of it right now. And I think that that’s, that’s some cold water right now look that we would have had two weeks ago, really, and top Mullins on and means and all the rest of that. But the Rodriguez thing is a big deal.
Luke Jones 17:18
It is and it’s from the standpoint of what I was talking about a few minutes ago, where you’re kind of looking at this team and, gosh, they’ve been so successful, right? I mean, they’re, you know, even with this rough stretch over the weekend, even with the rough holiday weekend are still on pace to win over 100 games. You know, let’s put that in the proper perspective there the proper context. But when you’re looking in terms of okay, where are you as a club right now? And where are you going to be in July, August and September knowing the grind of a 162 game schedule, knowing how much pressure they put on their bullpen, not just in terms of innings. But how many close games this club constantly plays over the course. The first 54 games so we’re talking a third of the way through the season 48 of those decided by for poor runs are fewer now that’s wins or losses. So that’s telling you right there that Brandon Hyde is less inclined to go to his quote, low leverage relievers in in all those games, but you can’t pitch Batista and Cano and Brian Baker every single night Danny coulomb every single night. So
Nestor Aparicio 18:19
you can when you’re winning in the seventh inning, the Royals, you know, what a championship like that, right, you’ve
Luke Jones 18:24
got to win. You’ve got to have some blowouts. I mean, you just do in terms. Let me rephrase that. If you’re not going to have blowouts, you know, if you’re not going to mix in some blow at some luck. That can also mean some blow outs on the wrong side. Sometimes to some
Nestor Aparicio 18:38
of those Friday night, we started seeing pictures that were like, Oh, I’m seeing that guy
Luke Jones 18:42
blew up while we saw Ryan McKenna pitch tonight. And that’s the ultimate signal of let’s go home and live to fight another day. But, but if you’re gonna play all these close games, you need one of two things to happen. You need either as much bullpen depth as you can possibly find. Or you need your starters to start going a little bit deeper into games. And look, let’s be clear. A lot of this is by design that the starters don’t go as deep into games as they used to go look at how Tampa Bay handles thing, best handles things best team in baseball, record wise and got off to such a great start in April. And they’ve continued that for the most part. Although a few hiccups here and there maybe a little more of late, but they still continue to roll but go look how many innings their bullpen tosses I mean, go look at it. It’s by design. And you’re not asking too many pitchers in today’s game. There are some still, but you’re not asking too many pitchers in today’s game to go seven or eight innings anymore. I mean, that’s just the nature of the beast. Jim Palmer understands that. Right? Exactly. Jim Palmer will be the first to tell you that at this point in time whether he likes it or not. He understands the reality of where the game is in 2023. But it just makes things that much more difficult. So when I’m saying that not to be too long winded about it, when you get to July and August and September. Your thought is how are we going to be better than what we are right now, which has been really, really good through two months. It was looking at the potential of John means being back in the mix in July. And Grayson Rodriguez getting better.
Nestor Aparicio 20:15
And if they both were that Elias would need to deal some jam at the eight ball level to be thinking they’re not going to deal Jackson holiday, but but dealing, dealing from your depth, and then Mullins gets hurt. You need your you know, like, yeah, all of these things factor into say, if we had the cavalry coming over the hill from Norfolk or from buoy and we believe that in August Rodriguez and means we’re going to be not contributors. But like guys, who could give you five six innings three, four runs every fifth day be number two, three, for starters, good enough out there giving a chance to win every fifth day. Boy, you know, we had them in number two pencil, right. I mean, we had Grayson Rodriguez probably more and even deeper. We were getting the ink out for him and thinking he’s calm and he’s ready to go means I think we were always questioning as to what that was. And knowing at any point in injury can happen. Right?
Luke Jones 21:13
Yeah, I mean, an injury can happen anyone, as we saw, and we’ll, we’ll get into Cedric Mullins here in a little while, but I think when you look at it with with means, I think there was definitely a confidence that he could contribute. And I think he still can, but what does that look like? Does that look like John means tossing a no hitter in Seattle two years ago? Of course not. Right? It could be as a back end of the rotation guy. It could be a maybe a guy who’s contributing in the bullpen. And maybe you do it that way. You know, kind of what the Orioles did with Kevin Gasman in a postseason run way back when I mean, who knows again until he’s back.
Nestor Aparicio 21:47
That’s an important role. By the way. No, I’m not gonna let you just like, You know what I mean? Sure. You just mentioned like the bullpen and this and that it means could come and give you two innings every third day in August that we’re, you know, nice 6/5 sixth seventh innings and get get you to where you need to be when you’re up five to two or what, like, come on. I mean, that’s, that’s a big role to play that role. I mean, to your point, Elias is gonna have to give up a couple kids to get somebody to play that role. And Uncle John’s gonna have to pay some money for that.
