Is a six man rotation the way to go for the Orioles down the stretch?

Is a six man rotation worth it for the rest of the season?

Cole Irvin could pitch his way back into the rotation
Cole Irvin could pitch his way back into the rotation / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles starting rotation has been in a state of flux. With the deadline acquisition of Jack Flaherty and the demotion of Tyler Wells to Bowie, it seemed like the rotation would remain consistent.

The complication to that equation is that several of the O's starters are at or near their career highs in innings pitched. The Orioles have been the best team in the American League and they will do what they need to in order to remain the number one seed heading into the playoffs.

Cole Irvin was brought in over the off-season in a trade with the Oakland Athletics to help sure up the starting rotation. After a rough start to the season, Irvin was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk to work things out. Since returning to Baltimore, Irvin has been a reliable arm out of the Orioles bullpen. He has pitched well as a long reliever and on several occasions helped save the bullpen from being over worked. Irvin is scheduled to make his ninth start of the season on Saturday when the Orioles take on the Seattle Mariners.

While it has not been officially announced, it is possible that Irvin remains in the rotation for the remainder of the regular season to help reduce the amount of innings Orioles starters pitch before the post season. Here are the maximum innings the current Orioles starters have pitched and where they currently stand:

Kyle Gibson: 140.0 innings in 2023. Career high - 196.2 innings

Kyle Bradish: 115.2 innings in 2023 Career high - 117.2 innings (145.1 including minor league innings)

Grayson Rodriguez: 74.0 innings in 2023 Career high - 74.0 innings (115.1 including minor league innings)

Dean Kremer: 132.0 innings in 2023 Career high - 132.0 innings (134.1 including minor league innings)

Jack Flaherty: 120.2 innings in 2023 Career high - 196.1 innings

Could a six man rotation be the best approach for the Orioles down the stretch?

Kyle Gibson is the veteran on the staff and has post season experience having pitched in the 2022 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Orioles should not be overly concerned with his innings and Gibson should continue to be a leader on the staff.

Kyle Bradish, who's only in his second season in the majors, has looked like the teams ace since the all-star break. He will likely pass his season total from 2022 even in a six man rotation. Grayson Rodriguez has already pitched more innings this season than any other year in his professional career. GrayRod has looked strong but the O's might want to play it safe with the budding ace.

Dean Kremer has shown flashes of greatness in his career and is coming off a very good outing against the Houston Astros. He is another arm that could help the Orioles make a run in the post-season and will benefit from some extra rest.

Jack Flaherty has pitched well in his two games with the Birds. While he has thrown more innings in a season, he has had some injuries that have limited him in recent seasons. He will be a valuable asset to the team down the stretch assuming his injuries are behind him.

Irvin has been a starter for his career and pitched 181.0 innings last year in Oakland. Due to his transition into the bullpen this season he has only pitched 48.0 innings in the majors this year. Even when you include his innings in the minors, Irvin is at 90 innings so he should have plenty of life left in his arm should he move into the rotation for the remainder of the season.

One negative side effect of keeping Irvin in the rotation is that would be one less arm available in the bullpen. The Oriole's bullpen has been a strength of the team since last season and has certainly been a key factor in the Orioles return to success. Manager Brandon Hyde would have to keep an eye on the workload that he puts on the bullpen if he drops from an eight man bullpen to seven.

O's starters have been able to pitch deeper into games with more frequency but today's style of play usually calls for three relievers per game. There are several arms available to the Orioles in the minors such as Nick Vespi and Joey Krehbiel (who swapped places on Friday), and DL Hall. Other names to keep an eye on are Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens, who could return from the IL and have an impact.

Speaking of returns, their are two guys in Bowie that will make Hyde's rotation decisions even more difficult, Tyler Wells and John Means. Wells, who will also surpass his previous maximum innings as a pro, will hopefully get back on track after being the teams ace of the first half, while Means just made his season debut after having Tommy John surgery.

Both pitchers will hopefully be on the Orioles postseason roster and Means could end up being a difference maker. He has been the teams ace in recent years and will have a fresh arm to lead the pitching staff into playoffs.

All things considered I think the positives of a six man rotation outweigh the negatives. With several players in the bullpen having minor league options, it gives the Orioles a bit of extra depth. The returns of Means and Wells will most likely relegate Irvin back to the bullpen while the O's will still have seven viable starting options. With plenty of arms to go around, I would not be surprised to see the six man rotation continue for the rest of the season.