The Orioles’ deep need for pitching was laid bare this week in New York, and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up.
There was a team debut (left-hander Ty Blach), a major league debut (right-hander Chandler Shepherd), another waiver claim (right-hander Ryan Eades), and right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis getting designated for assignment after three years of up-and-down performance and roster time.
It’s all part of a pitching remake that manager Brandon Hyde said is necessary for the Orioles to not only survive the rest of 2019, but begin to get where they want to be.
“We’re just looking for guys that can get big league hitters out, and we’re on a record pace of not,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“I just like guys that have the ability to mix pitches, speed up, slow down guys, be able to locate, because we have a hard time doing that, a majority of guys in this organization.”
As a result, the Orioles have acquired — via trade, waivers or minor league free agency — almost an entire new staff’s worth of arms in the past two months to try to find some players that satisfy that end.
It began in mid-June with the trade for Tom Eshelman and waiver claim of right-hander Tayler Scott off waivers, and continued when they purchased right-hander Asher Wojciechowski in early July. They claimed right-hander Aaron Brooks before the All-Star break, and in August alone, added Blach off waivers, signed left-hander Hunter Cervenka to a minor league deal and claimed Eades.
Earlier in the season, they claimed right-hander Shawn Armstrong off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, and Shepherd from the Chicago Cubs.
That’s come as a few holdover pitchers such as Pedro Araujo, Yefry Ramirez and Yacabonis have all been taken off the roster, and so many others — David Hess, Evan Phillips, Branden Kline and Tanner Scott — have been relegated to the Norfolk shuttle to cover innings each night.
“From the pitching standpoint, we’re just not … we have a long way to go, pitching-wise, to get talented guys in here that are able to get through these types of lineups,” Hyde said. “We just have a long way to go.”
It’s been much easier for the position players the Orioles brought in over the past year to settle in and find success, from Dwight Smith Jr. to Pedro Severino to Rio Ruiz. But it’s been a challenge on the pitching side.
Here’s a breakdown of how the players the Orioles have acquired to cover their pitching woes have fared this year when getting a shot in the big leagues.
Armstrong, 28, has been one of the bright spots in the Orioles bullpen since he got to Baltimore, with long stretches of good performance and a couple of hiccups leaving him with a 4.38 ERA, a 1.282 WHIP and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Shepherd, 26, allowed a run on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in four innings of relief behind John Means on Tuesday, and got to stick around because of it. It was a lot of traffic, but not a lot of damage, and Hyde said it was an “awesome performance.”
The 25-year-old control artist has been trying to figure out how his repertoire will play in the big leagues, as evidenced by his 6.09 ERA with 11 home runs allowed in 34 innings over nine appearances (four starts).
Hyde frequently cites the success of Wojciechowski, 30, as proof the Orioles can find the kind of pitchers they need on the outside, and the numbers mostly back that up. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five of his eight starts, with a 4.84 WHIP and a 1.187 WHIP.
The South African right-hander hasn’t allowed a run at Triple-A Norfolk since he joined the organization in June. But Scott, 27, has pitched five times for the Orioles and allowed runs in each appearance, spanning 5 2/3 innings with 16 runs in for a 25.41 ERA.
Tasked with the unenviable job of stretching out from a relief role to the rotation in a major league season, the 29-year-old looked like he was in a good spot this summer before he allowed nine runs in three innings in the 23-2 loss to the Houston Astros, which raised his ERA to 9.41 with the Orioles.
Blach, 28, was showered with praise by Hyde for his pitch mix and the weak contact he induced in his Orioles debut Monday, when he allowed seven runs (six earned) in four innings with three walks and four strikeouts. The way Hyde spoke made it seem like more starts will be in his future, perhaps Sunday at the Boston Red Sox.