We’ve had ten games to start to get used to the composition of the Orioles pitching staff. For the short term at least, it’s going to look different, because the O’s had to make two separate moves placing pitchers on the injured list on Tuesday, with both Nate Karns and Alex Cobb landing on the 10-day IL.
Karns was placed on the IL earlier on Tuesday afternoon due to a forearm strain. Replacing him on the roster from Norfolk is reliever Evan Phillips, the Salisbury-born righty acquired as part of the Kevin Gausman trade last July. Phillips may not have been the next man up from the bullpen entirely because of his allowing zero runs through all of spring training, but it can’t have hurt his cause.
The Cobb move is more of a surprise because he was scheduled to start tomorrow’s game against the Athletics. Instead, he’s on the IL with a lumbar strain. For those whose anatomy knowledge needs a refresher, that is the lower back. With the right groin soreness that kept him on the IL until the home opener, Cobb is now up to two trips to the IL in 2019 and the season is not even two weeks old.
Karns going on the IL is less surprising. Orioles.com beat writer Joe Trezza took note of Karns’s drooping fastball velocity since his 2019 debut:
Nate Karns' four-seam fastball averaged 88.5 mph Monday night, and has dropped consistently since his 2019 debut. Pretty strong indicator of a physical issue in most cases. #Orioles pic.twitter.com/3LLpqGXUqY— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) April 9, 2019
Karns called his issue “just tightness, no pain,” according to Trezza, noting that it’s a “minor setback” compared to last season when he “couldn’t even pitch in a game.” If the Orioles decide to deploy another opener for at least the next ten days, they are going to have to find someone else. Though Karns has given up seven hits and three walks in 5.1 innings this season, he’s yet to allow an earned run.
The Orioles did not immediately announce a corresponding roster move to Cobb going on the IL. O’s beat writers noted that lefty Josh Rogers - part of last July’s Zack Britton trade - was scratched from his start in Norfolk tonight, making him appear to be the most likely candidate. He’s already on the 40-man roster. There’s always the possibility for a surprise, since the Orioles do have an open 40-man spot after they outrighted last week’s emergency reliever Matt Wotherspoon off of the roster yesterday.
It’s not ideal timing for the Orioles, since they’re already using a fill-in starter on Tuesday night, with lefty John Means set to pitch five innings at most, according to manager Brandon Hyde’s pre-game remarks to O’s media. Few things about the 2019 squad will be ideal as the year goes along. They will have to make the best of it.