Tyler Wells has had a roller coaster of a season. His highs have been very high, and his lows have gotten rather low. He is currently pitching his way back through the Baltimore Orioles farm system and trying to rediscover himself. The Orioles know that Wells is a major league caliber pitcher who can help this year's team make a playoff run, but where exactly does he fit into the pitching staff?
Where does Tyler Wells best fit in the Orioles pitching staff?
To answer that question, let's go back to the beginning of the year and take a look at how we got here in the first place. Tyler entered spring training as a long shot to make the opening day rotation. He was considered the sixth man in a race for five spots, but he surprised many by beating out rookie Grayson Rodriguez for the fifth spot in the opening day rotation.
Tyler's preseason numbers overall were not great but that was due to two poor starts early in the spring. Wells began to show good control and high strikeout potential, so the Orioles gave him a chance.
Even though Wells made the opening day rotation, his first appearance in the regular season came in relief. In the fourth game of the season, Kyle Bradish was knocked out of the game after just 1.2 innings after taking a comebacker off his foot. Danny Coulombe got the next four outs, but the bullpen was being used heavily early in the season and six more innings was a lot to ask.
Wells stepped up and volunteered his services knowing that he was scheduled to start the next day. He ended up pitching five perfect innings, on just 47 pitches, against a very good Texas Rangers offense.
At that point, Wells claimed his spot in the regular rotation and even became the O's most reliable pitcher. In his age 29 season, the Orioles finally started to let Wells pitch deeper into games and Wells rewarded the Birds with eight quality starts, twice setting a new single game high in strikeouts. He even had a chance at making the all-star team while holding the lowest WHIP in the game heading into the mid-summer classic.
The only thing holding him back was his tendency to surrender home runs. Many of the homers were solo home runs because Wells was not allowing many hits or walking batters, but the sheer volume of homers was a concern.
Things turned south for Wells in mid July. Having already surpassed his previous major league innings pitched high, Wells hit his breaking point. Tyler's last three starts with the O's went very poorly as he pitched just 9.0 total innings, yielding 11 earned runs on 10 hits (four of which were home runs), with nine walks and three hit batters over those three games. Clearly, something was wrong as Wells had lost the control that he displayed early in the season.
The Orioles decided to send Wells down to Double-A Bowie to work on his mechanics and try to correct the problem. Tyler began to return to his early season form with the Baysox. He made three starts where he only pitched a combined 8.2 innings, but he was only removed from those games due to pitch count restrictions. Wells only gave up six hits and three earned runs in those starts but again, two of the runs were on solo homers.
Satisfied with the progress that Wells was making in Bowie and not wanting to burn through too many pitches there, the Orioles promoted Wells to Triple-A Norfolk. They also were reminded that Wells has previously had success for the Orioles while coming out of the bullpen. In 2020, he was a Rule 5 draft pick that had to remain in the majors in 2021 or the Birds would risk losing him back to the Minnesota Twins.
The Orioles knew that Wells was not yet ready to be a starter, so they gave him some innings out of the bullpen. Wells made 44 appearances out of the bullpen that season with surprising success for a player that had limited Double-A experience and no Triple-A experience. In fact, he did so well that he became the Orioles closer, converting four of six save chances in the month of September and becoming a fan favorite before an injury cut his season short.
With that in mind, Tyler Wells made his Triple-A debut (already having two and half years of major league experience) on August 23 coming out of the bullpen for the Norfolk Tides. Tyler earned a hold while pitching the eighth inning and allowing just one hit. With the Orioles already utilizing a six man rotation and Wells having already surpassed his career high in innings pitched, it seemed possible that the Orioles would look to use Wells out of the bullpen.
Two days later, Wells pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Norfolk to record his first Triple-A save and first triple-A strikeout in the process. Later that evening, Orioles all-star closer Felix Bautista left the game and has since been placed on the IL with an undisclosed UCL injury.
The Orioles have a strong bullpen that has several options to try and fill the (figuratively and literally) gigantic shoes of Bautista. Yennier Cano has closed several games and been very successful this season. Danny Coulombe finished the game in which Bautista got injured and has also enjoyed a lot of success in his first season in Baltimore.
Cionel Perez has a few saves under his belt and has been tremendous lately, while Shintaro Fujinami and DL Hall (who was recalled to take Bautista's spot) make interesting options but would probably need to show more consistency with the Orioles in a playoff race.
If Wells can continue to make progress in Norfolk while closing games, he could be another name to add to that list. With September call-ups just a few days away, things could get very interesting in the Orioles bullpen. They could choose any of the above options to be the guy or use the old school closer by committee approach. Either way, it seems likely that Wells will be back with the Orioles soon and likely pitching out of the bullpen.
His season has been quite the ride going from just barely making the opening day roster, to team ace, to Double-A and could potentially end as the teams closer as they make their run at the number one seed in the American League. No matter how it ends, we will all be happy to see Wells back in Orange and Black helping this team any way he can.