Orioles manager Brandon Hyde gave a glimpse at his late-game managerial strategy Saturday by using the man who was presumed to be his closer, right-hander Mychal Givens, in the eighth inning against the heart of the Yankees lineup.
He said Sunday that, as of now, there's not going to be a pitcher held in reserve to pitch the ninth inning in close games in which the Orioles have a lead.
"As of right now, we're trying to win the game, so whoever is closing the ninth inning, we're going to try to win the game with whoever that is," Hyde said. "It might change over the course of the year. I'm not really sure. It might be a guy that steps in and all of a sudden, I just want him to pitch the ninth inning. But as of right now, we're going to try to piece it together the best way we can, and whoever gets the save that night that's who it is."
On Saturday, it turned out to be Mike Wright getting his first career save after left-hander Richard Bleier, who was summoned to pitch against the bottom of the Yankees lineup with a 5-1 lead in the ninth, struggled to get outs. Before them, Givens pitched an electric eighth inning that began with No. 4 hitter Luke Voit, taking over after two scoreless innings from Miguel Castro.
Hyde said during spring training that there wasn't going to be an anointed closer, despite Givens being in that role at the end of last season after the Orioles dealt former All-Star relievers Zack Britton and Brad Brach. He certainly regards Givens as one of his top relievers, but the important outs were in the eighth Saturday, so that's when he used him.
"There are certain guys that I'm going to use in big spots, against the meat of their order," Hyde said. "There are certain guys that I have highlighted that I want to face certain hitters against them. But when it comes to a lockdown closer right now, we're not there yet.
“We don't have [Aroldis] Chapman. We don't have [Mariano] Rivera. We don't have Brandon Morrow. We don't have those type of guys right now that I'm just going to throw in the ninth inning. It's just going to be fluid as we go along. Maybe someone sticks into it, but as of right now, it's going to change a little bit."
Mullins sits again
Outfielder Cedric Mullins was out of the lineup for the second straight game this weekend, this time against left-hander J.A. Happ, but Hyde said he spoke to Mullins on Sunday morning to let him know that he wasn't in a permanent platoon. The switch-hitting outfielder is far better batting left-handed, and the Orioles have enough right-handed hitting options that they can let Mullins come along slowly against lefties.
"I know he's still working on his right-handed swing," Hyde said. "I think he's shown a lot of progress in that. He's going to get right-handed at-bats. Just with today, with Happ, I just wanted to get [Dwight Smith Jr.] back in there, to be honest with you. I wanted to get [Chris Davis] back in there today, so with Trey [Mancini] and [Joey] Rickard playing the outfield with [Renato Núñez] DH'ing. ...
"But I talked to Cedric today. This isn't a set-deal, left-right situation. I'm going to be doing it on matchups. There's a good chance he's playing the next three days in Toronto. Everybody's going to play. Everybody's going to get at-bats. We're going to match up night-to-night and try to win a game.”
Martin's first hit
Shortstop Richie Martin looped a single into short right field for his first major league hit Saturday, but was happier that it came in a victory, the Rule 5 shortstop said a day later.
“It felt great,” Martin said. “I was more excited about the team win. It didn’t go as planned at the end, but I was glad we could pull it out. That was the most exciting for me.”
In what’s been a whirlwind major league debut week, Martin isn’t being very judicious in how that first hit came.
“I thought he was about to [Odell Beckham Jr.] me and barehand it,” Martin said. “You need a little luck in this game, but I’m not complaining.”
Yacabonis embraces role
Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis got his first major league win since 2017 with three innings of one-run relief Saturday, an assignment that the lifelong reliever was set up for by starting last year and extending his pitch count in the Triple-A Norfolk starting rotation.
“I kind of like that feeling [in relief],” Yacabonis said. “I’ve been relieving my whole career, so just being able to get up and go, it gives you that adrenaline rush. … I battled through it yesterday. Got pinched on a couple pitches, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without starting last year. It taught me a lot.”
Around the horn
Toronto scratched Monday’s planned starter, left-hander Clayton Richard, and will start Sean Reid-Foley in the series-opener against the Orioles.