Baltimore Orioles: Who replaces Tyler Wells in the rotation?

Tyler Wells #68 of the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Tyler Wells #68 of the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Orioles starting pitcher Tyler Wells immediately winced in discomfort after a fifth inning pitch to Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz and was forced to exit the game. This morning, the club placed the former Rule 5 pick on the Injured List with what the team is describing as  lower left side discomfort.

Even without the unfortunate injury, replacing Wells in the rotation was an inevitable conundrum; his 94.2 innings this season is nearly double his innings total from 2021 and represent his highest workload since he threw 119.2 innings in 2018 while a member of the Minnesota Twins farm system. It was only a matter of time before the Orioles began to wind Tyler Wells down, but his injury has forced their hand and the scheduled starter role for Monday’s game against the Rangers sits vacant. To which potential replacement will Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde make the call?

Tyler Wells injury leaves an open spot in the Orioles rotation. Who replaces him?

Kyle Bradish

Bradish last pitched for the Orioles on June 18th before being sent to the IL thanks to shoulder discomfort. His three rehab starts (two for AA Bowie, one for AAA Norfolk) have been sensational: 12.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 15 strikeouts. His last start was July 24th, which would give the Orioles the option of starting him against Cincinnati or leaving him until Monday with seven days of rest.

Bradish has had a rough beginning to his major league career, but a .396 BABIP suggests bad luck has played a part. If Bradish can translate his improved command to the major league level, he should produce much better results than that of his early starts and provide additional stability to the Orioles rotation.

Matt Harvey

After a tumultuous offseason that included testimony in the trial against former Angels communications director Eric Kay, Harvey re-signed with the Orioles in early April and has been tuning up for a potential return to Baltimore with starts for Aberdeen, Bowie, and Norfolk. In those six starts he’s averaged just over five innings per appearance and has a 2.93 ERA to show for his efforts.

Orioles fans may be reticent to embrace Harvey’s return when reminded of his 6.27 ERA in 2021, and rightfully so; his StatCast percentile rankings weren’t pretty either. However, his tuneup starts have been good and the Orioles may simply be looking for a veteran to eat more innings (if Jordan Lyles is willing to share, that is).

Bruce Zimmermann

Bruce Zimmermann got off to a flyer and was arguably the Orioles best starting pitcher in the month of April. The 27 year old lefty, acquired in the Kevin Gausman/Darren O’Day trade during the Great Teardown of 2018, headed into May with a 2.33 ERA. Then, catastrophe ensued. A dismal stretch spanning May and June left his once pristine ERA sitting at 5.85, and he was demoted to Norfolk on June 16th.

Zimmermann has had mixed results in Norfolk, pitching to the tune of a 5.04 ERA in 25 innings (though his 2.69 FIP indicates truly awful luck). Unfortunately, nothing suggests an uptick in stuff, and his batted ball statistics while in Baltimore were bleak. He was in the fifth percentile or below in average exit velocity, xWOBA, xSLG, xBA, xERA, and Barrel%. Zimmermann has the lowest upside of the three and it would be surprising to see him chosen over the other available options.

Tyler Wells’ replacement will almost certainly come from this group of three. As much as Birdland is clamoring for the debut of DL Hall, it’s hard to envision the front office giving him the call as they’ve been actively managing his innings and would like to keep him as fresh as possible so an innings limit doesn’t curtail his 2023 season. A decision on who fills the rotation spot is surely imminent, with Bradish and Harvey the leaders heading into the clubhouse and Zimmermann a darkhorse option.

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