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View from the other side: Orioles questions for Mark Brown of Camden Chat

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We start a three-game series with the Orioles in Baltimore today. The Orioles are 4-6. They are coming off a 3-1 series win with the Yankees. They won 2 extra innings games, one 14 inning and yesterday’s went 12.

I sent off some questions to Mark Brown from Camden Chat and he was nice enough to answer them.

Like most teams, the Orioles had a fairly quiet off season. Can you tell us about what changes have been made since the end of last season? I’m sorry we are going to miss our old friend Colby Rasmus, with him on the DL.

The Orioles waited until after spring training started to really get serious about their starting rotation search, adding Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman in February and familiar AL East foe Alex Cobb towards the start of the regular season. The new starting rotation is the biggest difference with the team. You might also get a look at catching prospect Chance Sisco during this series. Almost everything else is going to feel familiar from last year.

What do you expect from the Orioles this year? Can they surprise us and battle for a wild card spot?

You’ve caught me feeling almost slightly optimistic after the Orioles pulled off some unlikely victories and took three out of four games against the Yankees to get themselves moving in the right direction again. So, can they battle for a wild card spot? Sure, maybe. A lot still has to go right, particularly with that starting rotation, which can’t be taxing the bullpen as much as it has done so far, and they will need players like Tim Beckham and Jonathan Schoop to perform better than they have done over the first ten games.

I still think the Orioles will be good enough to tell themselves they’re in the wild card race, but probably not good enough to actually be in the wild card race.

Like the Jays with Josh Donaldson, the Orioles have their biggest star coming on free agency. What do you think will happen with Manny Machado? Will he be traded? Is it possible they will re-sign him?

There are two kinds of Orioles fans: Those who have accepted that Manny Machado will soon be gone and those who haven’t. If the team is bad in July, that departure must happen before the trade deadline. If the team is in the race, or “in the race”, then it will happen next offseason. Might it be possible that the O’s manage to re-sign him once he becomes a free agent? Sure, in a very broad “Anything is possible!” sense. No Orioles fan should stake any portion of their happiness on that outcome.

If not Machado, who would you bet on to be the Orioles MVP this year?

After his first two starts, my knee-jerk response to this question is to say Dylan Bundy. However, even though he’s been good against a couple of good teams so far, it remains to be seen whether Bundy can consistently perform while getting only regular rest. He was notably better on extra rest last season. O’s fans are hoping that his early season performance is a sign that he’s on the way to becoming the ace that the team envisioned when they drafted him in 2011.

Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to face?

The aforementioned Bundy is coming up in the first game. He’s said to be unleashing his cutter/slider more this season, which has been his best pitch going back to when he was drafted. Bundy’s no longer working with the fastball velocity that he had as an amateur since getting Tommy John surgery and battling a shoulder problem.

Andrew Cashner awaits on Tuesday night. The Orioles signed the veteran after a year where he had ERA-level success for the Rangers while working with dangerous-looking peripherals - specifically, a 4.6 K/9 with a 3.5 BB/9. Those numbers just don’t equal sustained success in today’s MLB. It’s too early to say whether he’s going to have that pattern again this year. Cashner has turned in one good start and one bad one.

Kevin Gausman, the Wednesday starter, is going to be a more familiar name for Jays fans. He, too, has had one good start and one bad start so far this year. He is seldom good in the first half of the season in his career. Gausman had a good track record against the Jays last year, posting a 1.51 ERA in six starts.

With Zach Britton on the DL, who takes the closer role in his place? What’s Britton’s injury and when do you expect him back?

So far, Brad Brach has been getting the save situations with Britton on the disabled list. They have been more exciting than Orioles fans would like, including yesterday’s bonkers win in New York, where Brach faced the bases loaded with no one out in the 12th and pulled off a Houdini act to preserve the one-run lead and pick up the save.

Britton tore his Achilles while doing sprints back in December and had to get surgery to repair it. He could be back as soon as May, although a June return seems more likely - just in time for him to build up some trade value if the Orioles end up needing to sell at the deadline.

Chris Davis had a pretty poor 2017. Do you think he can bounce back this year? What is the plan if he can’t bounce back?

The early indicators are that Chris Davis is not in line for a bounce back 2018. He battled forearm soreness in spring training that cost him key prep time in getting himself up to game speed, and the .100 batting average that he’s carrying after the first week and a half looks to be exactly what he is capable of accomplishing right now. I don’t know when that is going to change. As far as the Orioles plan if he cannot bounce back, it will be to pay him another $115 million until some day they are rid of him. Don’t sign first basemen to expensive contracts!

Thanks Mark.