Luke Jones 22:18
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I certainly I think, you know, I will. We’re still two months out from the trade deadline, but Elias was asked about that as he spoke to us reporters in the in the dugout on Friday, but you mentioned John means I’ll throw this out there. Maybe and I’m not saying long term. But maybe that’s Grayson Rodriguez his role in August and September, we saw it with Kevin Gasman.
Nestor Aparicio 22:40
Hush your mouth, you can’t do come on. You can’t You’re not let Are you allowed to say that out loud that he could go to the bullpen, the star
Luke Jones 22:48
Kevin Gasman did it. Okay, Kevin Kaufman was a highly regarded prospect and first round pick. And
Nestor Aparicio 22:54
look, I’m not saying that wasn’t hated. It didn’t.
Luke Jones 22:55
I mean, I don’t think in that moment. No. Did he hate the the general being, you know, the ping pong back and forth between on the Norfolk shuttle Yeah, he hated that. Sure. But, and look, let’s be clear, that’s not me trying to stifle or just put a ceiling on what Rodriguez can be this year, he could go back to Norfolk get himself straightened out in the matter of three or four starts and be back. Look, one thing that you mentioned, you talked about pitching in a pennant race. And, you know, there’s some resolve, there’s some mental toughness that goes into that, that goes into any player playing in a pennant race. The one thing that I’ve heard about him from the moment he was drafted back in 2018. Until now, is he’s strong mentally. And he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He has a growth mindset. He is someone who was added to his repertoire wasn’t just someone who threw hard as a high school pitcher and the Orioles you know, on the, on the at the very end of the Dan do cat era or real scouts loved him and said, Hey, let’s take this kid, he throws hard. And that’s that he’s had that growth mindset. So he’s gone through some adversity here. There’s no question about it. That doesn’t mean that he can’t make some relatively quick adjustments and be back here in a matter of a few weeks. You don’t count on that. And it goes back to what you said, to me, this just makes creates more urgency for the trade deadline to go add another pitcher to what they have. But that doesn’t mean that in the meantime, they won’t continue to win ballgames, and continue to be one of the very best teams in baseball and continue to have success. And that’s not to be gloom and doom about the weekend. It was a rough weekend. It was but three out of four, it’s going to happen to every team in baseball over the course of a season multiple times typically. So it’s where you exhale. Yeah, a couple things popped up over the weekend that are legitimate concern, and like I said that starting pitching upside has taken a little bit of a hit here. But that said, All is not lost. John means is not done for the year, and we’ll still see what he could potentially contribute in August and September, and in the case of grace and Rodri. You guys way too early to be overly discouraged about it. Let the kid reset take a deep breath for a few weeks and we’ll see what happens after that. Look, Joe
Nestor Aparicio 25:08
does eating hotdogs and watching baseball at all different times they just play the games whatever they want 7051 35 105 1130 whenever they want, they’re playing. Luke will be at the games and of course this weekend it’s 1035 1005 4005 I’m gonna be over Costas eaten crabs. I put this shirt on to remind myself that I haven’t had a crab this year yet I have literally not cracked open cut my fingers I haven’t done anything. And this weekend with the Royals playing the giants that he got this I’m gonna make a little crab and I’m not going to do an A Dungeness with Julio at San Francisco. But we’re gonna have a good time. This weekend each crabs over Costas. I remind everyone the Maryland crab cake Tour is presented by our friends at the Maryland lottery. I’ve been given these way I was up at the local and fallston had the greatest conversation ever with Clancy fancy Clancy Haskin, who I’ve known for 30 years sat down got his whole life story selling peanuts in 1974. And how you almost cry talking about Adam Jones bringing them down on the field, back during the celebration and 14. And so when I think of the World Series like in the terms of like the end of Major League, riding in the little cart with it with a little Oriole hat on the top, I want Clancy to ride out with Adley rutschman is what I want to do. It’s oddly enough when I was with Clancy he resembles Elrod enough that I feel like I’ve spent time with Elrod so Clancy and I got together at the local all brought to you by the marijuana we had some winners up there to some lucky people and fallston our friends at winter nation as well 866 90 nation by to get to free we have a new offer in June coming your way. I’ll be telling you more about that. As June gets underway on Nestor he’s Luke stay with this lot of baseball ahead some ravens and and a whole bunch of great conversations. We are Baltimore positive stay with us.