4 internal options the Orioles have to replace Kyle Bradish and John Means to start the season

The Orioles have several in-house options to fill out their rotation

Jul 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA;  Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tyler Wells (68) delivers a
Jul 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tyler Wells (68) delivers a / Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
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Baltimore Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on February 14th and the spirits of O's fans were sky high. The Orioles had a productive off-season that saw them sign an all-star closer, trade for one of baseball's best pitchers, and announce new ownership. With all of that coming on the heels of an AL East championship we thought there was nothing that could bring us down, but what a difference a day makes.

On February 15th the Orioles announced what felt like a slew of injuries to several key players. Kyle Bradish was put on the IL with a strained UCL and will miss the beginning of the season with an unknown timetable for his return. John Means was said to be a month behind in his pitching program after having a setback. Gunnar Henderson has a strained oblique and his status for opening day is in question and Samuel Basallo has a stress fracture in his throwing arm.

The biggest impact these injuries have is on the pitching staff. Bradish is coming off of a breakout season that saw him finish fourth in the American League in Cy Young voting. Even with the addition of Corbin Burnes, Bradish was expected to be a key component of a strong Orioles rotation as the team's co-ace. Means was set to return after missing the postseason due to soreness in his pitching arm. Means only made four starts last season after returning from Tommy John surgery, but he looked good in those starts.

If Means is not able to get ready in time to make his first start, the Orioles will have two holes to fill in the starting rotation. According to manager Brandon Hyde, Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin are the early favorites to fill those spots.

Wells was great for the Orioles at the beginning of 2023. He fought his way to a spot in the rotation in spring training and showed that he deserved to be there with his first-half numbers. Wells made his first appearance of the season out of the bullpen when even though he was scheduled to start, he volunteered to step in for Bradish after he went down with an injury early in his first start.

Through the first half of the season, Wells was 7-4 with an impressive 3.18 ERA with an average of almost 6.0 innings pitched per appearance. His only negative at that time was his tendency to give up the long ball. Wells gave up 21 home runs before the all-star break.

Arm fatigue limited Wells in the second half and landed him in the bullpen when he did return to the Orioles after a stint in the minors. Based on his performance last season, Wells deserves another shot at starting to see if he can maintain success as the innings pile up.

Irvin was acquired during the last off-season in a trade with the Oakland Athletics and his first season in Baltimore was not what the team hoped it would be. After struggling mightily in his three Orioles appearances, Irvin was sent down to the minors to see if he could work out the kinks.

Upon returning to the O's Irvin started games sporadically while also being used from the bullpen. While he did have success in his later starts, Irvin was more effective out of the pen. If Irvin can pitch the way he did in the second half of last season, he could hold onto the fifth starter spot for a while.

After Wells and Irvin the starting options for the Birds come with risk. Two of their top 10 prospects, Chayce McDermott (#9) and Cade Povich (#10) are starting pitchers. McDermott started last season in Double-A Bowie and made a big impression when pitched the first six innings of a no-hitter for the Baysox. He made his way to Triple-A Norfolk where he had even more success, pitching to a stellar 2.49 ERA in 10 appearances (8 starts).

Like McDermott, Povich started last season in Bowie but made his way to Norfolk. Unlike McDermott Povich struggled a bit and finished the season with a combined ERA of 5.04. Povich has great stuff but struggles with control. He had 12.2 K/9 last season but 4.7 BB/9 as well. Both players received invitations to spring training and the competition has already begun. While both McDermott and Povich are likely to start the year in the minors, McDermott appears to have a better shot at forcing his way into the rotation.

Povich, on the other hand, could also make his way to Baltimore quicker than most expect. His ability to miss bats but high walk rate is very similar to another young left-hander the Orioles just traded away, DL Hall. Povich is still expected to have a future in the majors as a starter but the O's could potentially get him some work in the bigs out of the bullpen.

Not only is Hall gone but Wells and Irvin moving into the rotation means the bullpen is down a few arms, but they do have some in-house answers for that too. The spot vacated by Wells will most likely be filled by the return of Dillon Tate. Tate missed the entire 2023 season but he's healthy now and will be looking to reclaim his role as a high-leverage pitcher that can close games too.

The long reliever spot vacated by Irvin could be filled by the return of Keegan Akin. Akin struggled last season after his breakout performance in 2022, but he too is healthy and looking to reclaim his spot. If Akin doesn't perform as well as expected, there is still Bruce Zimmerman.

Zimmerman has been a starter his whole career but he worked exclusively out of the bullpen in Baltimore last season and even finished four games for the Birds. He averaged almost 2.0 innings per appearance for the O's and could stake claim to the long relief spot.

The Orioles have some depth on the roster to work with and a lot of players are going to get an opportunity to prove they can play in the bigs. The main thing for fans to remember right now is that the front office was most likely aware of the major injuries before players reported to camp and they have been planning accordingly. Elias said Bradish and Means are expected back this season but he's always looking to get better. There's no reason to push the panic button yet.

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