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Opening Day loss for Orioles shows new faces aren’t enough to overcome old pitching problems

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and pitching coach Doug Brocail spent two different spring trainings — the actual one and the summer one — hoping a year of experience, some new faces and better starting pitching would make for a better experience every time the bullpen door opened.

None of that came together on Opening Day for the Orioles. They got just three innings from starter Tommy Milone and no outs on just four batters faced from Cody Carroll as the first man out of the bullpen. The Orioles eventually lost 13-2 to the Boston Red Sox, washing away much of the optimism about the season like a summer storm.

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It doesn’t mean none of those improvements will take hold in 2020. It was just a quick, stark reminder of all the ways even the best-laid pitching plans of a 16-pitcher staff can be undermined.

Hyde said: “190 pitches in eight innings is not a real good formula for a win,” before lamenting that even with the expanded rosters, he still feels like there’s not enough pitching.

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“We’re doing the best we can, and our guys are trying hard, and we’re going to compete,” Hyde said Saturday morning. “But I think that we need to try to build up our starters a little bit more. I think everybody’s going to have that issue, and I think our bullpen guys need to come in and throw strike one.”

Milone was hard on himself when he called it embarrassing to pitch three innings and lamented the spot he put the bullpen in. But between Milone and left-hander Wade LeBlanc, plus a healthy Alex Cobb, the Orioles’ rotation was meant to be more stable than it was in 2019 when a revolving door at the back end meant for difficulties at every level of the staff.

Hyde said after the game that he believes in Carroll, who was making his first major league appearance since 2018 after missing all of last season with a back injury. Hyde felt the bottom of the Red Sox order was a good spot for Carroll.

But Carroll struggled with his control and left a bad spot for Travis Lakins Sr., who came in with the bases loaded. The Orioles hope Lakins is closer to the pitcher he was in his scoreless fifth inning than that difficult fourth inning.

David Hess, who allowed three runs on Green Monster doubles in the sixth inning before adding two scoreless innings, came out looking the best of the bunch for limiting how many pitchers needed to be used.

Carroll, especially, was someone whose spring training created some buzz. Hess and Lakins were somewhat surprising inclusions for Opening Day who made it in part because they were already on the 40-man roster; Hess was optioned to the minors before the shutdown happened.

That means a loss like this isn’t like the more frustrating ones of 2019 where a lead was involved. Their job wasn’t to protect one, and there wasn’t a lead to hold either way.

The team is carrying 16 pitchers on the Opening Day roster, with 11 in the bullpen. The assumption is that some — Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, and Paul Fry — are being held in reserve to protect leads.

Where the Orioles got in trouble in years past were those top relievers were at times the only ones available, and they tired out in losing assignments to the point that they weren’t effective when the team needed them to lock down a victory.

Friday’s loss was a glimpse of that won’t be the case, at least for the first month until rosters get back down to 26. Hyde and the Orioles will have plenty of arms at their disposal to weather the losses and save the top relievers for the wins, which they hope won’t come infrequently.

Means on the mend; Harvey farther away

Left-hander John Means, who was supposed to start Opening Day but has been recovering from a tired arm that he described as inflammation in his biceps, is rehabbing at the team’s alternate site at Double-A Bowie and targeting Thursday’s game against the Miami Marlins for his first start of the season.

“My arm feels great right now, actually,” Means said. “I feel really good, and it has for the past five, six days or so. But it’s disappointing. I just had a little tweak there in my last outing, and just for precautionary reasons we kind of slow-played it. I didn’t want to get hurt trying to make that Opening Day start, but it’s disappointing, obviously. That would have been a dream come true to pitch Opening Day at Fenway Park.”

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Means said his last intrasquad start was when the soreness began, and described it as like having knots in his biceps.

Right-hander Hunter Harvey, meanwhile, is also at Bowie but won’t be eligible to return next week once he’s off the injured list. Harvey’s been described as having a tired arm as well, though Hyde said he’s feeling better lately.

“He’s still in a progression,” Hyde said. “He’s going to start playing catch here sometime soon, and it’s going to be monitoring and a bullpen, and probably a [simulated] game or two. I don’t think we have a timetable on him.

Around the horn

The Orioles announced that right-hander Carter Baumler, the team’s fifth-round pick, signed on Friday, giving them a full complement of six signed selections. Baumler, an Iowa prep right-hander, signed for a reported $1.5 million.

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