Rookie Chandler Shepherd is in a long line of players auditioning for a spot in the Orioles' rotation in 2020.
He became the 17th Baltimore pitcher to make a start this season Sept. 17 in an 8-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Shepherd, who was making his first MLB start after appearing in two games as a reliever, had an uneven performance, allowing three runs and four hits across four innings. He also allowed a pair of home runs in consecutive innings, an area that has hampered the Orioles all season.
Nonetheless, manager Brandon Hyde was encouraged by the performance. The young right-hander likely earned another opportunity to at least secure a role on the Orioles' 40-man roster.
"I thought Shep did a nice job," Hyde said. "He just made a couple of bad pitches for a couple of homers. But for a guy making his first major-league start, I thought he threw strikes and got ahead of hitters. It took a little while to find his breaking ball. But he did a nice job for four innings and you'll see him back out there."
Shepherd's versatility should work in his favor when the Orioles begin evaluating their roster after the season.
Shepherd was originally selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He was promoted in 2016 to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he spent the last four seasons before being designated for assignment in May and picked up by the Orioles.
Shepherd, 27, made 19 starts and made three appearances out of the bullpen in the minors this season. He earned his September promotion to Baltimore after going 3-1 with a 1.62 ERA in August for Triple-A Norfolk, earning International League's Player of the Month. He was the first player for the Tides to earn that honor since Travis Ishikawa in May 2013.
Shepherd initially made his debut Aug. 13 against the New York Yankees, allowing one run and five hits during four innings. He was sent back down to Norfolk and didn't pitch again for the Orioles until Sept. 7, when he gave up two runs and three hits in three innings against the Texas Rangers.
When asked if he was nervous about making his first start, Shepherd said: "Not really. I think the few outings before helped calm my nerves down a little bit. I was anxious to get out there. Yeah, I would say it's a good opportunity."
Shepherd showed solid command, throwing 44 of his 68 pitches for strikes. He finished with four strikeouts and one walk. Mychal Givens (2-6) took the loss after surrendering three runs, including a tie-breaking homer to Justin Smoak, in the ninth.
"I thought I threw some good pitches. I made a couple of mistakes," Shepherd said. "They took advantage of it. I was excited to get out there and get that first start under my belt."
Hyde said John Means, Dylan Bundy and Asher Wojciechowski will get two starts each during the final two weeks of the 2019 season. The rest of the spots have not been fully mapped out.
Shepherd has at least put himself in the conversation to get another shot.