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Where Are The Next Orioles Bullpen Arms Coming From?

June 12, 2017
Sixty-one games into the 2017 season, the Baltimore Orioles have already used 23 pitchers. That's more than they used in 2014 (20) and 2015 (22). Last year, they used 27, including infielder Ryan Flaherty.
 
Four of the five most recent outings by Orioles starting pitchers were abnormally short: left-hander Wade Miley made it 2.2 innings in an 11-inning game, and right-handers Alec Asher, Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman combined for 8.2 innings.
 
Only fellow right-hander Dylan Bundy (six innings) broke the mold.
 
Those short starts mean lots of innings for relievers, and with the Orioles, it means a number changes in the bullpen.
 
After many of these short starts, Orioles manager Buck Showalter gets asked whether the team will need to add a fresh arm or two.
 
The latest change came after the 16-3 loss to the New York Yankees June 10, when Tillman recorded just four outs. Right-handers Stefan Crichton, who had been added the night before when sidearmer Darren O'Day went to the 10-day disabled list, and Edwin Jackson, a veteran who had been with the team for four days, were dropped.
 
Right-handers Logan Verrett and Jimmy Yacabonis were brought in from Triple-A Norfolk. It was Verrett's fourth time up this season, but the first for Yacabonis.
 
After Verrett pitched 2.2 innings during a game in which Gausman lasted just 3.1 innings, and Yacabonis allowed four runs in his major league debut, Showalter again was asked about moves.
 
"I've got to see who." Showalter said. "We're kind of getting into the 'who?' area now."
 
During spring training and in the first five weeks of the season when the team began 22-10, there was optimistic talk about the optionable pitchers, and the team liberally brought pitchers back and forth.
 
Crichton has been here and gone five times, and Verrett's four stints are the second-most, but many of the relievers haven't been effective.
 
Left-hander Vidal Nuno, who has substantial major league experience and began the season with the Orioles, has allowed nine runs and 15 hits as well as six walks in 12 innings.
 
Right-hander Tyler Wilson, who has been a frequent visitor during the past three seasons, has a 9.82 ERA in seven relief appearances this season.
 
Crichton, who has been dominant at Triple-A, has floundered in the big leagues, with an 8.49 ERA in seven outings.
 
Jackson, who once pitched a no-hitter and has played for 12 major league teams, gave up 11 hits and four walks in five innings.
 
There have been some bright spots. Left-hander Richard Bleier has become a go-to-guy for Showalter and has 1.89 ERA in 14 games. And Mike Wright has shown signs he can be an effective right-handed relief option.
 
Assuming the Orioles need more relief help now, they could turn to left-hander Jayson Aquino or right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, who both showed some promise earlier in the season. But Aquino and Ynoa, who both are starting in Triple-A, have records that don't exactly instill confidence.
 
Aquino is 1-6 with a 5.08 ERA and Ynoa is 1-5 with a 6.93 ERA. Both are considered major league prospects as starters.
 
Left-hander Chris Lee, who is thought to have the most potential of any pitcher in Norfolk, is 3-3 with a 6.28 ERA. During spring training, the Orioles felt Lee needed extended time in Triple-A, and the numbers have proved them right.
 
Left-hander Donnie Hart has pitched well at Triple-A after struggling during his second year in the majors, but he hasn't been down there the requisite 10 days.
 
Maybe the Orioles will try another left-hander, Lucas Luetge, who has five years in the majors with the Seattle Mariners and was recently signed by the Orioles and sent to Norfolk.
 
The bullpen was better with Asher in it. Asher, whose ERA was 1.62 in nine relief outings and capably filled a variety of roles, was needed as a starter. He took right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez's spot in the rotation, but he has a 6.20 ERA as a starter.
 
Even though Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was busy acquiring bullpen options last offseason, in spring training and even in the season's early weeks, he clearly will get busy again adding more.
 
Asher and Bleier have been excellent additions, and perhaps Duquette can find one or two more. But for now, Showalter's questioning of who might be next has no clear answer.