Baltimore Orioles Morning Rundown: So Many Pitching Moves

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 24: John Means #67 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers a first inning pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 24, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 24: John Means #67 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers a first inning pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 24, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Orioles made a series of pitching moves before their Friday night game against the Los Angeles Angels. They may not be done yet.

A 16-inning ballgame surely does a number on a pitching staff that already struggles to make it through week after week. In Thursday night’s win over the Los Angeles Angels, the Baltimore Orioles sent Jimmy Yacabonis, Tom Eshelman, Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Gabriel Ynoa, Tanner Scott, and Richard Bleier to the mound. The game dragged on for so long, the Angels sent out their scheduled starter for Friday night, Griffin Canning, to try and close out the game, while Stevie Wilkerson, aka “Dr. Poo Poo”, became the first position player ever to record a save in the 10-8 victory.

The aftermath, along with another pitching injury, forced the Orioles to make a series of moves involving pitchers in what is likely to be followed by more moves this weekend.

The most notable move involved sending All-Star pitcher John Means back to the Injured List with a bicep strain. Brandon Hyde believes Means will be back after missing one start and doesn’t seem too concerned with his staff ace, but should there be a little bit of concern? Thankfully, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but is John Means just hitting a wall?

Means has thrown at least 138 innings each season since 2015, but that was all in the minor leagues. He’s now 98 innings into his first full season in the bigs, navigating his way through the American League East as the top pitcher on the Orioles roster. His 4.4 pitches per plate appearance is the highest of any qualified pitcher in baseball, meaning lots of long, tough at-bats with each start. While most organizations have the luxury of additional arms to make spot starts and alleviate the workload of their young arms as the season winds down, the Orioles have essentially no one left to run out to the mound.

Mike Elias may have to keep a close eye on the waiver wire next week for an arm or two to help out over the final two months of the season. At this rate, the jokes of making Stevie Wilkerson a regular pitcher may be the only viable option.

Dillon Tate looking to make MLB debut for Baltimore Orioles.

Elsewhere, the Orioles activated RHP Nate Karns from the Injured List and proceeded to designate him for assignment. Karns was the lone major league free agent signing this past offseason for Baltimore, despite not pitching in the major leagues in nearly two years. At the time of the signing, it was reported that Karns was healthy and ready to eat some innings and Brandon Hyde. Turns out, he wasn’t healthy and he pitched a total of 5.1 innings at the major league level.

Struggling to hit 88 mph on the radar gun, Karns rehabbed with the Gulf Coast League Orioles, Frederick Keys, Bowie Baysox, and Norfolk Tides, pitching to an 8.71 ERA and walking 10 hitters in 10 total innings, compared to just five strikeouts.

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Jim Palmer summed it up perfectly on Friday night’s broadcast, saying Karns “just can’t pitch.” A short, sweet, to the point, and highly accurate statement from the Hall of Famer. While I feel bad for Karns and wish him the best, cutting ties was the right move. Mike Elias has been active at cleaning house throughout the organization this week, releasing a large handful of minor leaguers over the last few days. Evaluation time is over for many in the organization and Elias is ready to clean house of anyone he doesn’t believe makes the team better.

The final subtraction from last night included the optioning of Tanner Scott back to Triple-A Norfolk. Scott picked up the win in Thursday night’s game, giving up three runs on two hits and three walks in one inning of work. A frequent passenger on the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle, Scott owns a 5.29 ERA, .313 average against, and 2.18 WHIP in 17 major league innings this season.

Filling the two open spots on the 25-man roster are RHP Dillon Tate and RHP Evan Phillips. Phillips has split time between the big leagues and Triple-A, recording a 5.68 ERA with the Norfolk Tides and a 7.79 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in 17.1 major league innings.

Last but not least is the arrival of Dillon Tate. Tate was part of the return from the New York Yankees in exchange for Zack Britton last season. One year later, the trade looks to be a complete wash for the Orioles. Josh Rogers gave up 25 home runs in 69 combined innings between AAA and the bigs before going under the knife for his second Tommy John surgery (or first UCL revision surgery, whatever you want to call it) and Cody Carroll has yet to pitch in 2019. Can Tate save the trade?

Tata had a rough April, beginning the year as a starter in Double-A with the Bowie Baysox. In five appearances, he posted a 6.08 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 10/5 K/BB ratio, and gave up two home runs in 13 innings. Since missing all of May with an injury and converting to the bullpen full-time, the 25-year-old RHP out of UC Santa Barbara has been impressive.

June/July- 2-0, 1.79 ERA, 20.1 IP, 20 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 home runs allowed

Everything seems to be clicking for Tate recently and his body language on the mound has matched his recent success. When watching the April version of Tate, you saw a pitcher who struggled with his command and someone who didn’t look confident on the mound. That isn’t the case while watching Baysox games over the last two months. When he makes his first appearance with the Orioles, it will be his major league debut.

dark. Next. Recapping A Flurry Of Minor League Moves

Stay tuned over the weekend. I have a feeling the Orioles aren’t done making roster adjustments and, of course, stay tuned next week as the trade deadline is just days away!