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Orioles bullpen earns rare acclaim with performance in Wednesday's weird doubleheader

The defense was flat-out bad, to the point that the Orioles didn't really look ready to play in the first game. But when asked to pinpoint one thing that stood out from over eight hours of baseball, manager Brandon Hyde's response was a positive on the most frustrating aspect of his team.

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"Really encouraged by a lot of our bullpen arms," Hyde said. "I thought we threw the ball really good out of the pen, and I thought today was a little bit of a hiccup for us defensively that we need to get back to and really focus on catching the ball. The main thing is how well our bullpen guys threw."

The bullpen coughed up the second game, with Evan Phillips, Paul Fry and Miguel Castro getting two of the required three outs to close out the game and the winning run coming in against Castro. But that came after 8 2/3 innings of scoreless relief by Shawn Armstrong, Branden Kline, Mychal Givens, Gabriel Ynoa and then Phillips.

Pretty much every pitcher in the Orioles bullpen contributed, and with Yefry Ramirez also in the mix, it's fair to wonder whether after a month of tinkering, this could be the group that stabilizes the team.

The biggest bullpen shakeup came Sunday when Kline essentially took the spot of Jimmy Yacabonis, and Ramirez came on in the spot that was made by Alex Cobb going back to the injured list. Armstrong joined Wednesday to create a group that, while maybe not definitively better, is at least different.

Ynoa, who was part of the first wave of major bullpen changes after Mike Wright was designated for assignment April 21, has struck out eight while allowing one run on seven hits in 8 1/3 innings over four outings.

Fry remains reliable, even with a few recent hiccups, and Givens was dominant in a four-out save Wednesday. Before him, Kline struck out two in two scoreless innings; the two home runs he gave up in his major league debut April 20 are the only blemishes against him in three outings.

Like Ynoa with his slider, Ramirez has one standout pitch — his changeup — to go with a fastball that plays up in relief. They could alternate between long-relief duty.

With the more inconsistent but talented arms in the minors — save for Castro, who wholly falls under that category and showed why again Wednesday — Hyde and the Orioles might have a bullpen that's a little less volatile than the one that's produced so many headaches and allowed so many home runs through the first month-plus of 2019.

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