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Rule Fivers Sceroler and Wells flash potential in debuts

Both Rule-5 relievers kicked off their major league debuts with scoreless appearances. Do either of the two have a future in Baltimore?

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Orioles’ three game sweep of the Red Sox made for a fun weekend. The opening series portrayed the club at its best, and represented what fans and the organization hope to see more of this season.

The Orioles will take any wins they can get this year— literally and figuratively. The former came during the three game set in Boston; the latter showed up in New York.

Mac Sceroler stole the otherwise ugly show in a 7-0 loss to New York on Monday. Sceroler made his major league debut with the bases juiced and one of the league’s most intimidating hitters at the plate. Simply put, he answered the bell.

Sceroler struck out Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge with a 94 MPH fastball. The ability to challenge Judge showed some chutzpah, and the rookie wasn’t done. He forced Aaron Hicks to pop out in foul territory to limit the damage and spare Paul Fry’s ERA.

Sceroler worked the remainder of the game for Baltimore in mop up duty, but the outing meant more to the soon-to-be 26-year-old. Sceroler produced a mixed bag of results this spring, and his spot on the roster was never guaranteed. It still isn’t. His 2.2 scoreless innings and four strikeouts were a strong first audition.

If you took the time to peruse yesterday’s Bird Droppings or any other Orioles media, you likely read about Sceroler. That’s what happens when a team loses like that. It’s more fun than writing about a shutout.

While Sceroler’s outing dominated the headlines, you may have missed the debut of fellow rule-fiver Tyler Wells. Wells worked the final frame of the three-game sweep in Boston. Fortunately for the Orioles, there were plenty of other things to focus on.

If you were onto Easter dinner by the time Wells took the mound, I’ve got your back. He started by retiring Xander Bogaerts with a 94 MPH fastball on the sixth pitch of the at bat. Bogaerts flew out to center, but Wells walked Marwin Gonzalez after going to a second consecutive full count.

Wells recovered by generating a pop out from Hunter Renfroe on the first pitch. Wells loaded the count again against Christian Vazquez, but surrendered a single on the seventh pitch of the at bat. He ended the game by forcing Bobby Dalbec to ground out with an 0-1 slider.

It wasn’t a clean inning, but the deep counts can partially be chalked up to nerves. Wells allowed one run last night on an RBI-double by Giancarlo Stanton after issuing a walk to Brett Gardner. Wells will only be successful if he pounds the zone. His 6’8 frame and 95 MPH fastball play as a reliever. There is room for another power arm in the bullpen, but only if he throws strikes.

Obviously season debuts are an extremely small sample size, but things have gone to plan so far. The Orioles knew they would need to use them after electing to carry multiple Rule 5 relievers, but Brandon Hyde would clearly prefer low-leverage situations for the youngsters.

Sceroler and Wells do not need to lead the charge from the bullpen. The season would be a success if both players made it through the year without being returned and did not stand out as a glaring weakness. Still, there will be opportunities for both players.

John Means only made the team in 2019 because he was left handed and already on the 40-man roster. He emerged from the bullpen to become the team’s leader in wins and lone All Star. No one should expect that type of rise for Sceroler, but Brandon Hyde has said that the Orioles could view him as a starter long term.

Baltimore has Keegan Akin and a crop of starters waiting to make their MLB debuts, but Sceroler has two advantages over all of them. He’s already in Baltimore, and he cannot be optioned. Those are two legitimate tie breakers if Sceroler continues to pitch well.

The same could be set about Wells in relief. With Hunter Harvey sidelined, there will be higher leverage opportunities available if Wells can string together some scoreless outings. Do not expect Wells to work longer than one inning, but 6’8 and 95 are two numbers that play.

It’s easy to root for Rule 5 picks. The players are given a shot at the big leagues, and the Orioles have an opportunity to steal a prospect or two. The Birds lost reliever Zach Pop in the Rule 5 draft, and a rebuilding club needs a net positive in things like this.

Both players have a long season ahead, but two positive starts prevent early eye rolls. Roster spots will be at a premium this season with the current state of the rotation, but so will opportunities. Expect the Orioles to utilize both relievers early as they evaluate whether the two deserve roster spots.

Are you excited after getting to watch the pair pitch, and do you think either can last the year in Baltimore? Let’s overreact to one appearance together.