A day ahead of the trade deadline, the only trade the Orioles have made to this point was acquiring pitcher Shintaro Fujinami from the Oakland Athletics. Fujinami, a reliever, has helped bolster Brandon Hyde’s middle relief options, but there is still room for help in the starting rotation among other areas.
Mike Elias has yet to add to the rotation as of Monday morning, but on Sunday, the Orioles announced that they were sending Tyler Wells to Double-A Bowie after his recent struggles on the mound.
With this move, that leaves Kyle Gibson, Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer in the starting rotation. Cole Irvin is the most viable option to replace Wells currently, but regardless, Hyde is left to manage the first place Birds with one of the least experienced rotations in baseball.
Will young Orioles rotation be a weakness or strength heading toward season’s end?
The Orioles have maintained a playoff spot for most of the season, but that success has come so unexpectedly that the team may not be prepared to go on a postseason run with the current makeup of their starting pitching staff.
Bradish, Kremer, Rodriguez and Irvin have no MLB playoff experience, while Gibson has had limited opportunities to pitch in October during his career. Moreover, Kremer, Rodriquez and the recently demoted Wells are all quickly approaching their career highs for innings pitched in a single season, something that should be monitored closely.
Kremer, who debuted in 2020, has registered 119.2 MLB innings this season. Last season, the right-hander recorded a career high for innings in a season with 134.1 IP between the majors and minors. To surpass his career high, it would likely take about three more starts.
Rodriguez, who debuted earlier this season, has been adjusting to the big leagues while stretching his arm out in the process. This season the flame-throwing-righty has tossed 103.2 IP across games with Baltimore and Norfolk (triple-A). On Friday, with his excellent start against the Yankees, Rodriguez passed his career high for innings in a season which was 103 during the 2021 minor league season. The first round talent’s arm should be closely watched.
Tyler Wells has pitched 113.2 innings in Baltimore this season. Prior to this season, Wells’ career high was 119.1 IP in the minors in 2018. This is also a fast-approaching tally worth noting. Now that he’ll be in Bowie, Wells should get some extra rest while working on some of his shortcomings to hopefully rejoin the big league club in the stretch run.
While all three pitchers are approaching career highs for innings, it’s time for Elias and Hyde to strategize the best way to utilize their pitching staff going forward. Elias has said that resting arms for the sake of a player’s health is not necessarily backed by science, so that does not force them to be extra cautious. However, the Orioles will still need to pitch through two months worth of innings before October.
In this case, it would be wise to turn to a six-man rotation moving forward. Candidates to fill the fifth, and sixth spots, dependent upon keeping Irvin in the bullpen, include Norfolk arms Bruce Zimmerman and Drew Rom.
Both have produced solid numbers this season at Triple-A, with Zimmerman pitching to a 3.27 ERA and Rom racking up 100 K over 86 IP. Once John Means returns, likely around late August or early September, he will become another option for the rotation.
If the Orioles implement a six-man rotation, the arms will be a little more refreshed and ready to compete for a run to and into the postseason. Not only is this the best option for the Orioles success heading into the final months of this season, but also looking long term.