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Orioles observations on Dean Kremer’s step forward, Zac Lowther’s big moment and more | ANALYSIS

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spent much of his pregame video call Wednesday discussing the slip in command he has seen from right-hander Dean Kremer this spring compared with what he showed in his brief major league stint last summer.

In his subsequent Grapefruit League outing against the Boston Red Sox, Kremer showed improvement in that regard. He needed 80 pitches to get through 4 ⅔ innings in a 2-0 loss, but that still represented the longest outing by an Orioles pitcher this spring.

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He found himself in trouble early after losing a 10-pitch battle to Alex Verdugo, who hit a grounder to the left side against a shifted infield then moved to third on Hunter Renfroe’s bloop single. But Kremer recovered by striking out Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers on breaking balls to strand both runners.

His command escaped him in the third. Kremer’s first five pitches of the frame were balls, and Renfroe sent a 2-0 breaking ball out to right field for a two-run home run to account for all of the damage against Kremer.

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He managed to retire the next seven batters before a Verdugo single ended his night.

“It was good early, then wavered, then got back to good,” Kremer said of his command. “Definitely finished on a high note, and I like where I’m at.”

Before the game, Hyde stopped short of saying that Kremer’s command struggles and those of fellow rookie Keegan Akin would be enough to keep either out of the club’s Opening Day rotation. But an outing like Wednesday’s from Kremer certainly won’t hurt, and it’d be even more beneficial for Baltimore if Akin can follow it well in his start Thursday.

“They had a few starts last year where they proved that they could pitch in the big leagues and pitch in our division, and they just haven’t shown that command this spring,” Hyde said pregame. “They’re both going to get opportunities here this last week to kind of harness that command and be the pitchers that we feel like they are.”

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Lowther leaves ’em loaded

A pitcher who hopes to join Kremer and Akin on Baltimore’s pitching staff at some point in 2021 showed that the starting role he’s had most of his professional career might not be his only path to that point.

Left-hander Zac Lowther was one of six prospects the Orioles added to their 40-man roster this spring, and like the other five, Lowther has already been optioned out of camp. But his three perfect innings Wednesday match up with his claim earlier this spring that the only thing preventing him from being in the majors is the Orioles giving him a roster spot.

With only two relief appearances in his professional career, it’s doubtful Lowther has started many outings as he did Wednesday: with the bases loaded and no outs. A two-pitch lineout and a double play started his run of eight straight batters retired as he covered the final three innings without allowing a baserunner.

The Orioles will assuredly continue to develop Lowther, their No. 18 prospect according to Baseball America, as a starter at their alternate site in Bowie and in Triple-A once that season begins. But in a year that will require arms in whatever form they might come, Lowther showed how valuable his could be.

“He went out there without fear and attacked their hitters,” Hyde said.

Mountcastle scratched

Rookie slugger Ryan Mountcastle was slated to bat third and play left field Wednesday, but he was removed from the lineup before the game and replaced with Tyler Nevin.

Hyde said the cause for the scratch was a “non-physical injury” that he couldn’t disclose, adding that he hoped Mountcastle returned Thursday.

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