Orioles' David Hess embraces temporary move to bullpen: ‘I’m excited just to contribute’

When Orioles manager Brandon Hyde met with right-hander David Hess on Friday and explained the team’s plan to temporarily move him to the bullpen, Hess’ response carried a waft of opportunity.

Although the Orioles will start left-hander John Means in place of Hess on Monday against the Chicago White Sox, Hess sees his potential use as a reliever for the time being as a chance to make an impact.

“Really at this point, whatever is best for the team is what I want to do,” Hess said. “I met with him yesterday and he said, right now, just with having six starters, he felt like that was the best move for the club and for me right now, and I think it was a good decision on his part.

“I think really just going out there and trying to get quality innings, show that I can be effective out of the ’pen just as much as a starter. At the end of the day, however everything settles, just being here and being able to contribute to the team is my primary focus.”

Hess, 25, could rejoin the rotation after a series of days off over the coming weeks, with Hyde preferring to avoid a six-man rotation when it could give his starters too much time between outings. For now, Hess returns to a role he filled on Opening Day, when he pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the New York Yankees.

In that appearance, he averaged 94.3 mph on his four-seam fastball, his highest of any outing this season. The pitch’s average velocity has marginally decreased in each of his five starts, per Statcast data. A return to the bullpen could change that.

“I think when you have that kind of arm and you know it's a short sprint, sometimes your stuff can tick up a little bit,” Hyde said. “I like David's arm. I think David's got a chance to be a really good big league pitcher in whatever role he's gonna be.”

Since pitching 6 1/3 no-hit innings in his first start this season, Hess has allowed eight home runs in 17 2/3 innings with an 8.66 ERA. Hyde reiterated Saturday that he still views Hess as a starter and expects him to make many appearances as such this season.

“It's not just going there just for a bump down,” Hess said. “[Hyde] made it very clear that was not the case, so I think it is something I'm excited about, to see how it plays out because I do think that, stuff wise, it's a good matchup.”

Right-handers Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb will follow Means in the Chicago series. Hess expressed happiness for Means, who has posted a 1.74 ERA after being an unexpected member of the Orioles’ Opening Day roster. The two came up through the Orioles’ minor league system together; both were drafted by the club in 2014.

Both are also facing the challenge of learning how to pitch at the major league level. Hess views the move to the bullpen as an opportunity for another learning experience.

“I think the versatility aspect at the end of the day is something that a lot of teams are looking for,” Hess said. “To be able just to go out there and show that I'm capable of doing a couple different things, I think, really is something that there's excitement from them about, and that's something that was mentioned yesterday, as well, just the versatility that is brought to the table.

“It is part of the learning process and just kind of growing up a little bit through the league, and so regardless of what it looks like, I'm excited just to contribute and really just help us win ballgames as best as possible."

Around the horn

Hyde said injured left-hander Richard Bleier, who’s on the injured list with shoulder tendinitis, pitched an inning in extended spring training late this week. … Orioles outfield prospect Zach Jarrett, 24, the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, was promoted from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie on Saturday. The Orioles’ 2017 28th-round draft pick slashed .306/.393/.444 in 21 games with the Keys this season.

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