Baltimore Orioles: What We Have Learned In The First Days Of Spring
The Baltimore Orioles are a week into camp. What have we learned so far?
Happy first day of full-squad workouts, Baltimore Orioles fans! The Orioles will take the field for the first time this spring on Saturday at 1 pm against the Atlanta Braves, meaning we are just a few days away from getting our first looks at a handful of Orioles Top 30 prospects and new faces battling for a 2020 roster spot.
With the first week of camp in the books, largely just pitchers and catchers throwing their first set of bullpens, there are a few early noteworthy takeaways from Sarasota.
Despite having a virus sweep through the clubhouse last week, which limited practice time for a number of pitchers, and slow start for recently acquired RHP Brady Rodgers (arm soreness), the Orioles enter the first full week of spring training with no major injury concerns and no late arrivals.
Perhaps the biggest story to come out of camp last week was confirmation that RHP Hunter Harvey is staying in the bullpen for the foreseeable future. After his electric major league debut last season and dominant run in the minor leagues after making the switch from starter to reliever, it has been widely assumed that Harvey was set to enter 2020 in the backend of the Orioles bullpen.
However, the idea of giving Harvey an opportunity to start again has been out there and discussed among fans this offseason. Those discussions can now come to a close.
Keeping Harvey in the bullpen is a great idea for a number of reasons. Mychal Givens struggled in high-leverage situations last season and while there are intriguing options in the bullpen with promise, there’s no one on the current roster with the potential to handle late-game situations. Harvey has shown, in his limited action, the potential is there.
With a 98 mph fastball that can touch triple digits, Harvey held opponents to three hits across 6.1 innings of work last season, adding 11 strikeouts in the process. He was shut down for the final few weeks of the season out of precaution, something the Orioles still have to take into consideration. Originally drafted in 2013, Harvey’s extensive injury history kept him from making his major league debut for six years. Working limited innings out of the pen in 2020 can help ensure Harvey stays fresh for when this team is competitive again.
Are the injuries behind this trio of Baltimore Orioles pitchers?
Alex Cobb appears to be healthy and ready to go for the Orioles in 2020. As we discussed a few days ago, a healthy Alex Cobb will go a long way in helping the Orioles maintain a stable starting rotation and focus on the development of their younger pitchers. If he’s healthy and the Orioles can move him at the deadline, that’s great, otherwise, Cobb can still provide valuable innings in Baltimore.
A darkhorse candidate to impress in 2020 is RHP Cody Carroll. Acquired from New York in the Zack Britton trade, Carroll missed the majority of 2019 with a back injury but showcased his health in the Arizona Fall League. He gave up two runs and struck out 11 in 8.2 innings in the AFL. While he likely begins the season in Triple-A to increase his workload and get back into his routine, Carroll could find himself in the Orioles bullpen before too long.
There’s also veteran LHP Richard Bleier. Bleier posted back-to-back sub-2.00 ERA seasons in his first two seasons with the Orioles, but saw that number balloon to 5.37 last season. He wasn’t 100% recovered from his 2018 lat surgery but that seems to finally be behind him now that spring training is underway.
The Orioles bullpen could be the most improved unit on this roster in 2020 and a healthy Richard Bleier with his minuscule walk rates and high groundball numbers could go a long way in helping this group become more reliable.
Will the Orioles add anyone else?
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Recently, the Baltimore Orioles have added two former Seattle Mariner pitchers in LHP Wade LeBlanc and LHP Tommy Milone. LeBlanc is a 35-year-old veteran who has had some recent success both in the bullpen and as a starter with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Mariners.
LeBlanc could earn a rotation spot after choosing to sign with the Orioles over other offers and can serve as a role model for the Orioles younger left-handed pitchers like Zac Lowther and Alex Wells who also have had to find creative ways to get hitters out instead of relying on a high-velocity fastball.
Despite having 36 pitchers in camp, the Orioles haven’t closed the door on adding more pitching help, as reported this morning by MASN’s Roch Kubatko. As pointed out in Roch’s piece, time is becoming an issue and the very long list of young arms in camp need innings to work once games get underway this week. Throwing in backfield games is one thing, but won’t prepare you for major league action come late-March.
Andrew Cashner‘s name is still lingering around, while veterans Collin McHugh, Danny Salazar, and Aaron Sanchez are also still available, if Mike Elias is inclined to add more starting pitching options to camp.