Twelve Orioles Thoughts following 10-game homestand

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With the Orioles concluding their longest homestand of the season and beginning a road trip in Toronto, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Thursday was a frustrating way to end the homestand with the offense squandering early opportunities and a bullpen “a little on fumes” faltering late. Still, that a four-game split and a 6-4 mark at home felt somewhat disappointing illustrates how far this club has come over the last year. 

2. If you haven’t seen Shohei Ohtani pitch and hit in the same game in person, take the opportunity wherever and whenever you can. As a lifelong baseball fan, I’ve never been more amazed by someone’s talents. Remember Babe Ruth was a two-way player for only a couple years.

3. It doesn’t take much for Ohtani and Mike Trout to soil an outing, but Tyler Wells registered a career-high 19 swinging strikes Thursday after inducing 18 against Pittsburgh. His fastball velocity doesn’t wow you, but his spin rate and 6-foot-8 frame make that a tough pitch to handle. 

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4. Cedric Mullins leading the Orioles in RBIs while mostly hitting in the leadoff spot speaks to how good he’s been at the plate and improved lineup depth. The ovation he received after hitting for the cycle last Friday was one of the finest organic moments at Camden Yards in years.

5. I’m not sure what else to say about Yennier Cano, who has allowed four hits and no walks while striking out 25 of the 67 batters he’s faced. He’ll eventually look mortal, but this stretch is as remarkable as anything I’ve seen from a reliever over a month’s time. 

6. The Orioles will and should remain patient with Grayson Rodriguez. His changeup has been his best pitch, but opponents are batting .390 and slugging .746 off his fastball, per Statcast. Though not questioning his health, I still maintain last year’s three-month absence disrupted his development more than many anticipated. 

7. Gunnar Henderson hasn’t started 2023 the way anyone hoped, but the contact has been harder the last couple weeks and he’s still managing a .342 on-base percentage and a .711 on-base plus slugging percentage despite batting below the Mendoza line. Patience will pay off. 

8. Kyle Bradish appears to be hitting his stride after back-to-back outings of one run allowed over six-plus innings. He’s also missing more bats in May than he did in April — 14% compared to 10% of his pitches — after his unfortunate early stint on the injured list. 

9. Sunday marks one year since Adley Rutschman made his major league debut, and the Orioles have gone 95-71 since he was promoted. Baseball is a sport driven by individual matchups, of course, but there’s no disputing him being a force multiplier for this organization. Everything changed after his arrival.

10. Since looking like an MVP candidate in April, Jorge Mateo has gone 5-for-47 since the calendar turned to May. Brandon Hyde acknowledged the gifted shortstop is still dealing with leg soreness, and consistency remains key for him after his surprising 2022 campaign. 

11. I’m not sure how much longer the Orioles can keep Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser at Triple-A Norfolk with the way those two have produced for the Tides. Figuring out the roster crunch is a good problem, but there are only so many at-bats to go around, of course. 

12. I avoid critiquing attendance beyond pointing out the significant damage done to this fan base over the last 25 years, but even with the boost from Field Trip Day, drawing an announced 27,778 for a Thursday afternoon game was a pleasant surprise. The improved energy at the ballpark is great. 

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