Although 100 pitches has been an arbitrary cutoff point for starting pitchers in recent decades, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde does not subscribe to the theory that the century mark should signal the end of an outing.
Yet, only twice through 37 games has an Orioles starter reached that benchmark, with right-hander Andrew Cashner responsible for both after a season-high 104 tosses in six innings in Wednesday’s 2-1, 12-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox.
“A hundred's not, like, a limit for me or anything,” Hyde said before Wednesday’s contest. “It's just kinda what's happened so far a little bit. I don't put a number on anything. We more watch with our eyes and talk between innings and check in with guys and monitor the stress level of the innings."
With his six frames, Cashner provided the Orioles’ seventh outing of at least that length, yet only one other required 100 pitches, that being Cashner’s seven one-run innings against the Chicago White Sox on April 23. Two of the other five ended before even 90 pitches.
Alternatively, Orioles starters have 10 times reached 90 pitches before completing six innings, with results and base runners often forcing Hyde to pull them. In Cashner’s previous start, he threw 99 pitches in four innings, with 36 of those coming in a three-run fourth.
"A lot depends on — for me, it's traffic on the bases, stressful innings,” Hyde said. “Like Cash's last start in Chicago, where it was right around 100 and it was only through four, but that fourth inning was 30 something pitches, and he was pitching out of traffic the entire inning, so that definitely factors into it. If they're breezing through the game and there's a lot of low stress innings, especially later on, I'd look to extend guys a little bit, but I'm not gonna overextend a guy that is continuing to pitch stressful inning after stressful inning."
Before Cashner’s six innings of one-run ball Wednesday, with one of his 104 pitches coming in as an elevated changeup that Mookie Betts homered on, the Orioles were 12th in the American League in both starters’ innings pitched and starters’ ERA. They entered play tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the fewest six-inning starts in baseball.
Three of their seven have come in the past four games, perhaps suggesting a turning point for the Orioles’ rotation and giving Hyde the chance to more commonly push his starters past 100 pitches as the season dives into the second week of its second full month. He refrained from saying pitches thrown is an overvalued metric, noting its value in at least staying somewhat cognizant of a pitcher’s well-being.
"It's something you definitely monitor and you definitely want to try to keep guys healthy, and I would love to have Cashner and [Dylan] Bundy and these guys make 35 starts, so that's something to always keep in mind,” Hyde said. “I just want to protect guys, especially in our situation where I want guys to have success and I want to try to have guys finish throughout the year.
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“We're gonna do everything we can to make sure that happens the best way we can, and I think there's certain times when guys can get extended, especially if you can get them a day or two rest more than they would normally get following a start, that kind of thing, you can help that out, but if a guy's cruising along, I'd love to see him continue. I love complete games. I love starters going deep into games. Hopefully, we have a few of those this year."