The Orioles are set to begin their 60-game regular season in Boston July 24 against the Red Sox, and though this season presents some unique challenges, MASN analysts and former Orioles Mike Bordick and Rick Dempsey believe it will be a beneficial experience for a young Orioles team.
Bordick played in Baltimore from 1997-2000, and after he was traded to the New York Mets in 2000, he returned for two more seasons (2001-2002). He was an All-Star shortstop in 2000, hitting .297/.350/.481 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs in 100 games with the Orioles.
This season will be played without fans (at least to start), but Bordick thinks players will view the season as a chance to be a part of an historic time in baseball, with new rules being introduced and players getting opportunities to shine.
Fanless games are “going to be tough on the players, but I think they’re going to derive their motivation from this short season with this incredible opportunity to do something unique in history,” Bordick said on Glenn Clark Radio July 15. “I think this year will be looked back at as something kind of special. We’ve never gone through this before. It’s unprecedented.”
A new rule designed to end extra-inning games faster than usual will be introduced this season. Once a game reaches the 10th inning, a runner will be placed on second base at the beginning of each inning. The runner will be the player in the batting order preceding the first batter scheduled to hit in the inning. If that runner scores, it will be considered an unearned run for the pitcher.
Dempsey was the Orioles’ starting catcher from 1976-1986 and returned to Baltimore in 1992. He was the MVP of the 1983 World Series, leading the Orioles to their third championship in franchise history. He hit .238/.319/.355 with 75 home runs and 355 RBI in 1,245 games in Baltimore.
Dempsey is not in favor of the rule change. He’s concerned it will negatively affect players, especially in unique cases such as a potential no-hitter or perfect game.
“What happens if a guy is throwing a no hitter or a perfect game and you got to put a guy at second base and he ends up losing on two ground balls?” Dempsey said on GCR July 16. “I just don’t like the change — the rhythm of the game, the rules of the game. It’s a little too much for me.”
Bordick said he’d encourage his players to bunt the runner over to third if he were managing.
“You’re going to be facing back-end bullpen arms that are throwing 98-99 with nasty sliders,” Bordick said. “… If it was a bottom-of-the-order type of hitter, someone I trusted to handle the bat, absolutely I would put the bunt on.”
“To me that’s a no-brainer, that’s for one run,” Bordick added.
Dempsey has been with MASN since 2007 and Bordick since 2012. Dempsey typically co-hosts the pre- and postgame show “O’s Xtra,” while Bordick works as an analyst during games. This season, Dempsey will contribute remotely. Bordick will be one of two primary analysts for MASN along with Ben McDonald.
Dempsey and Bordick are curious to see how certain players will develop in 2020. Two of the pitchers Dempsey is looking forward to watching are Hunter Harvey and Alex Cobb. Harvey, 25, pitched in seven games last season and finished with a 1.42 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Cobb, 32, missed most of last season with hip and knee injuries, but in four of his six seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays he started more than 20 games and won at least 10 contests.
“I want to see these young guys coming up from the minor leagues, I want to see what they’re really capable of doing,” Dempsey said. “I want to see Hunter Harvey out there on the mound closing games out. I want to see if Alex Cobb can return to the guy I remember we faced when he was a Tampa Bay Ray. I want to see things go in a positive direction for us. We’ve got a bunch of good young talent. We haven’t even come close yet to cracking how good some of these guys can be.”
Bordick focused more on the position players, particularly Chris Davis and Ryan Mountcastle. Davis had a strong showing during spring training, hitting .467/.615/1.067 with three home runs and nine RBIs in nine games. His production has declined precipitously since signing a seven-year, $161 million deal, but despite his recent struggles, Bordick thinks Davis has turned it around and expects improvement from the team’s longtime first baseman.
“Mentally he feels better. When a hitter feels good they’re going to be good,” Bordick said. “That was no fluke in spring training. … The pros are going to be tested because a lot of it is going to fall back on what they actually did the last three months.”
Mountcastle, the No. 4 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline, spent last season with Triple-A Norfolk. He hit .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs in 127 games, earning International League MVP honors. Bordick expects the left fielder to get a chance this season in the majors.
“At some point I think they’re going to have to challenge him at the major-league level,” Bordick said. “I think his bat will play there; the last couple spring trainings he’s been impressive with the bat. He was the MVP in Triple-A. That’s saying a ton about his bat’s potential.”
For more from Bordick, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Dempsey, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox, Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles, Scott Sears/Norfolk Tides