This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver–Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. Count me among those who are puzzled by the way the Orioles have handled Dylan Bundy this season. Entering the campaign, there was no real plan for Bundy’s workload. That’s been proven throughout the long, hot summer. Bundy is up to 169.2 IP after Monday’s outing against the Red Sox, and there are apparently no plans for him to stop pitching down the stretch.
I have no clue as to why the O’s would continue to throw the 24-year-old out there with nothing to play for. Throughout the season, I’ve been one of the most vocal in questioning Buck Showalter leaving Bundy in games with a high pitch count. It’s not that I think he can’t handle it, but more a question of why they would push him.
Bundy is still a young arm coming off Tommy John surgery, so there always has to be a consideration for his health going forward. Bundy knows his body best, and I’m sure he wouldn’t put himself in harm’s way intentionally.
But the team has some responsibility here to be cautious, especially when the games mean nothing.
2. I’m brainstorming ways to have Kevin Gausman start his 2018 season after the All-Star break. That appears to be when he figures it out. Or perhaps if he starts pitching in December, by the time April rolls around he’ll be good to go.
Either way, second-half Kevin Gausman is the pitcher the Orioles want to see going forward. He has been a joy to watch, just as he was in the second half of 2016. As it stands, Gausman and Bundy are the only stone-cold locks for the rotation next season. Having those two as the anchors is something O’s fans likely dreamed of just a few short years ago, but now they have to prove it.
Both showed great promise this year, but both also showed a propensity to struggle mightily. They’ll both be crucial to any hopes the Birds will have to compete next season.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
3. We very well may be seeing the swan song for J.J. Hardy in Baltimore. Hardy got his second start last night as Tim Beckham was out following a dental procedure. All signs point to Beckham taking over for Hardy as this team’s shortstop going forward.
While there were a lot of questions about the Beckham trade at the deadline, it appears on the surface to have been a bit of a savvy move for the future. The Orioles will be able to pretty easily transition from the aging Hardy. While Beckham is no blue-chipper, he is a former first-overall pick with tons of talent.
His career certainly hasn’t gone perfectly as planned, but he could be in line for a nice re-birth in Baltimore.
4. The biggest question for the Orioles entering the winter has nothing to do with the roster. It remains the future of Dan Duquette, and what exactly this team’s plans are going forward. The organization needs to quickly figure out if Duquette is sticking around, and for that matter, if manager Buck Showalter is as well.
It’s been fairly well-documented through numerous unconfirmed reports (mostly from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal) that Duquette and Showalter don’t see eye-to-eye very often. There needs to be some hugs and hand-pounds between the two if there is to be any productivity.
Part of the larger issue for the Orioles and their roster construction is that there never seems to be a direction. The Beckham trade is perhaps the most obvious answer of fixing a roster issue entering next season, but there are still many questions.
If Duquette is making the decisions for the direction of this franchise, it’d be nice to know he’s doing it with a purpose.
5. Tragedy struck the Orioles organization once again this past weekend with the sudden death of minor leaguer Miguel Gonzalez. The 21-year-old pitcher was killed in an automobile accident in his native Dominican Republic. Sadly, he joins a growing list of baseball players killed in the same manor. Promising Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Tavares both lost their lives in crashes in the DR. In January of last year, Orioles’ infielder Ramon Ramirez was killed in a motorcycle accident there.
I’m not smart enough to have answers for how to fix this problem, which appears to be growing. I just know that it’s tragic to be losing any life so regularly in this way.