Baltimore Orioles: Injuries Offering Opportunities To Younger Arms

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Nate Karns #36 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the first inning of the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on March 30, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Nate Karns #36 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the first inning of the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on March 30, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Injuries to Baltimore Orioles pitchers are starting to pile up, which means we will be getting plenty of early looks at young arms.

It was supposed to be Alex Cobb climbing the mound for the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, a groin strain led to a trip to the 10-day Injured List before the season started, giving the Opening Day start to Andrew Cashner.

After just one start, a 5.2 inning performance against the Yankees in which he gave up two earned runs and struck out four, Cobb is back on the 10-day Injured List with a forearm strain.

Cobb isn’t the only pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles going on the Injured List, as the O’s announced that Nate Karns has also been sidelined with a forearm strain. The news of each injury came within just hours of each other and to the surprise of many Orioles’ players. As’s Roch Kubatko reported yesterday, no one seemed to know much about these injuries before they were announced.

But wait, that’s not all. Reliever Richard Bleier was also added to the Injured List on Thursday morning. From yesterday’s update via Kubatko,

“I’m just not quite rebounding as well as I would like and kind, especially yesterday,” he said. “There’s good days and bad days and yesterday just wasn’t a good day feel-wise in terms of my arm and stuff. I feel like there’s just a hurdle that I’m not quite getting over yet and I think it’s more of a time thing than anything. It’s just not quite there yet.”

Young arms are getting early opportunities with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Alex Cobb injury is truly surprising. There were no reports or even whispers of any discomfort for the O’s starter, unless I completely missed those. However, the Nate Karns injury could have been foreseen.

His average fastball velocity has dropped in each of his outings this season-

  • 3/30- 91.51 mph
  • 4/3- 91.21 mph
  • 4/6- 90.06 mph
  • 4/8- 89.01 mph

Both are expected to be back after their short IL stint, but Richard Bleier may be out a little longer. Hopefully, once his move to the IL is made official, we get a little more news about what exactly is affecting Bleier.

As Brandon Hyde indicated, it’s not the velocity that’s been an issue, but a lack of movement and feel for the fastball. Opponents are hitting .625 against Bleier’s sinker and producing an average exit velocity of 101.6 mph on batted balls. Per Baseball Savant, Bleier has thrown his sinker more than 44% of the time this year, his most used pitch.

Tanner Scott is back in a Baltimore Orioles uniform.

The early injuries mean an early look at a number of young O’s pitchers. We have already seen Matt Wotherspoon make his major league debut. The 27-year-old gave up three earned runs on four hits in his one appearance against the Blue Jays before being optioned back to the Norfolk Tides.

Last night against Oakland, we saw Josh Rogers get an extended look after an early departure form Dan Straily. Rogers gave up five earned runs on four hits, including three home runs. A fast worker who doesn’t throw the ball very hard, Rogers was hit hard and often. He’s an intriguing arm, but everything has to be going right if he wants to find success at the big league level. He was sent back to AAA this morning.

With the optioning of Rogers and addition of Bleier to the IL, the Orioles have brought up Josh Lucas and Tanner Scott to the active roster.

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Lucas spent last season in the Oakland organization, making eight appearances at the major league level (6.28 ERA, 14 K/9 BB in 14.1 innings). The 28-year-old RHP throws a fastball (90-92 mph), slider, and curveball and has been effective at producing groundballs in his major league time with the A’s and Cardinals.

Scott is well known among Orioles fans and makes his return to the bigs after two appearances with the Tides this season. Scott walked two and gave up three runs on two hits in those two appearances.

Last year with the O’s, Scott pitched to a 5.40 ERA, but his xFIP was 2.96, one of the biggest differences in all of baseball. He averaged nearly 13 strikeouts/9 innings and was hurt by having a terrible defense behind him. The ability to hit triple digits and his wipe-out slider are fun to watch. If he can finally figure out his control problems, the Orioles will have a dominant set-up man for many years to come.

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Both Scott and Lucas are active for Thursday’s game against the A’s. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 and will feature Dylan Bundy and Aaron Brooks as the Orioles look to split this four-game set.