As the Orioles open a four-game series at Fenway Park, the team wanted to add another left-handed reliever to go with Richard Bleier against a Boston batting order that started five left-handed hitters Friday.
The Orioles optioned right-hander Yefry Ramírez to Norfolk after Wednesday’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, so no corresponding move had to be made to make room for Hart.
Hart, 27, allowed just one hit over 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief at Norfolk this season, striking out seven and walking one. He also started to regain the success against left-handed hitters that made him a valuable weapon for the Orioles two seasons ago. Left-handed hitters were 1-for-6 against Hart with four strikeouts.
“I think the biggest thing was just getting back to just kind of being more aggressive, especially right now,” Hart said. “Hitters are anxious. It’s cold. It’s early in the season, so guys are still trying to figure their way out, and so are pitchers. … I think anytime you have failure up here early, I ran into some of it early, you can get a little tentative. It’s easy to do that.
“But I think I got away from that. You have a couple outings that weren’t so good and then you have them in the back of your head. It’s a little easier said than done to move away from them. I think that was one of the biggest things. You can’t get those outings back. You’ve got to move on to the next day. That’s one thing I really had to run through my head a lot as spring training went on and the season went on down there.”
During spring training, left-handers hit .286 against Hart with a 1.91 WHIP. He was optioned to Triple-A earlier in spring training than anticipated, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter was impressed with the way Hart went to the minors and concentrated on what he was told he’d need to do to get back, specifically pitching more aggressively.
“Donnie’s been throwing the ball well, really been aggressive and going after guys down there,” Showalter said. “When you say things to a guy when he leaves and he goes and does what he’s supposed to do, we knew we would probably need somebody at some point.”
“Surprised? No. Disappointed? Yeah,” Hart said when asked if he was surprised he was sent to the minors to start the season. “It’s part of it. There’s a lot of things you can’t control in this game in terms of stuff that goes on around you. Could I have had a better spring? Yeah, absolutely I could’ve, but you know, if you keep on pitching, keep on getting guys out, you’re going to have a chance. So that’s what you have to do. You can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
Hart was the only left-handed reliever on the organizational 40-man roster available. Lefty Tanner Scott was optioned last week and can’t return this quickly unless it was part of a corresponding disabled list move, and left-hander Chris Lee is on the DL. Closer Zach Britton, another lefty, is on the 60-day DL.
The Orioles opted to call up Hart over nonroster lefty relievers Josh Edgin and Joely Rodríguez, both of whom had strong springs and were among the final roster cuts of camp. Edgin entered Friday with 3 1/3 scoreless innings at Norfolk, allowing just two hits while striking out four and walking one. Rodríguez hasn’t carried over his Grapefruit League success, posting a 5.79 ERA in his first 4 2/3 relief innings at Norfolk.
There was space on the 40-man roster to add either reliever, but both are out of options, meaning they’d have to clear waivers before being sent back to the minors. Showalter said the fact that Hart was an optionable reliever on the 40-man roster played a role in his call-up, but was a small one.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that the only reason we took Donnie is because he’s on the roster,” Showalter said. “We thought he was the best guy and he also happened to be on the roster. We’re able to kind of mix and match some because of the needs. We’re about to face a club next that only has one left-handed hitter [in Detroit], so if you get ahead of things like that it helps you put your best foot forward. It helps you protect your other people in the bullpen.”
The team must make another roster move before Saturday’s game to add right-hander Alex Cobb to make his Orioles debut. Cobb was officially on the Double-A Bowie roster as he built up innings after signing late, even though he never pitched for the Baysox, instead working in simulated games and an extended spring training game in his final outing Monday.
Around the horn
Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, who opened the season on the DL with a shin injury, has a bum shoulder and was scheduled to receive an MRI on it Friday. … Top prospect Ryan Mountcastle, who is on the minor league disabled list with a broken hand, has resumed all baseball activities with the exception of hitting. … Lee (right oblique strain) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday, his first time off a mound since the injury. … Left-hander Ryan O’Rourke, who is recovering after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in May, is throwing his first bullpen session Saturday. … Saturday is Gary Kendall’s 1,000th game as Bowie manager. He’s been in the Orioles organization for 19 years. … The Orioles announced that Rule 5 left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr., who was designated for assignment, has been returned to the New York Yankees organization. … Towson's Erika Brannock, who was injured during the Boston Marathon bombings five years ago, was among those honored on the field before Friday’s game at Fenway Park.