SARASOTA, Fla. — After his third spring training start, Kyle Bradish said he believes his performance thus far is worthy of a spot in the Orioles’ rotation.
Truthfully, the bigger question is how high he can climb in it.
The 26-year-old right-hander dominated across four innings against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night, striking out eight while allowing a run on two hits over four innings. On the spring, Bradish has struck out 12 while giving up two runs in nine innings, a strong show amid Baltimore’s 12-pitcher rotation competition.
“I think after my second-half performance last year and then getting my work in this year and going about my business how I do, I think I should be in contention for it,” Bradish said. “But it’s not up to me. I just want to go out there, do my thing and then let what happens happen.”
After returning from a shoulder injury in late July, Bradish posted a 3.28 ERA in 13 starts. Excluding a disastrous penultimate outing in Boston, that figure falls to 2.48.
Of course, Bradish being in the upper half of Baltimore’s rotation would put his first start of the year back at Fenway Park, but he’s pitched this spring as someone deserving of that placement.
How he came about Friday’s success was notable. Bradish said his changeup was his predominant pitch, estimating he threw it 30% of the time. In 2022′s second half, he never used it more than 11% in any start; on the year, it was his least used off-speed pitch. Improved confidence in that offering could bode well for Bradish’s 2023.
“It’s just a pitch that helps me get back on plan and timed up if I’m having a big arm-side misses,” he said.
His slider was less crisp, with Bradish figuring he had only “two or three good ones” out of the 10 or so he threw. He also had issues with his front side, which he worked with pitching coach Chris Holt to address mid-outing.
Still, he managed to not allow a run until a solo shot in the fourth, becoming the first Orioles starter to work into that inning this spring. The result was another statement about his deservedness of a rotation spot and how high he should be in it.
“He’s just carried that [second-half] work into this year,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s doing a great job so far this spring.”
After the game, the Orioles reassigned left-hander Cade Povich, who allowed a run in two innings Friday, to minor league camp and optioned right-handers Noah Denoyer and Seth Johnson. Baltimore has 56 players left on its spring training roster, needing to get to 26 by opening day March 30.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday, a day after touring Atlanta’s Truist Field and the surrounding entertainment district alongside Orioles CEO and Chairman John Angelos to explore possible changes to the area around Oriole Park.
Wearing a No. 63 Orioles jersey — Moore is Maryland’s 63rd governor — featuring his last name across the back, Moore lobbed a pitch from in front of the mound to Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman, who hopped behind the left-handed batter’s box to catch it, framing it back into the strike zone. The Oriole Bird generously called it a strike.
Earlier in the day, Moore took batting practice with the team.
“It was amazing getting out there,” Moore said before his first pitch. “None of the Orioles should worry at all about me taking their job. But it was really fun getting out there. This is a dream come true. We’re having a ball.”
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Asked for a score prediction for Friday’s game, he went with an 8-2 Orioles victory — they tied, 5-5 — then praised the players he met throughout the day. He and Rutschman stayed on the field and chatted for a time after the first pitch.
“The thing that I love about this team and I love that I got a chance to spend time with the team — going out and doing batting practice and spending time in the locker room — this is a good bunch of guys,” Moore said. “They play the game right. They really enjoy being around each other. This is an incredibly talented team, but it’s also a very egoless team, which is really fun to watch because they will outwork everybody, they will play together, and that’s why this team is gonna have a great year. This team epitomizes everything that we love about Baltimore, everything we love about Maryland, and I think this year, they’re gonna put on a show, and it’s gonna be fun to watch.”
Vavra still seeking ‘normal’ at third
Terrin Vavra was back in the lineup Friday after a case of left shoulder discomfort, playing third base for the second time this spring. He recorded a hit in the first of his two at-bats before leaving the game after three innings, a scheduled early exit.
A lone inning while rehabbing with High-A Aberdeen last year marked the infielder’s lone professional experience at the hot corner before camp. Although he handled himself well in Lakeland with a pair of diving plays, he acknowledged Friday he’s still settling in there.
“I’d be lying if I said I feel ultra-confident,” Vavra said. “I haven’t played too many games over there. But I’m confident in my athletic ability. I’m confident in how many times I’ve played this game and watched this game and ultimately, I’m pretty confident in my ability to adapt. So having confidence in those things, knowing how I prepare, knowing how I’m working every day to get a little better at it, I think I find some confidence in that.”
Vavra is one of several left-handed hitters on the Orioles’ camp roster vying for a bench job that could include backup first base duties; he also spent time this offseason training there, though he has yet to play first in an exhibition. Although other candidates can also play the outfield, Vavra’s ability to man second base differentiates him, and his growing comfort at third base would increase his value. Continued hitting will be the biggest key; Vavra is 7-for-13 this spring after Friday’s single. He said he’ll play again Saturday.
“This game’s pretty tough, so anytime you can get a good result, it feels good,” Vavra said. “I was just happy to be able to put a barrel on it and feel like I was on time with everything and good to see some breaking balls and just kind of compete. Overall just fun to get back out there.”