Orioles set to gain pitching reinforcements as multiple injured players set to return

These Orioles pitchers are healthy again after injuries marred their 2023 seasons
Baltimore Orioles v Cleveland Guardians
Baltimore Orioles v Cleveland Guardians / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

There has been a lot of talk about the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff this off-season and what would be done to improve it. The O's have been linked to numerous starters in both trade speculation and free agency, but have yet to make a move on a starter. They did add Craig Kimbrel to help fill the void left by Felix Bautista, who is not expected to pitch this season after having Tommy John surgery, and they could be looking in-house to fill any other gaps.

The Orioles should be getting a few key contributors who missed most of the 2023 season back. The biggest name they're getting back is John Means. Means had been the team's ace for several years but missed most of last season after having Tommy John surgery in 2022. He was able to return in September last season and looked strong in his four appearances. He was 1-1 with two quality starts, including a September 23rd start against the Cleveland Guardians where he held the Guardians hitless through 7.1 innings.

The Orioles will get pitching reinforcements back after 2023 injuries

Unfortunately Means' elbow became bothersome again and he was not able to make a start in the ALDS. He is healthy again and expects to be able to match or better his career high of 155.0 innings pitched. Means is entering the final year of his contract, which will give him even more motivation to reclaim his spot atop the O's rotation.

The bullpen should be returning several key members from its 2022 roster that could have a big impact. The first of those players is Keegan Akin. Akin had a breakout year for the Orioles in 2022 and was expected to return as a high-leverage lefty in 2023, but things did not work out that way. He struggled early in the season and was eventually optioned to Norfolk in May.

Akin returned to Baltimore for the end of the month and looked like he had things figured out before imploding in late June. Akin went back on the IL at that point with lower back pain and finished the season on the 60-day IL. He is now fully healthy and has already begun throwing again. Akin will have his work cut out for him as the O's bullpen already features left-handers Cionel Perez, Danny Coulombe and DL Hall.

Another key contributor the Birds missed last season was Dillon Tate. Like Akin, Tate made a name for himself as the setup man for the Orioles in 2022. He set career highs in innings pitched (73.2), holds (16) and wins (4) while also setting a career best in ERA (3.05). He also allowed less than one base runner per inning pitched (0.99 WHIP).

Tate was forced to miss the entire 2023 season while dealing with a right elbow flexor strain. Though Tate never required surgery, he did have several setbacks last season. Now healthy, Tate has been working hard in the lab and looking good. He will come in looking to reclaim his spot as the team's setup man from Yennier Cano, who was a surprise all-star last season.

Another arm that will be available come spring training is Bruce Zimmermann. He hasn't had the type of success that Akin and Tate have had, but he's been a valuable arm and has been willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. Zimmerman has bounced back and forth between the majors and minors in each of the last four seasons. A starter by trade, Zimmerman has been used mostly as a long reliever for the Orioles when he's with the team.

After having core muscle surgery this off-season, Zimmerman is reported to be back at 100% and ready to go. He's provided tremendous value when called upon to pitch multiple innings and save other pitchers who needed a rest.

The Orioles off-season hasn't been what fans had hoped for to this point. GM Mike Elias has stated that the O's are still considering their options and there is plenty of talent that is still available, but even in the absence of a big move, the Birds have these big arms to add to their staff in 2024.