This article is part of the Know Your Orioles 40-man series, which features an article about each of the 38 players currently on the Orioles roster. There will be one every weekday until we run out of players.
If last year’s rotation served as any indication, the Orioles will rely on their bullpen quite a bit in 2022. Former Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells appears poised to anchor a group that also includes Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate. The rest of the ’pen figures to include starters incapable of cracking the rotation and a selection of fringe relievers looking to break out. Today’s topic falls into the latter.
The Orioles claimed Joey Krehbiel from Tampa Bay on September 21. Krehbiel pitched a scoreless inning for the Rays earlier in the week, but the appearance marked his first of the season.
Krehbiel pitched in the minors until September, but his wait to return to the big leagues actually spanned multiple years. The now 29-year-old appeared in two games for the Diamondbacks back in 2018.
The Angels drafted Krehbiel in the 12th round of the 2011 draft. Krehbiel pitched at multiple levels in the Angels’ system until the club shipped him to Arizona in the middle of the 2014 season. The Florida native climbed through the Diamondbacks’ organization and eventually made his major league debut in July 2018.
Krehbiel spent the duration of the 2019 season at Triple-A Reno where he posted a brutal 7.69 ERA over 51 games. The righty signed with the Twins as a minor-league free agent before the 2020 season, but never had an opportunity to pitch due to the pandemic.
Krehbiel returned to Florida when he signed a minor-league with the Rays prior to the 2021 season. Reports had Krehbiel’s fastball touching 97 MPH with the Twins, and the local product figured to benefit from a Tampa organization that thrives in identifying and developing talent.
Krehbiel pitched to a 4.19 ERA and 1.093 WHIP over 44 games at Triple-A Durham. He struck out 52 batters in 43 innings while only issuing nine walks. A 5.78 K/BB ratio stands out at any level.
The Rays likely hoped to sneak Krehbiel through waivers and back to Triple-A after one successful appearance. Tampa was on their way to a 100-win season with several impressive arms on the roster. The Orioles were not. Unfortunately for Tampa, Baltimore had plenty of room for a guy like Krehbiel.
Krehbiel went on to make five appearances for the Birds. The righty did not allow a run in his first two games against the Rangers. Krehbiel held Texas to just one hit over 2.2 innings, and he delivered two more scoreless frames against Boston in his next time out.
Krehbiel allowed one run in another appearance against the Sox, but struggled in his final game of the season against Toronto. Still, he demonstrated plenty to like in the five game stint.
Roch Kubatko included a few quotes on Krehbiel from O’s manager Brandon Hyde after he retired six Boston hitters with just 12 pitches. “I love the aggressiveness,” Hyde said, “love the way he comes in and pounds the strike zone with really good stuff.”
Krehbiel’s ability to consistently throw strikes is attractive to a club with Tanner Scott in its bullpen. The righty will head to spring training with aspirations of breaking camp with the team, and a strong performance in Sarasota should get him there. The Orioles will likely need to tinker with the 40-man roster before the season starts, but Krehbiel appears safe for now.
End-of-year prediction: Krehbiel will enter 2022 with two minor-league options remaining. Those options indicate a trip to the minors at some point, but he should be given plenty of opportunities to solidify a spot with the Orioles. Hyde loves a guy that throws strikes. The skipper surprised everyone when he made Sulser the closer back in 2020, and Krehbiel could be a dark horse for some high-leverage situations if he pounds the zone.
Krehbiel needs to beat out guys like Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez to break camp with the team, but he will also need to navigate around fringe starters. Will the Orioles look to place Michael Baumann or Alexander Wells in the bullpen if they flounder with the rotation? Jorge López projects as a reliever moving forward, and Paul Fry figures to get another shot to return to form.
A successful season for Krehbiel would have him spend a majority of his time at the major league level.
I’m taking an optimistic approach here. Krehbiel’s time with the Rays could not have hurt, and he flashed enough potential in September to generate excitement. Krehbiel will pitch at Norfolk for a stretch, but he will finish the season with the Orioles.
Tomorrow: Tyler Nevin