Orioles' series vs. Pirates could be critical for these three pitchers

Baltimore's pitching staff will be critical in 2024, and the upcoming games against the Pirates will let Oriole fans know who is going to be a contributor.
Los Angeles Angels v Baltimore Orioles
Los Angeles Angels v Baltimore Orioles / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The 4-2 Orioles travel to Pittsburgh for their first away series this season. Their starting pitchers slated to take the mound are Grayson Rodriguez (Friday), Tyler Wells (Saturday) and Dean Kremer (Sunday). Each player has been in the Birdland system for years.

Each man has faced completely different circumstances during their time with the club, and a few of them weren't expected to hold down rotation spots this early in the season. Injuries to John Means and Kyle Bradish forced Brandon Hyde to dip into his reserves in order to construct a five-man pitching rotation. Now, these three pitchers will hope to use this weekend to prove they deserve to stay.

Three very different backstories for Orioles pitchers who could step up

Grayson Rodriguez: Is this the year?

Rodriguez has been tapped to be a breakout MLB star for over a year. A first-round pick in 2018, he made his Baltimore debut last season. His rookie season had its shining moments, as well as its glaring shortcomings. Overall, it appeared he would need more time.

In his first game this season, facing the Angels in the second game of the campaign, Rodriguez went six innings, only giving up one run on a home run and striking out nine. While it was a great start to his 2024 campaign, Birdland is wary due to his inconsistent performances last year.

The youngster's biggest benefit is time. If he misfires again, the team will take the time to work with him through his weaknesses. However, the righty will want to use his outing against the Pirates to erase the doubts that he is not ready for a full MLB season.

Tyler Wells: Make or break for the veteran

Wells is perhaps one of the favorite players in Birdland. A Rule 5 draft selection of 2020, the right-handed pitcher made his debut with the Orioles in 2021. It would be another two years until a Kyle Bradish injury saw the CSUSB graduate moved into the starting rotation.

In a Baltimore uniform, Wells' stats have been unconvincing, but not bad enough to see him traded or sent back down to the minors. Including appearances as both a reliever and a starter, he's achieved a record of 16-17 with a 3.97 ERA.

Saturday's contest, following a loss to the Angels in his first outing, is a must-win for Wells. He is, should Bradish and Means return to game fitness, likely the first man out of the starting rotation. Look for the Tulsa native to bring his best stuff.

Dean Kremer: A quest to improve

At face value, Kremer's 13-5 record last season suggested that the former 14th-round pick for the Dodgers had a standout year. Further investigation reveals it was not that simple. A 4.12 ERA was backed up well by a strong Oriole offense.

Kremer's first start of the season came in the opening game of the Kansas City series. The righty only allowed three hits in 5 1/3 innings, but two of those left the field of play for Royals home runs, leaving him with three earned runs on his ledger and a nervy no-decision.

Sunday offers another opportunity for Kremer to cement himself as a consistent option for Brandon Hyde to call on. Although his spot in the rotation is the most secure among the three starters, a string of poor performances could call that into question.