Saturday, November 26, 2022

Orioles reset: As excitement builds on streak, Baltimore Brass recall turning point with Astros, Cubs

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As executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias made sure to point out, no team is the same. But if they’re not exactly the same, at least there are similarities — the kind that can be seen when the reconstruction is close to the result.

Whether in Houston, Elias served as the Astros’ amateur scouting director in 2015, or in Chicago in 2014, when Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was part of the Cubs’ coaching staff. The similarities between these teams and Baltimore in 2022 are strikingly similar so far, leading the Orioles think tank to recall the growing excitement surrounding an organization and what it’s like to feel it again.

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These two rebuilds in Chicago and Houston led to World Series titles just a few years later. In Baltimore, announcing the end of the rebuild would be beyond reality, especially with the trade deadline looming and some veterans, like right-hander Jordan Lyles or first baseman Trey Mancini, likely to be moved.

But for now — eight straight and 0.500 games — there’s at least a feeling Hyde and Elias have had before.

“The second half of ’14, we got younger, more athletic, and got some prospects out there — surrounded by veterans — and we think that’s probably going to be pretty good in the future,” Hyde said. “Honestly, it’s happening faster than we thought. We’re playing a much more exciting brand of baseball, and to me, that’s what we’ve done this year, not in the past.”

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On Friday, for example, a unique combination of veterans and young talent was on display in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels. Rougned Odor, who played in his ninth season and had more than 4,000 appearances, started his comeback with a single. Adley Rutschman, who played less than 200 times in his first season, brought him into the game with doubles.

Then Cedric Mullins pulled the tie before Mancini provided another signature moment as the longest-serving Orioles – and he probably won’t hold the distinction for much longer.

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“It’s an incredible balance,” Mancini said. “We have a lot of young, exciting players who bring a lot of energy and then some of our older players who have been around for a while and we feed on those players, but we also try to get from our years of experience. Some advice from the experience to play. It’s been really good this year, very good. The atmosphere here is really good and the camaraderie is great.”

Right-hander Tyler Wells has emerged as a surprising top contributor to pitching, but he’s leaning more toward left-handed John Means and Lyles. He valued the experience, and he often hung out with Lyles.

On Father’s Day, rookie right-hander Kyle Bradish had the idea to create a jersey for Lyles featuring the veteran’s face and the words: “Ever The best dad.” Most employees wear them. Wells also has a new Lyles shirt in his repertoire.

“I think it’s a good balance of experience and youth, and things are going very well now,” Wells said. “And I think a lot of the really good teams you see in the majors are a combination of that.”

That’s also something that could be lost at the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Asked if he was concerned that trading certain veteran balls would disrupt the positive mood at the club, Elias avoided the prompt and said generally.

“We considered everything,” Elias said. “There’s always a trade-off in what you do or don’t do, and I oversee our baseball business very seriously and very carefully. We ultimately have to do things or don’t do things, and there’s a lot going on in the final decision we make.”

Still, even Elias could feel it. When the Astros took off in 2015, he didn’t show up much on the team because he was the director of amateur scouting, but the “surprising nature” of his progress on the court then and now is A major similarity.

As the MLB draft looms, there is a familiar sense of excitement. Houston had two top-five picks that year and the largest prize pool in baseball history. Now with the Orioles, he has another No. 1 overall pick and the second-largest prize pool after him with the Astros.

Such off-market metrics only add to the feeling of similarity between then and now. It works in Chicago and Houston. In Baltimore, however, everything that is about to happen is just a hunch.

“The team played well and the whole organization was in good shape,” Elias said. “It reminds me of how I feel right now, no matter what our winning or losing record is over the next few weeks or months.”

What will happen

Hyde will return at Wrigley Field, where he will face the Cubs for the first time as Orioles head coach. Then Baltimore took off to face the Tampa Bay Rays, a game that could have a major wild-card impact — the Orioles finished two games against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday for their final playoff berth.

The two series end in the first half, with the All-Star Game on July 19 and the MLB draft starting on July 17.

what is good

defense. Mullins in midfield finds the ball in almost every game and has a net gem. When right-hander Dean Kramer tried to clear the fifth inning unscathed on Saturday, a crucial double-double helped him out of the woods.

In the case of second baseman, third baseman Tyler Nevin threw the diamond in the first inning. Mancini then fired back at Nevin and his tag completed the double. Those moments helped the pitcher put up impressive numbers in his eight-game winning streak.

what is not

Outfielder Austin Hayes had the day off Sunday as his right wrist was still sore from one of his dives against the Chicago White Sox and the subsequent pitch. Since the injury, his offensive ability has taken a hit.

In his last 12 games, Hayes is .109 with 11 strikeouts. He’s still averaging a .261 this season and has been one of the most consistent producers, but his late slip didn’t help his chances of an All-Star nomination.

In the farm

Right-hander Matt Harvey’s 60-game ban has ended, with the 33-year-old making his debut for Norfolk’s Triple-A on Friday. In 5 2/3 innings, he allowed two runs, four walks and three strikeouts on four hits. Harvey started 28 games for the Orioles last season and could return to Baltimore sometime this year if needed.

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