Kyle Bradish skipped over the first base line and gave his glove a hard smack. The excitement of making his major league debut seeped out, moments before he took the Camden Yards mound for the first time.
Any sign of nerves, though, did not show itself Friday night against the Boston Red Sox, as Bradish became only the fourth Oriole in the past decade to begin his career by completing six innings, with five of those being scoreless. But the exception, a three-run second, paired with a nearly silent lineup sent Baltimore to its fifth straight defeat, 3-1, in front of an announced crowd of 15,685 — with Bradish’s wife, their parents, three uncles and some family friends among them. He described the day as “everything I imagined and then some.”
“I always get nervous when I start, but today was a little extra,” Bradish said. “Walking in through the bullpen, that’s kind of when it really hit me.”
Ranked as the Orioles’ No. 9 prospect according to Baseball America, Bradish had never been to Camden Yards, “wandering the halls all day” before his start. One of four minor league right-handers acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in a December 2019 trade for Dylan Bundy, Bradish, 25, became the most significant product of the Orioles’ rebuild to reach Baltimore. He joined reliever Isaac Mattson, also part of the Bundy deal, and infielder Tyler Nevin, recalled Friday along with him, as the only prospects drafted or traded for by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias to make their major league debuts with the Orioles.
Bradish trails only former first-round picks Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall among pitchers in the system. Although Bradish’s debut ended in defeat, the day carried significance for an Orioles (6-14) team expecting many more first-time major leaguers over the next 142 games, including Rodriguez, Hall and top prospect Adley Rutschman.
“I think it’s important that we’re getting homegrown guys here and guys that either Mike’s acquired or drafted here in the last few years,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game. “It’s fun to have these guys come up.”
Bradish opened his night inauspiciously. He got Red Sox leadoff man Trevor Story to swing through two 87 mph sliders, but the latter got past catcher Robinson Chirinos on strike three, allowing Story to reach base as Bradish became the first major league starter since 1998 to open his debut with a strikeout but a runner safe at first. He continued the frame undisturbed, following with a double play then another groundout after a walk.
A looping single that narrowly evaded center fielder Cedric Mullins’ sliding attempt began the second, and two batters later, Christian Arroyo homered to the bullpens in left-center field, an area unchanged as the Orioles altered Camden Yards’ field dimensions ahead of the ballpark’s 30th anniversary season by moving back the left field wall. The Red Sox followed with two more singles, the first staying in the infield and the second getting past right fielder Trey Mancini, allowing an unearned run to score.
Bradish then retired 13 of the final 14 Boston batters he faced, including the final 10. He finished six innings on 81 pitches, a hair below the threshold Hyde set before the game. Nine of those resulted in swings and misses, with three each on his slider and changeup. His fastball averaged about 94 mph and got above 97.
“They were just really aggressive on his fastball early in the game, and then I just thought he threw some really good breaking balls,” Hyde said. “I think he got a little bit more unpredictable after that second inning.”
Bradish had left an impression on the Orioles’ coaching staff with a pair of scoreless two-inning outings this spring against lineups of New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies regulars, then followed that performance with three progressively longer starts with Triple-A Norfolk in which he posted a 1.20 ERA. Earlier this week, Orioles pitching coach Chris Holt called him to ask if he was ready to pitch Friday against Boston. Bradish replied, “Absolutely.” He showed that in his debut.
“He’s got quiet confidence,” Hyde said. “He just seemed like the moment wasn’t too big for him.
“He looked like he was ready.”
Over the wall, not the Hill
After missing the past two games with a sore neck, Ryan Mountcastle, who set the Orioles’ rookie record for home runs with 33 in 2021, fittingly provided the first over Camden Yards’ new deeper-and-taller left field wall. His ninth-inning solo shot began the bottom of the ninth against Red Sox right-hander Hansel Robles, leaving his bat at 111.2 mph and traveling a projected 423 feet, according to Statcast.
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Innings earlier, Xander Bogaerts opened Bradish’s sixth inning hitting a deep flyout to left, the first out in seven games at Camden Yards this season that likely would have been a home run with the old dimensions. In Baltimore’s second home game, Mancini doubled off the wall in a portion near the left field corner that rises toward the maximum 13-foot height.
Mountcastle’s blast had no issue with the wall, but it accounted for the Orioles’ only offense of the night. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill, who appeared in 14 games for the Orioles in 2009, held his former team without a base runner for four innings, then Austin Hays led off the fifth with an infield single off Hill’s 50th pitch. With Boston using a tandem approach, right-hander Tanner Houck then entered, surrendering a clean single to left by Ramón Urías.
But Nevin, recalled Friday after a strong start to the season with Triple-A Norfolk, grounded into a double play, the first of Baltimore’s eight hitless at-bats with a runner in scoring position, with pinch-hitter Rougned Odor striking out with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh and Chris Owings, pinch-hitting for Odor in the ninth, striking out with two on to end the game. The Orioles are 30-for-177, a .169 average, with a runner on either second, third or both.
Around the horn
- No. 11 prospect Mike Baumann, a right-hander optioned to Norfolk so the Orioles could promote Bradish, will have scheduled multi-inning appearances for the Tides, Hyde said, in hopes that more regular outings will help him improve in pitching ahead in the count.
- In his first appearance for an affiliate, Hall struck out six batters in four scoreless innings with High-A Aberdeen. In the third game of his rehab appearance there, Rutschman caught Hall and went 1-for-2 with a walk.
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