Baltimore Orioles

Orioles observations on Tyler Wells’ aggressiveness, a table tennis title, first roster cuts and more

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Tyler Wells’ first two pitches Thursday were balls. The third was launched more than 400 feet.

A leadoff home run from Philadelphia’s Bryson Stott marked a poor beginning to Wells’ second start this spring for the Orioles, but he allowed only one hit through the rest of it. His fastball velocity ticked up after the long ball, striking out Rhys Hoskins, Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm in succession to end the first.


In all, five of Wells’ eight outs in Clearwater came via strikeout, and the home run accounted for the only run he allowed.

“It pissed me off,” Wells said. “For me, I think that’s what happens whenever you fall behind 2-0 to the first guy of the game and you throw him a cookie.


“I think that that definitely kind of helped me kind of get into that aggressive mode real quick. It is what it is, but not going to let it happen again.”

That aggression, Wells said, was a focus after allowing three runs in two innings in his first spring outing. He largely deployed his four-seam fastball up in or above the zone or to his glove side, with five of the six whiffs he generated coming on pitches that would have been balls had the batter not swung. But he populated the zone with his slider, getting five called strikes with that offering.

Orioles pitcher Tyler Wells, throwing during a workout on Feb. 17, allowed a leadoff home run but gave up only one more hit and recorded eight outs in Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Phillies.

Manager Brandon Hyde said the slider was reminiscent of the one Wells threw as a late-inning reliever in 2021; the pitch was “in and out” last year.

Wells continued to adjust to the sport’s new pitch clock. Amid a long at-bat against Hoskins to end his outing, he stepped off with no runners on, which does not stop the clock and resulted in an automatic ball when it reached zero. Wells managed to strike out Hoskins regardless, but his outing ended there as he hit his 55-pitch limit.

“I definitely think that I came out with a little bit more aggression right out of the gate, something us as a whole had talked about,” Wells said. “Just attacking guys, staying in the strike zone, but still just getting ahead of guys, being able to put them away. Very happy with the result today. But still more work to do.”

Wells was the Orioles’ most consistent starter in the first half of last season before injuries limited him. With Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer pitching well in his absence, Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin joining Baltimore this offseason, and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez positioned to make his debut as a member of the rotation, Wells will have to pitch his way back into the rotation this spring, with the possibility he lands in the bullpen otherwise.

Behind Wells, Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi allowed a pair of home runs, the first time he’s been scored on in four outings, and Bruce Zimmermann surrendered two runs over three innings. After giving up four home runs over his first two outings, Joey Krehbiel struck out two in a clean inning, which Hyde called “the highlight” of Baltimore’s 7-6 loss.

“Looking way more aggressive, on the attack,” Hyde said.


Kremer claims table tennis title

Kremer stuck around camp a few days later than expected because, Hyde said, the Orioles wanted him to throw in front of their coaching staff one more time before he joined Israel’s World Baseball Classic team in Miami.

But the extra time also meant Kremer could be in the Orioles’ clubhouse Thursday morning for the finale of the team’s spring table tennis tournament. Kremer beat first baseman Ryan O’Hearn in a decisive third game to take the title.

Teammates surrounded the table during the match, mesmerized by the action as they rooted both on. After Kremer’s victory, they pressured him into a mock news conference.

“Oh, this means everything,” Kremer quipped. “We worked so hard for this all offseason. Ryan put up a really good fight, had me a little nervous there in the second [game], but we pulled through.

“Now, I’ve got a target on my back.”

Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer, throwing during a workout on Feb. 16, won the team's spring table tennis tournament.

Kremer joked he “really made sure I hammered out my backhand” this offseason, trying to address a weakness in his game. He said he still struggled with it Thursday, but O’Hearn wasn’t able to tell.


“Guy’s obviously a talented pingpong player,” O’Hearn said. “He’s kind of got a complete game, forehand, backhand. He’s a competitor. I knew I was gonna have to play maybe my best pingpong to get him, and I’m glad I took one [game] from him. But I’ve been hearing all camp how he’s the undisputed No. 1.”

The third game, necessary after Kremer won the first but dropped the second, was close midway through, but a run of points from Kremer gave him the distance to finish off a path to the championship that also included victories over Gunnar Henderson, Mark Kolozsvary and Jackson Holliday. Throughout the match, other Orioles pulled up chairs, talked trash, and cheered and groaned along with Kremer and O’Hearn. More intrasquad competitions are ongoing, with a dart tournament taking place and a basketball shooting contest to come in line with the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s what it’s all about, right?” O’Hearn said. “These guys are obviously a big family, and pingpong tournaments and dart tournaments and free throws, that kind of stuff, is fun. I always liked that aspect of spring training, and anything to kind of get the boys together, get the competitive juices flowing, that kind of stuff is awesome.”

With the title in hand, Kremer could turn his attention to the pursuit of another.

“I’m going to Disneyland,” he joked before shifting the classic line to his true destination: “I’m going to Miami.”

Orioles infielder Franchy Cordero, battling during a workout on Feb. 21, laced a 114.5 mph triple during Thursday's game against the Phillies.


The Orioles’ organizational hitting philosophy, as infielder Jordan Westburg put it, is “swinging at good pitches and hitting the ball hard.” He and Baltimore’s other top prospects have exemplified it this spring.


Westburg’s 102.8 mph double off Phillies ace Aaron Nola to open the second inning was his team-leading fifth ball in play at 100 mph or harder in road games this spring; the Orioles’ spring training home, Ed Smith Stadium, does not feature public Statcast data. He added a sacrifice fly against Nola — saying he was “really happy” with those two plate appearances — and a single off Seranthony Dominguez, a member of Philadelphia’s major league bullpen.

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“[Nola’s] a top-of-the-line guy, and for me to get that experience off him was pretty cool,” Westburg said. “It was pretty special and definitely helps my game a little bit, comparing myself to what it’s going to be like up there.”

Pinch-hitting for Franchy Cordero — who laced a 114.5 mph triple earlier in the game — outfield prospect Heston Kjerstad roped a 107.2 mph triple of his own. Infield prospect Coby Mayo hit a 111.5 mph double on Tuesday in Fort Myers that Hyde described as “loud.”

“Just kind of a reflection of how our practice days go, how our work days go and obviously the talent that this organization has,” Westburg said. “I think everybody takes pride in that, everybody tries to get up there and get a good pitch to hit and — when they do — not miss it.”

First round of cuts

Before Thursday’s exhibition, Hyde said the Orioles’ first round of cuts was coming before Monday. They came before 5 p.m.

Mayo and César Prieto, another well-regarded infield prospect, were the most significant of the 12 players Baltimore reassigned to minor league camp after Thursday’s game. Joining them were pitchers Wandisson Charles, Ofreidy Gómez, Morgan McSweeney, Kade Strowd, Cole Uvila, Chris Vallimont and Ryan Watson; outfielder Robert Neustrom; catcher Ramón Rodriguez; and first baseman Curtis Terry.


The moves leave the Orioles’ spring roster at 59 players, though four of them — Kremer, outfielders Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, and left-hander Darwinzon Hernández — are playing in the WBC.

Mayo’s removal means nine of Baltimore’s top 10 prospects remain in big league camp, including 2022 first-overall draft pick Jackson Holliday.