For rebuilding Orioles, 'money question' after bad performances is balancing development and consequences

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

In the late innings of the Orioles' 12-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday night, at least before catcher Jesús Sucre took the mound and rescued the sad in the name of the silly, was another in a series of snapshots that illustrate the balance manager Brandon Hyde and his coaches must strike in the first full season of this rebuilding campaign.

As left-hander Tanner Scott and right-hander Miguel Castro, two of the most electric arms on the team, allowed four runs apiece and didn't finish their assigned innings of relief, Hyde said the "money question" for the Orioles staff is how to focus on development while not letting a season with low expectations make such outings consequence-free.

"That's something you're constantly reminding yourself of," Hyde said. "You want to win, right? I've been to the postseason four years in a row [with the Chicago Cubs], and we want to win, and it feels good to win. Nights like last night, or how we've been playing at home, is tough.

"There's been a few games where it's gotten away from us. We're going to have more games like that. It doesn't make it OK."

The key, Hyde said, is "we all have to hold ourselves accountable." That takes different forms with different players, especially considering the relatively low stakes of this 2019 season, with player development of most interest to the Orioles' new front office and coaching staff.

It's a balance the Orioles hope that a staff full of longtime minor league coaches will be familiar with, having worked in development-focused environments. It just became more apparent than ever with Scott and Castro on Monday.

"Guys with great stuff and show flashes, now it's the consistency part of pitching in the big leagues and playing in the big leagues that's really, really challenging," Hyde said. "A lot of guys have the stuff and a lot of guys have the physical talent. Now, it's being able to be consistent at the big league level, and I think that's just something we stay with as coaches, and you just try to continue to boost confidence and coach and pat on the back, and maybe some tough conversations at times also, but that's our job, honestly, to be able to try to reach guys like that. We're doing the best we can."

Some situations require different approaches, but any required amount of patience was tested Monday. For Castro, there's two-plus years worth of evidence in an Orioles uniform that his mid-to-high-90s mph sinker, backed up by a slider and changeup, can get major league hitters out. Even if he doesn't miss bats nearly as often as someone with that stuff would be expected to, he can get ground balls and weak contact.

That hasn't been true this year, as his hard-contact rate is 52.3%, according to Statcast data from Baseball-Savant.com. He's also been uncharacteristically wild, as evidenced by his two walks and three wild pitches as he allowed four runs on five hits Monday.

Castro said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón that he and the coaching staff think they know why he's been so wild.

"The difference that I've noticed right now is as I'm going toward home plate, I'm a little bit too low, not as tall as I used to be," Castro said. "That's what I'm working on, trying to improve that."

With his release point lower, Castro has trouble making his pitches do what he wants, and the result is he's either wild outside the strike zone or too hittable in it.

"These are things that happen to us as baseball players, the ups and downs, the struggles," Castro said. "It's a difficult time right now, but every day is an opportunity to make the adjustment and pitch better. Unfortunately, I'm in a bad situation, but I think I'm going to get over it quickly."

For Scott, the good times are much more recent. He struck out five of the six batters he faced Saturday against the Minnesota Twins, but gave up four runs (two earned) on four hits as he pitched too much over the plate Monday.

"I've just got to be more consistent with making sure it goes inside and I hit my spots away instead of missing more in the middle of the plate," Scott said.

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