The Orioles have had their share of problems so far in 2019, many of which will not be able to be fixed until they get better big league-ready players into the upper levels of the organization. In the meantime, there’s always the shuffling of the roster in a way that brings to mind moving around deck chairs on the Titanic.
A flurry of Sunday morning moves brings three fresher faces to the active roster: Branden Kline, Luis Ortiz, and Austin Wynns, all joining the team from Triple-A Norfolk. Wynns is in the starting lineup immediately, batting sixth in the series finale in Minnesota.
Kline is able to return to the Orioles inside of the usual ten-day minimum minor league stay because that rule does not apply to a player who is used as the 26th man in a doubleheader, as Kline was last Saturday.
Ortiz is back to the Orioles after a short, poor stint during last September. Ortiz also had a short, poor stint in big league spring camp and has a poor 5.87 ERA through four Norfolk starts, averaging fewer than four innings per start so far this season.He had been scheduled to start Sunday’s game for Norfolk, so he’s fresh and theoretically available for extended innings if Dylan Bundy falters early.
That’s a lot of new guys, and that means that other guys are off the roster. Starting pitcher Alex Cobb is back on the injured list for the third time this season, this time with a lumbar strain. Catcher Jesus Sucre has been designated for assignment. Also, reliever Jimmy Yacabonis has been optioned to Norfolk.
Sucre has caught the most games for the Orioles so far this season. He’s batted .210/.269/.242 in his 20 games. That’s down in the territory where it’s extremely difficult to overlook offensive struggles no matter how much value he brings while defending behind the plate. That .511 OPS after a month of play is identical to Chris Davis. Sucre does not have the benefit of a $161 million contract to make them want to keep giving him chances.
Yacabonis started the year off with a few good outings before things took a turn for the worse. In 15.2 innings this season, he’s now sporting a 6.32 ERA, and that includes a 10.57 ERA in his most recent six games. More immediately, he pitched two innings in Saturday’s loss to the Twins and is the guy who’s unavailable today and can be optioned to the minors, so down he goes.
A striking thing on Yacabonis’s season stat line is that he has walked more batters than he’s struck out. Seven walks in 15.2 innings is tough enough to swallow, but Yacabonis has only struck out six. The margin for success is tiny when a pitcher is striking out fewer than 10% of the batters he faces.
That leaves Cobb, whose trip back to the injured list isn’t a huge shock when you consider how he’s pitched. The impressive and horrible thing that he’s done so far this year is give up nine home runs in just 12.1 innings pitched. The Orioles seem to have twice brought him back from the IL despite his not being totally ready to pitch.
Maybe there’s something about that lumbar strain that’s left Cobb unable to finish his pitches properly and thus vulnerable to so many home runs. Or maybe the people who evaluated free agent starting pitchers for the Dan Duquette GM regime were bad at their jobs and should have lost their jobs a long time before they did.
Though it’s Mike Elias’s show now, he’s still stuck with Duquette’s disappointing players on the sinking ship. On the bright side, it’s merely more time in the cellar of the AL East that awaits the Orioles and not the cold waters of the north Atlantic.