As Spring Training ramps up, Orioles reliever Joey Krehbiel could find himself without an MLB roster spot come late March. Before Spring Training began, many writers believed last year’s dominant Orioles pitcher would not be a part of the Orioles' 2023 plans for success. Baltimore beat writers as well as National outlets left Krehbiel off the 26-man crew that heads north at the end of March.
Krehbiel was a primary member of the Orioles bullpen for the majority of 2022 before some late season stumbles. Now, however, the bullpen competition is becoming increasingly crowded as more talent arrives.
It would appear that relievers Mychal Givens, Félix Bautista, Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez are all locks to make the team with Dillon Tate expected to begin the year on the Injured List. This leaves the right-hander in a tough position where he will need to outperform a handful of roughly 9 others for the final 3-4 spots.
Last year, Krehbiel had a strong start to the season, pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA through the first four months of the season. Highlighted by a .096 ERA in April and a 1.54 ERA in the month of July, Krehbiel proved to be one of Brandon Hyde’s most trustworthy late-inning arms.
Primarily using his changeup and cutter alongside his fastball, he carried a 2.35 ERA into the month of August. After a few bumpy outings in August, Krehbiel still carried a respectable season ERA of 3.02 into September.
Mid-September was the beginning of a tough stretch for Krehbiel. In his last 6 outings of the season, Krehbiel allowed 9 earned runs in 5.2 IP inflating his ERA to 3.90. This caused the Orioles to demote the reliever to Triple-A Norfolk on September 28 where he would end his season.
Trying to bounce back this year, Krehbiel’s spring has not started particularly well. In his first 1.2 IP, Krehbiel has allowed 8 earned runs on 8 hits. Krehbiel is still working out some kinks and experimenting on his pitches. He feels that the poor results have been helpful for him.
“It’s kind of good to have a little eye-opening and get hit around a little bit, just to, not necessarily wake me up but just know that there’s always room for improvement, especially right now,” Krehbiel said in a presser.
After studying some film, Krehbiel believes he understands what he’s doing wrong. He says that he needs to get his feet and legs behind him, that his timing needs to be more precise. His upper half needs to be on the same page as his lower half.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde complimented the reliever’s work ethic but noted that his command was lacking. The O’s skipper still has confidence in Krehbiel, as reported by MASN.
"“Joey had a really good first half for us last year, I loved the way he ended the season for us the year before, we know what kind of pitcher he can be. Just want to see him improve over the course of the camp.”"- Orioles manager Brandon Hyde
As competition increases in Spring Training, Krehbiel will need to fix things rather soon. Fortunately, this is not Krehbiel’s first rodeo. Now 30 years-old, Krehbiel has already experienced Spring Training battles before.
Last season, Krehbiel battled his way onto his first Opening Day roster with the Orioles. He came to Baltimore in September 2021 after stints with the Diamondbacks and Rays. After a trade that dealt Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to Miami less than a week before the season, Krehbiel took advantage of the open spots in the Orioles bullpen.
There is still optimism for Krehbiel to make this year’s roster. With the injuries in the bullpen to Tate, Bautista, DL Hall, and Nick Vespi, Krehbiel can potentially slot in to fill the void. Depending on whether the Orioles decide to keep 2-3 multi-inning bullpen arms, Krehbiel’s toughest competition will likely be Rule 5 Pick Andrew Politi, Yennier Cano, Eduard Bazardo and Darwinson Hernandez.
Fortunately for Krehbiel, he has a leg up on Politi with the former Red Sox still yet to make his MLB debut. As for Cano, he struggled in the MLB last season pitching to an 11.50 ERA in 18 MLB innings but dominated the triple-A level with a 2.90 ERA in 40.1 IP. Right-handed Bazardo could provide some tough competition as he had a 2.76 ERA in 16.1 IP with Boston last season.
Lastly, Hernandez will miss time in Spring Training as he competes with Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic which will likely give guys like Krehbiel more opportunities to prove themselves to the Orioles' front office.
For Krehbiel to make the Orioles 2023 Roster, he will need to get back to his excellence in early 2022. A large part of his success came when he commanded his cutter and changeup effectively, providing a whiff percentage of 28.7% and 24.8% respectively. In the remaining 3 weeks of Spring Training, Krehbiel will need to leave his best impression on the Orioles front office in hopes of being in Boston when the Birds open the season against the Red Sox March 30.