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Orioles short on minor league options to shuffle rotation: 'We don't want to rush somebody here'

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde maintained Thursday that in the face of some particularly challenging starts from the current members of his rotation, there aren't readily available options to make a change in the near future.

That's why, when asked about any adjustments that could be made, Hyde noted they're looking outside the organization as opposed to inside it. The Orioles claimed right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who began starting at Triple-A in the Boston Red Sox organization in 2018, off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Hyde said those types of moves are being considered all the time.

"As of right now, this is what we have," Hyde said. "I know our guys are working hard to see what else is out there also. We're always keeping an eye on what's going on around the league.

"We're excited about a couple guys down below that we don't feel are ready, and we want to make sure that guys, when they get here, are ready to have success here and not rush guys into a tough situation. We're going to do the right thing for the player, not just from necessity from the major league club. So, I think we're big-picture minded, and we don't want to rush somebody here. But also, when guys are proving they're ready to come here, we're not afraid to make that decision also."

So far at Triple-A Norfolk, the best starter has been 24-year-old left-hander Keegan Akin, who has a 3.92 ERA in nine starts in his first taste of the level. Two pitchers who debuted last year after July trades but started this year in the minors, Josh Rogers and Luis Ortiz, have ERAs near 7.00.

Below them at Double-A Bowie, the rotation features such promising pitchers as Hunter Harvey, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann. They’ll soon be pushed by Blaine Knight, Cody Sedlock and Michael Baumann from High-A Frederick, but that kind of quality isn’t evident at Triple-A yet.

"I don't think we've got a huge depth of Triple-A pitching prospects that are knocking on the door,” Hyde said. “There's not a ton of guys down there that we feel are 100% ready to come here. Akin wasn't even in big league camp. I've never even seen him pitch. He's made [nine] Triple-A starts. There's a lot that goes into it. We just don't want to call somebody up because guys are struggling here. We want to make sure we're doing what's right for them."

Still, Hyde struggles with the idea that leaving someone such as David Hess in the rotation is actually best for him. Hess, 25, has a 6.75 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) and has allowed nine home runs over his past three starts, and a major league-worst 17 this season. That's closely followed by veteran right-hander Dan Straily, whose 9.09 ERA is inflated by his 14 home runs allowed.

For someone such as Hess, Hyde said it's a balance between giving him the opportunity to improve and setting him up to struggle again.

"You don't want to put guys in bad spots and tough situations, and we want to have our guys have success," Hyde said. "Watching some of our starts has been tough. You feel bad for the player. You're supporting them, coaching them and you're helping as much as you possibly can. You want to see them have success.

“It's a two-edged sword. There's a lot of things to factor in, but you definitely don't want to see a young player come up here and struggle and consistently, struggle after struggle after struggle. You want to see them fight through it and pitch well."

Around the horn

Hyde said outfielder Keon Broxton will likely report to the team Friday in Colorado. His arrival will mean Stevie Wilkerson will be used all over the diamond to give some of the team's regulars days off, Hyde said. … To make room for Broxton on the 25-man roster, the Orioles optioned outfielder Joey Rickard to Norfolk after Thursday’s game. He’s batting .203 with 11 extra-base hits in 42 games this season. … Hyde said the Orioles haven't considered going back to the "opener" strategy of having bullpen games because they're so short on relief pitching as it is.

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