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Twelve Orioles Thoughts following three-game sweep over Minnesota

With the Orioles completing a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins to improve to 12-6 on Wednesday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Cedric Mullins began the series with a phenomenal diving catch to save a run on Monday night and finished it with the first walk-off home run of his career. Now healthy after a challenging 2023 season, the center fielder called it a “pretty complete series.” I’d say so. 

2. A week before Opening Day, Mike Elias said Albert Suarez was “looking like a hell of a signing” who could help Baltimore at some point. That lively mid-90s fastball induced 11 whiffs on 27 swings as he limited the Twins to three hits over 5 2/3 shutout innings. Impressive. 

3. The 29-year-old Mullins hadn’t yet debuted the last time Suarez pitched in the majors on Sept. 26, 2017. Adley Rutschman was an unknown at Oregon State while Jackson Holliday was 13 years old. We quickly forget most of the baseball games we watch, but Suarez’s unlikely day was pretty special. 

4. The Orioles needed Suarez’s effort as Twins starter Pablo Lopez retired 18 of 19 hitters after allowing a leadoff homer to Gunnar Henderson. Rocco Baldelli pulling Lopez after 87 pitches really did Baltimore a favor as Anthony Santander homered off Steven Okert in the seventh. 

5. Gunnar Henderson continues to crush the ball and is looking more and more like someone with the potential to become a league MVP. Despite how impressive the 22-year-old’s numbers are, you still feel like there’s room for improvement, which is scary for the rest of baseball. 

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6. Meanwhile, Jordan Westburg is second on the club in extra-base hits as the power he displayed in the minors is now showing up in his first full major league season. Over his current six-game hitting streak, the 25-year-old is 11-for-23 with four extra-base hits. 

7. On Tuesday, the Orioles improved to 8-0 in games started by Corbin Burnes or Grayson Rodriguez with Baltimore outscoring opponents by a 66-24 margin. Say what you want about the rest of the current rotation, but that 1-2 punch has been as advertised. 

8. You hope going on the road will help Holliday, who is 1-for-25 with 14 strikeouts in his first seven games. There’s no reason for big-picture panic, but the 20-year-old could really use a couple broken-bat bloops or swinging bunts for hits as he tries to adjust to the majors.

9. It’s easy to focus on the homegrown talent, but Ryan O’Hearn has picked up where he left off in 2023 and reflects the organization’s ability to find players who’ve struggled elsewhere and help tweak their approach to find success. He has seven extra-base hits in 52 plate appearances.  

10. FanGraphs wrote an interesting piece on the sustainability of Craig Kimbrel’s red-hot start, so it’s been encouraging to see his fastball velocity tick up recently. Another high-leverage arm for the bullpen would go a long way, but the 35-year-old is pitching very well. 

11. One wondered if the return of John Means was imminent, but the 30-year-old lefty retired only one batter in his fourth rehab start on Wednesday. Means has allowed 15 runs, 14 hits, five homers, and five walks in 7 1/3 innings at Triple-A Norfolk. Suarez should make another start.

12. Reports were encouraging for Kyle Bradish in his first rehab start. We’ll see if he returns to action successfully, but Means — now two years removed from Tommy John surgery — illustrates why you don’t just “get it over with” if avoiding surgery is viable. Returns aren’t always smooth sailing. 

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