Orioles fans on Saturday were finally able to witness another MLB debut from a starting pitcher when 24-year-old David Hess took the mound for the O’s. In a move out of necessity that received little fanfare, it was actually a fairly rare occurrence for the Baltimore Orioles and their farm system that’s routinely lacking in young starting talent.
Since Kevin Gausman’s first five innings back in May of 2013, this was just the second MLB debut by a starting pitcher on the Orioles, along with that time Mike Wright got all of our hopes up in 2015. You’d think a team consistently looking for starters would have tried more than one minor leaguer in the last five years, yet here we are.
After pitching the game of his life in Norfolk last Wednesday in which he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, the Orioles were hoping for Hess to keep the momentum going against the Rays on only three days’ rest. The former fifth-round pick out of Tennessee Tech got the nod as the “26th man” to start the front end of the doubleheader.
After being welcomed to the big leagues with two quick ground ball singles and a three-run homer, Hess showed some moxie and settled in to finish with a quality start. Considering his short rest, Hess was pulled after only 78 pitches with a final line of 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, and 3 K’s. It was impressive to see the righty economically work through six innings despite being held on such a low pitch count, and it saved the Orioles’ bullpen big time.
Hess worked his fastball into the mid-90s, occasionally hitting 96 on the gun, and flashed his off speed offerings to complete his four-pitch mix. Check out these swings and misses on two of his three strikeouts.
Nice looking changeup from David Hess who's been flashing some solid offspeed stuff in his first major league start pic.twitter.com/UsXizRSMnf— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) May 12, 2018
David Hess notches his first career @MLB strikeout as he starts the 1st leg of a doubleheader. Hess is No. 18 on the @Orioles' Top 30 Prospects list: https://t.co/oB8UYIP2kd pic.twitter.com/bUmZypYKSr— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 12, 2018
It will be interesting to watch Hess’s strikeout and walk numbers going forward. His scouting reports have always knocked him for fastball command and lacking a true out pitch. But he pounded the strike zone on Saturday, and that changeup he used to ring up Denard Span, a veteran who has never struck out 90 times in a single season, is about as good as it gets. His strikeout numbers have been way up in Norfolk this year, almost one per inning, a trend that will hopefully continue. If so, it will be hard to keep him out of Baltimore for too long.
After being the “26th man” for Saturday’s doubleheader, Hess went right back to Norfolk before he could get too comfortable in an Orioles uniform. But, unlike usual demotions, Hess will not have to wait out the usual 10 days before being recalled. Add me to the list of people hoping to see him take the mound again later this week.
With Chris Tillman being on the DL as the Orioles desperately search for an excuse for his last 26 starts, Hess certainly deserves a second. It will be back-breaking to fans if they somehow see the Orioles trot Chris Tillman back out to the mound again before David Hess.
It’s a small sample size for sure, but let’s just go down the list. ERA, advantage Hess. WHIP, advantage Hess. K/9, BB/9, H/9, HR/9, all advantage Hess.
The only thing Chris Tillman has over David Hess right now, besides his age being higher, is being one of Buck’s “guys.” I’ll always be appreciative and remember Tillman for the rotation stalwart he was on three different Orioles teams that made it to the postseason, but it’s time to get some new blood in the rotation. And hey, it’s not like it can get much worse. Let’s see what Hess can do.