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Twelve Orioles Thoughts counting down to All-Star break

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With the Orioles finishing off a 4-2 West Coast trip and in first place entering the final week before the All-Star break, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Since their five-game losing streak, the Orioles have won eight of 11 to move from two games back to three up in the AL East. Even the elite teams experience a bad week or two over a 162-game season. The key is not letting such struggles fester for a month

2. That’s exactly what’s happened to the second-place New York Yankees, who have dropped 15 of 20 and haven’t won a series in nearly a month. Baltimore would clinch the head-to-head season tiebreaker by taking two out of three this weekend. Meanwhile, Boston is now lurking in New York’s rearview mirror. 

3. Corbin Burnes was an All-Star no-brainer. In lieu of starting twice more before the break, he’s scheduled to pitch Wednesday with an extra rest day, making him a candidate to start the Midsummer Classic. However, his wife recently had twins, so Burnes skipping the exhibition altogether wouldn’t be shocking.

4. The “snub” descriptor is overused in All-Star debates, but Jordan Westburg’s positional versatility apparently didn’t help. Rafael Devers and Isaac Paredes — the latter being Tampa Bay’s lone representative — getting the nod at third base was understandable, but Westburg was the better choice over Marcus Semien among AL second basemen.

5. On May 19, Craig Kimbrel registered his first save in two-plus weeks after temporarily losing the closer job while Yankees closer Clay Holmes logged his 20th straight scoreless appearance. Since then, Holmes has pitched to a 6.75 ERA, making his All-Star nod over both Kimbrel and Boston’s Kenley Jansen curious.

6. I chuckled seeing many who were expressing much angst about Kimbrel as recently as a couple weeks ago now crying foul about his All-Star exclusion. The 36-year-old has been excellent since mid-May and has converted three one-run saves — which had been a talking point recently — over the last 10 days. 

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7. Next week will mark one year since Grayson Rodriguez was recalled from the minors. Since returning, he’s gone 16-5 with a 3.10 ERA in 29 regular-season starts covering 171 1/3 innings. He’s averaged 9.35 strikeouts, 2.68 walks, and 0.68 home runs allowed per nine innings. That’s outstanding. 

8. Heston Kjerstad wasted no time helping the Orioles put an embarrassing Saturday loss behind them with a three-run shot for a 4-0 first-inning lead over Oakland. I fully expect Brandon Hyde to keep playing all of his outfielders, but Kjerstad continues taking advantage of his opportunities. 

9. Prior to Saturday’s disastrous showing, Cade Povich hadn’t been hit particularly hard, but the swing-and-miss stuff he displayed against Atlanta last month has been too fleeting. It’s difficult envisioning him sticking in the second-half rotation without showing improved command and missing more bats. His margin for error is too small.

10. If you want Mike Elias to pony up the prospects to acquire Garrett Crochet from the White Sox and then attempt to manage his second-half workload, I’m at least making Detroit hang up on me 20 times about Tarik Skubal, who’s been the AL’s best pitcher over the last year. 

11. Is the starting pitcher that Elias ultimately acquires going to be closer to Kyle Bradish or Dean Kremer in terms of quality and upside. Make no mistake, fortifying this rotation is critical, but are you realistically adding someone who’s going to confidently navigate a lineup three times in October? 

12. The uncertain answer to that question is why adding two serious bullpen pieces remains my bigger priority. Each of the four World Series participants over the last two years used roughly four relievers per game over their respective runs. Who are those top four for Baltimore right now? 

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