The Orioles have had a roulette in the final spot of their bullpen of late. Tuesday, it landed on Cole Irvin.
One of Baltimore’s major acquisitions in a modest offseason, the 29-year-old left-hander opened the year as the Orioles’ No. 3 starter. But after Irvin allowed 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings across three starts — uncharacteristically issuing eight walks in that time — he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. There, he found his footing, especially of late, with four earned runs allowed in 20 innings over his three most recent starts.
With the Orioles’ five-man rotation set and largely pitching well of late, Irvin will provide length out of Baltimore’s bullpen.
“I got away from doing what I know how to do best, which is throw sinkers down at the bottom zone and changeups,” Irvin said. “Got back to some good pitch mixes and got back to good locations. Here to do a job, so I’ll be prepared to do it.
“They can utilize me however they need. I’m here to win. I want to help this team in any capacity. I have a lot of confidence right now to be able to execute pitches the way I know how. Whatever role that is, I’m not going to complain.”
He replaces right-hander Logan Gillaspie, whose latest major league stint lasted one day. He joins left-handers Keegan Akin, Drew Rom and Nick Vespi in being optioned out of the Orioles’ bullpen in the past week. Barring an injured-list stint for another player, those pitchers must spend 15 days each in the minors before the Orioles can bring them back up. Players can also be optioned only five times during the season before having to be put on waivers to be assigned to the minors.
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“That’s something you always consider, for sure,” Hyde said. “Whenever you make a roster move, there’s always a plan in place because of the amount of times you can option to bring somebody back, the amount of time it’s going to take from a restriction standpoint of days, so there’s a lot. You consider all those things when you make a move.”
Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias noted last week that the team would likely use its entire 40-man roster over the course of the season as it pursues its first playoff berth since 2016. Each member of Triple-A Norfolk’s regular rotation is on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, giving the Orioles a collection of pitchers capable of covering innings out of the bullpen as needed. Hyde said the Orioles continue to view Irvin as a starter.
“Anything could happen,” Hyde said. “Couple of our starters could go down. He’s gonna start for us down the road at some point, for sure. I just don’t know when that’s gonna be, and we see him as a starter, but right now, we needed some length out of our bullpen, and he was fully rested, and we wanted to bring him up back here at some point anyways.”
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Should Irvin make a relief appearance — both Rom and Vespi were promoted and optioned without pitching — it would be his first time doing so since 2020 with the Philadelphia Phillies. After being traded to the Oakland Athletics, he made 62 starts over the next two seasons with a 4.11 ERA, averaging nearly 180 innings per season.
Acquired in January along with minor league pitcher Kyle Virbitsky for infield prospect Darell Hernaiz, Irvin was expected to provide the same dependability out of the Orioles’ rotation before his struggles and a roster crunch sent him to the minors. In four of his five starts with Norfolk, he went at least six innings and allowed no more than two runs.
“It was just getting back into a rhythm and understanding what made me successful at this level,” Irvin said. “One thing that I wasn’t doing was doing things that made me successful, so we just got back to doing good things. Working with [Norfolk pitching coach Justin] Ramsey down there was incredible. He does such a great job with all the pitchers down there to make them prepared to come up, and so we talked about things, we talked about things with the staff here and just ironed some things out and got back on to good locations, got my confidence back up.
“Feeling good and really happy to be back in this clubhouse.”