From 12 options to 9, Orioles rotation competition takes shape with 10 spring training games remaining – The Denver Post

Mike Baumann was the first. Who could be next?

Baumann Thursday became the first Orioles starting pitcher to learn from the coaching staff that he was being moved to a bullpen role. With nine starters still in contention to start the season in the rotation, it’s likely more will be turned into relievers.

What must first be settled, however, is who the club’s five starters will be to open the campaign. While the top five in February remain in a prime position to claim those spots, there are still about two rounds left in the rotation before spring training ends.

The Orioles began spring training with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias saying 12 pitchers would be competing for the starting rotation. Three of those names – Baumann, Drew Rom and DL Hall – are no longer options to break camp in the rotation. Rom was picked last week, while Hall, who has yet to appear in an exhibition this spring, won’t be strengthened enough to start major league play in early April.

That leaves nine pitchers theoretically competing for the remaining spots: the five with inside runs – Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez – and four others who combined to start 73 games for the club in 2022 – Tyler Wells, Spenser Watkins, Austin Voth and Bruce Zimmermann.

“[Baumann] is really the only guy we took out of the mix,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Everyone else – Bradish, Kremer, Irvin, Grayson, Gibson, Wells, Voth, Watkins, Zimmermann – there’s still a lot of starters here at camp, and we’re still going to stretch all those guys.”

While it may seem like a given that the five former names will be the ones to start against the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers to open the season, Hyde said on Friday the club would continue to progress the other four to the workload. of a starter. That gives the Orioles choices — whether it’s starting in Triple-A, moving them to a two-inning or long-relief role or just having injury insurance. And that could all change throughout the season if Hall becomes a starter and when left-hander John Means returns this summer.

One option the Orioles have is to employ a six-man rotation. Elias said in February the Orioles considered it a possibility but then downplayed the likelihood of the team signing an additional starter. Hyde delivered a similar sentiment on Friday.

“We’re talking about all kinds of scenarios, but we’re more than likely going to have a five-man rotation,” he said.

Hyde listed three reasons why a six-man rotation isn’t optimal. The main reason — and one Elias cited before spring training — is that it puts extra pressure on the bullpen. With MLB roster restrictions limiting the number of pitchers on a 26-man roster to 13, having six starters obviously means one less arm to use in the bullpen. Other reasons, Hyde said, include the challenge a six-man rotation would pose with optional players and overall roster construction, as well as April having more days off than most other months in the league. season.

It’s also possible, though Elias has repeatedly said he’s considering Rodriguez on the Opening Day roster, that the Orioles will send their best pitching prospect to Triple-A to start the year. especially since his sleeves will be managed all season.

The 23-year-old was scored for four runs in the fourth inning of his third start on March 12. On Saturday, he again defeated the second time in order, giving up five runs in 3 2/3 innings.

“I have been with this organization [since 2018]”, Rodriguez said. “I’m really not trying to go out there and show them anything. I’m just trying to get out there, throw some shots and get ready for the season.

Wide receiver James McCann wouldn’t go so far as to say Rodriguez is ready to be a major leaguer, but he called his stuff — specifically his switch — “elite.”

“It’s above my pay grade to tell you whether or not he’s ready to go on a rotation,” McCann said. “But as far as things go, he’s definitely ready.”

The candidates most likely to move to the bullpen are Wells and Voth due to their experience as bullpen. Watkins and Zimmermann would likely be long relievers if they were in the bullpen, while Wells and Voth have the option of being one-inning, two-inning, or loose relievers.

Wells, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, was one of the Orioles’ top starters in 2022 before suffering an oblique strain in late July, later finishing the campaign with a 4.25 ERA in 103 2/3 innings. But he may have been better as a reliever in 2021, when he finished the season as Baltimore’s closest.

Wells has struggled in his first three outings this spring, allowing 11 hits and nine runs through seven innings. He will start Sunday in the road portion of the Orioles’ split-team doubleheader.

“I think everyone knows what I’m capable of, and I showed that a lot last year and I showed that the year before,” Wells said. “That spring training, I think I showed that too. Due to some bad results in some games, it never put me out of action. I will always sit here and fight.

While Wells’ 2021 ERA of 4.11 is similar to his 2022 mark, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which measures what the pitcher has the most control over (walks, strikeouts and home runs) on a scale equivalent to the ERA, was 3.63. Most notably, his fastball was almost 2 mph harder as a reliever, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was exactly twice as good in 2021 (5.42) as it was in 2022 (2.71).

“We know Tyler’s kind of ability,” Hyde said. “Now we’re just trying to make things fit. We are a little more talented, we have more depth of rotation. Tyler is a very good pitcher. He’s had a bit of a rough start at the start of spring training, but we know what he’s capable of.

Voth, meanwhile, has more experience in a big league bullpen than some of the Orioles’ top relievers, albeit with mixed results. The 30-year-old appeared in 70 games as a reliever between 2018 and 2022 before the Orioles acquired him from the Washington Nationals. Voth had a 10.13 ERA as a reliever with the Nationals to open 2022, but he’s had much more success with the Orioles, posting a 3.04 ERA as a starter primarily.

Voth, who allowed four runs (one earned) and struck out six in three innings Saturday, might be the best bet to land in the bullpen because he’s out of minor league options. Wells still has three options, while Zimmermann has two and Watkins has one.

“I think I could be used in a number of situations,” said Voth, who initially said he thought he was better suited as a starter. “As a reliever, you need to be able to do at least one [inning]. But I’m used to throwing multiple innings, so I’m comfortable there too.


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