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Five things to watch for as Orioles begin spring training

Five things to watch for as Orioles begin spring training

As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Tuesday for the Orioles, there are still a few burning questions for a franchise in the second full year of a new regime, led by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. 

Baltimore has 67 players in camp in Sarasota, Florida, meaning there’s a newfound excitement for top prospects and the potential for growth throughout the organization. 

Here are five things to watch for with the Orioles now in camp:

1. Adley Rutschman’s first spring training

As with any discussion about the Orioles, the conversation starts with Adley Rutschman. 

The 2019 first overall pick is in his first MLB spring training where he’ll get major league coaching for the first time — manager Brandon Hyde expects that to impact him as much as anything in Florida. 

With an MLB ETA of 2021, according to MLB.com, baseball’s No. 4 prospect will join the Orioles as the face of the rebuild. While he won’t join the Orioles out of camp, the first look at the 22-year-old catcher in major league will be an exciting one for Orioles fans. 

He played 20 games in short-season A-ball with Aberdeen last season and 12 in full-season A-ball with Delmarva and slashed .325/.413/.481 and .154/.261/.333, respectively. 

2. Outfield conundrum

Austin Hays appears set to patrol centerfield, Trey Mancini is the team rightfielder and Anthony Santander is in left. The starting outfield, for now, looks set. 

From there, it gets tricky. 

Dwight Smith Jr. is in the mix, as is Cedric Mullins and Stevie Wilkerson. Smith had a strong start to the season but cooled as the year wore on, while Wilkerson is available to play all three positions. 

The outfield is a strength, but exactly how they’ll use those puzzle pieces remains to be seen.

3. Starting rotation

With John Means and Alex Cobb — now healthy — seemingly set for the rotation, there’s an opening for additions to the starting five for the Orioles. And Elias said last week there’s still potential to add an arm to the starting rotation. 

Keegan Akin, a 24-year-old left-hander, is likely to start the season in Triple-A with Norfolk, meaning there are a few spots left to fill. Asher Wojciechowski had a 4.92 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP to eat up some innings last season for the Orioles and could join the rotation. 

After that? There’s a handful of names that could vie for innings in an Orioles pitching staff that allowed a 5.59 ERA and MLB record 305 home runs in 2019.

4. What to do with Chris Davis?

Chris Davis presents perhaps the most interesting, and perhaps darkest, scenario of the 2020 Orioles season. 

Signed to a seven-year 161 million dollar contract, Davis has not only not lived up to that deal, he hasn’t come close. He’s got three more years on his contract, and with prospects slowly making the rise to the big league, he’s going to get in the way of development. 

Davis slashed .179/.276/.326 last season in 105 games, including an 0-for-54 start to the season. He made slight improvements from his 2018 season, but not enough to become a productive player for the Orioles in the short-term. 

He’ll be 34 years old at the start of the season and isn’t in the team’s future plans. How the organization will manage Davis, who will be owed deferred money until 2037, will be one of the top storylines of the season. If he continues to trend downward, there will be a decision to make when it comes to whether or not to buy Davis out of his final years. 

The better Davis plays, the more palatable it will be to keep him around. If it trends for the worse, and there will be decisions to make.

5. There will be losing, but how much?

The Orioles, as an organization, aren’t making any false promises about how they expect the team to fare in 2020. 

Baltimore lost more than 100 games in each of the last two seasons and another triple-digit loss season is likely on the way. But how much is too much?

The Orioles will be in contention for the league’s No. 1 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft and aren’t going to be bogged down by the success of the big league club. As for how long the fans stay involved is another question, but with the team committed completely to the rebuild, there’s good reason to believe that the losses won’t matter much to the organization as a whole.

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Orioles reliever Paul Fry joins ‘The List’ to make the case for his favorite movie

Orioles reliever Paul Fry joins ‘The List’ to make the case for his favorite movie

With the world at a standstill due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there’s been plenty of time for off-beat debates on social media and within self-quarantined homes alike.

Orioles reliever Paul Fry joined D.C. Sports Live’s segment “The List” to make his pitch for one of the oldest debates in the book: the best move of all-time.

Fry argued for his favorite, “Pulp Fiction.” The 1994 crime drama starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson tops the list for Fry because even though “it’s a long movie [and] it’s confusing sometimes, but it keeps you interactive and I like it a lot.”

His choice went up against “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Nick Ashooh), “The Neverending Story” (Wes Hall) and “The Notebook” (Alexa Shaw).

Which choice do you believe is the most deserving of the title of best movie of all time? Join the conversation on Twitter with @NBCSWashington and @DCSports_Live.

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Cal Ripken Jr. remembers the night he broke the MLB consecutive games record

Cal Ripken Jr. remembers the night he broke the MLB consecutive games record

The night Orioles legend and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played record is etched into the memories of fans everywhere. Not just in Baltimore, but across baseball, fans remember Ripken's fourth inning home run, his lap around the stadium, and his moments with his family on the night he finally reached game number 2,131.

