Although Friday’s signing of right-hander Dan Straily affords Orioles manager Brandon Hyde a fifth starting pitcher, he’s not quite ready to avoid the bullpen games that have taxed Baltimore’s pitching staff in each turn through the rotation.
Left-hander John Means will start Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics, Hyde said before Sunday’s 15-3 loss in the series finale against the New York Yankees. It will be Means’ first major-league start after four relief appearances, though 114 of his 119 career minor-league appearance were starts. Hyde said there would be no innings restriction on Means, who has thrown 3 1/3 innings in two of his four outings for the Orioles.
"I'm gonna let Johnny pitch,” Hyde said. “I'll be smart about it, but I'm looking forward to watch him start and taking it as far as he can go. Obviously, he's been outstanding. Can pitch a variety of roles for you, so we're gonna give him a start on Tuesday and see how it goes.”
Before Sunday, Straily had not pitched in a competitive game since his final spring training start March 22 with the Miami Marlins. Hyde said ideally, Straily, who came out of the bullpen in relief Sunday and allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings, will make a couple of relief appearances before joining the rotation.
Meanwhile, right-hander Nate Karns will be a full-time reliever going forward. Karns signed with the Orioles in the offseason and entered spring training in the competition for a rotation spot, but he didn’t recover as hoped from his first spring start was moved to the bullpen. He pitched two innings as the starter of the Orioles’ previous two bullpen games and made his first relief appearance since April 2017 on Saturday. Hyde said Karns is available to pitch back-to-back days if needed.
“I think that once we felt in spring where maybe stretching him out isn't the right thing to do and maybe for his arm health, shorter spurts might be the best way to go, especially breaking camp, kinda seeing how he was recovering,” Hyde said. “We feel like now is just the time to put him in the bullpen and just let him be a regular bullpen arm. He's comfortable doing both things, but once you get above the two-, three-inning deal with him, you've got some recovery time, and now that we have five starters, we feel comfortable with him being in the 'pen and just being more of usable bullpen piece.”
Slumping Martin out of lineup
Hyde has said rookie shortstop Richie Martin’s defense will take precedence over his offense in the Rule 5 draftee’s first big-league season. Still, getting more than the .091 average Martin produced through the year’s first eight games would be ideal.
Martin was out of the Orioles’ lineup for Sunday’s finale. He said Saturday that he believes he’s capable of handling the adjustment necessary to succeed in the majors after previously not playing above Double-A in the Oakland A’s system.
“It's the same game,” Martin said. “I feel like everything's pretty much internal. The bases are still 90 feet away. The field's are all the same. It's just a bigger crowd, but at the end of the day, it's the same game.”
Hyde preached confidence and patience in the 24-year-old infielder.
“It's still early, and we talked a lot with him in spring training about really making his defense a priority, and it's a big jump from Double-A to the big leagues, and he's done that,” Hyde said. “He's played great defensively, done a great job of not taking his at-bats to the field. He's off to a slow start offensively. We're gonna stick with him. I'm gonna try to find the right spots for him, but we knew that there was gonna be an adjustment period.”
Fry’s slider sparking success
Left-hander Paul Fry enjoyed one of the best outings of his young career Saturday, entering with the bases loaded and no outs. He finished the inning without a run scoring, retiring all six New York batters he faced across 2 1/3 innings.
“I think just being able to throw my slider in any count yesterday was working for me and just making big pitches at different times, basically,” Fry said Sunday.
So far this season, Fry has used his slider 46 percent of the time. He exceeded that margin Saturday, with 17 of his 29 pitches being sliders. He used the pitch to retire the six Yankees he faced, striking out Clint Frazier with it and producing four grounds and a flyout.
Four of the six batters were right-handers. The ability to successfully blend his fastball and slider has enabled him to hold right-handed batters to a .154 average in his first four outings.
“I think it just allows me to go out there and finish innings, maybe go multiple innings every time out there,” Fry said. “Of course, I want to keep my pitch count down, so I have to mix those two pitches up really well and just attack hitters.”
Around the horn
Tyler Stallings, a 7-year-old from Halethorpe, was recognized as Sunday’s Birdland Community Hero for his efforts assisting veterans with “hero packs,” which provide homeless veterans with hygiene products and other necessities. … The Orioles will start Andrew Cashner, Means, Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy in their four-game series with Oakland.