They call it informally the “Norfolk Shuttle” for a reason, because it runs so regularly between the upper levels of the Orioles minor league system and whereever the major league team is playing at the time.
It has been a thing for years, but it has been used so much lately it would make former manager Buck Showalter blush.
The day after the O’s flew in right-handed reliever Evan Phillips from Norfolk on Thursday and then dispatched both Phillips and left-hander Paul Fry back to the East Coast, the club announced the recall of left-hander Tanner Scott from Norfolk and right-hander Branden Kline from Double-A Bowie.
Both had to fly the longest possible distance between the the current road stops of their respective teams -- Buffalo, N.Y., and Harrisburg, Pa., — and any major league city.
“They’ve had quite a travel day,’’ said manager Brandon Hyde. “It’s a long way to go, but the adrenaline will be there and they’re in the big leagues, so I think it’s well worth the long day.”
And that was only the airline portion of trips that began with long overnight bus rides from the cities where those teams played on Thursday. Scott from Scranton, Pa., to Buffalo, N.Y., where the team bus dropped him at the airport on the way into town. Kline from Harbford, Conn., where he caught an early connection to Chicago and ended up sitting two rows from Scott on the final leg to Seattle.
Not that anyone is going to mind making the trip in that direction. Fry and Phillips probably didn’t relish the 2,100 mile trip from Seattle to Buffalo, where the Tides play this weekend.
When Scott and Kline walked off their flight in Seattle late Friday morning, they found Phillips waiting at the gate to board the same plane back through Chicago.
“Obviously, you know at any time you can go up and you can go down,’’ Kline said. “It’s just part of having options and part of being in this game right now...I don’t know if I’ll be here tomorrow or the next day. I take it one day at a time and I’m just here to help this team out in any way I can.”
Scott continues to pitch well at the Triple-A level. He has a 3-1 record and 3.57 ERA down there, but has no decisions and a 6.75 ERA in eight appearances in the big leagues this season.
Kline has made three scoreless appearances since being optioned to the Baysox, but had a 6.75 ERA in seven appearances at Norfolk before his last call up to the Orioles.
It’s a big jump.
If you need proof of that, consider that Phillips has been unhittable at Triple-A. He has given up just one earned run and four hits in eight appearances totaling 11 innings, but is 0-1 with a 7.79 ERA in 16 big league appearances, with a WHIP that starts with a two.
And, if you’re wondering why the Orioles don’t just dig deeper into their system and bring up some less-experienced pitchers with better minor league numbers, Hyde would tell you that he has explained that too many times already.
“I think there’s going to be changes all year long,’’ Hyde said Wednesday, just before the frenetic two-day roster shuffle began. “It could be like that every day.”
Not the “opener”
Left-handed reliever Sean Gilmartin was scheduled to start Friday night’s game against the Mariners. He is making his 2019 Orioles debut after pitching well in 12 major league games (3.00 ERA) late last summer.
Because of the injury to John Means, who would have been the Friday night starter if he had not been placed on the injured list with a shoulder strain, Hyde had no choice but to make the second game of the Mariners series a bullpen-only affair.
Still that does not mean that Gilmartin will be the “opener,” since he likely will pitch as long as he is effective, though not likely more than four innings. In his case, it probably is a distinction without a significant difference, but the opener concept usually calls for a reliever to start the game and spend a previously determined period of time in the game.
Mancini said Thursday that he hoped to recover from his bruised elbow in time to play in Friday’s game, but no one — not really even himself — believed that the soreness and swelling would subside in time to make that advisable.
Even if he went in and tried to convince his manager he’s ready to return, he might not play until the team returns home to open a two-game interleague series against Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.
Hyde said before Friday night’s game that Mancini is improving, but is still sore and it could be another day or two before he can play. Hyde said he doesn’t believe there is any scenario in which Mancini has to go on the 10-day injured list.
Outfielder Joey Rickard has been claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants, who apparently like the Orioles’ organizational outfield depth better than the Orioles do.
The Giants traded for O’s prospect Mike Yastrzemski in March and brought him up to the big leagues in late May. Since then, he has played in 23 games and is batting .264 with a .325 OBP and has four homers and 11 RBIs.
Rickard got off to a great start with the Orioles when he made the Opening Day roster as a Rule 5 player in 2016 — hitting safely in 13 of his first 14 games. He looked as if he was going to carve out a bright future in the organization, but was not able to match that level of performance over his next three seasons.