Those memories, of course, are also cherished by Ripken himself.

The man whose streak saved baseball joined ESPN's social platforms Tuesday night ahead of the network's airing of his big game. During the 30-minute interview, Ripken touched on a wide range of memories from that night and beyond.

In addition to discussing his big night, Ripken also wanted to introduce his brand new Twitter account. The Orioles star caved in to starting a social presence in order to promote the efforts of his foundation, named after his father, to help give back to people going hungry during issues stemming from the novel coronavirus.

Ripken his hoping their efforts can help #StrikeOutHunger, and hopes people will follow him on Twitter and help donate to the cause, something he dives in to more at the end of the interview.

Here are the most interesting moments touched on by the man whose name is synonymous with Baltimore.

On the chatter from fellow players during the 1995 season

"I don’t think there was really much chatter," Ripken explained. "I think everybody thought they were going to jinx it if they talked about it, like no-hitter, so nobody really talked about the streak...I tried to spend more time with the fans, but obviously there was more on my plate."

There was a lot going on that season for Ripken. In addition to the streak, he was also dealing with the repercussions of the previous season's strike. 

It was fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor who gave no. 8 some much-needed advice.

"As it got closer to the date, I remember Paul Molitor saying ‘just surrender to the process, enjoy it, let it go, have fun with it,’ and that was pretty good advice, because I have a controlling personality," Ripken continued. "I want to control things, I don’t want to let it affect my teammates, I want to keep things normal. That was pretty good advice, just go with the flow, let it happen and enjoy it."

On the morning of September 6, 1995

"Well I didn't get home until the middle of the night," Ripken said when asked about the night before and morning of his record-setting game. "We did some interviews after the record-tying game, 2130, which had a program all to itself. I got home late, obviously you’re not ready to go to sleep, but the next day was my daughter’s first day of school. So I got up and took her to school, dropped her off, that was how my day started. So again, you’re looking for the most normal things, you don’t want to do anything different than you’d done before.

Ripken was quick to emphasize how he didn't want to let the streak change how he approached his life.

"I wasn’t any more careful," he continued. "I didn’t do anything the whole time all the time the streak was going on, and Tim Kurkjian can attest to this. I didn’t stop playing basketball, I wasn’t safe in anything I did. Just try to live your life, and whatever happens, happens."

On the iconic home run he hit the inning before the game became official

"So I was ready on that 3-0 pitch," he said with a smile. He grooved a fastball, and I got every bit of it. It was one of those that feels really good off your bat, and you know it’s gone the second you hit it."

On the lap around the field

"People went nuts, it was a really great idea to do that," Ripken began on the unfolding of the 2,131 banners on the warehouse in right field. "I just kept saying 'thank you, thank you, thank you,' and everyone kept clapping, clapping, clapping. So when they pushed me around the ballpark I was thinking ‘let me do this real quick’ to get the game started again. But once you start it, running around the stadium, I couldn’t care less if the game ever started again.'

Kurkjian, one of the hosts of the pregame show Tuesday, shared a nugget after Ripken's story. 

The man of the hour had to be pushed out of the dugout by his teammates. He ran onto the field to begin his lap at exactly 9:31 p.m. or, as it's known in military time, 21:31.

On the baseball legends in attendance to watch him

“It’s one of those things where you get a chance to interact with them a little bit,” Ripken said when asked about Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Joe DiMaggio - who played with Lou Gehrig - being at Camden Yards that night. “But as the game’s going on you’ve got some things to do. So I wish I would have had the chance to sit down with Hank or sit down with Joe D. a little bit more, but my job was to do the baseball thing. But I was very, very proud and very honored that they were there.”

On the moment shared with his dad

"If you remember, there was some question whether Dad was even going to come. When Dad was let go, he said ‘okay you don’t want me anymore, I’m not coming back.’ It’s sort of a stubborn, old-school view," Ripken remembered. "I always thought he was, but there was some doubt in my mind that he was going to come back. So he was up in my skybox at the time, and as the celebration was going on, I was looking around saying thank you to everyone I could see, and I did catch my dad’s eye."

The two couldn't speak during that moment, but the bond between father and son was enough for them to share everything they needed to.

"He wasn’t someone that would say I love you, and explain all his feelings towards you in a way. That was not who he was," Ripken said. "But in that moment where I caught his eye and pointed at him, there were 1,000 words that screamed in between him and I that was very meaningful, very powerful.

Ripken summed up his experience well early in the interview.

"As the spotlight shone on all of us, I wanted to play well," he said. "I wanted the team to play well. I wanted it to be meaningful."

For so many reasons for both legions of fans and Ripken himself, "meaningful" might be the best possible word to describe that perfect night at the ballpark.

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