The Orioles rotation has turned heads all year. The mix-and-match cast of characters has overachieved without John Means or Grayson Rodriguez. The staff has powered through injuries and continued to set the table for a dominant bullpen.
The rotation appears poised for its next shakeup with Kyle Bradish and D.L. Hall lurking at Triple-A. Bradish recently completed three rehab assignments and threw 80 pitches his last time out. He struggled on the mound before his IL stint, but the Orioles likely intend to determine if the poor performance stemmed from right shoulder inflammation.
The Orioles hope Bradish can be a legitimate contributor for the team moving forward. It remains unclear exactly what path the Birds will take at the trade deadline, but Baltimore remains in the audition stage of a rebuild. Guys need to prove they belong, and the Orioles need to see how Bradish performs at the big league level.
Baltimore needs to create room in the rotation for Bradish, and Austin Voth’s place ranks as the most likely casualty.
The Orioles claimed Voth from the Nationals back on June 7. The 30-year-old pitched exclusively in relief for Washington, but he had experience as a starter. Baltimore initially sent Voth to the bullpen, but he made his first start against the Rays on June 19.
Voth originally resembled a modern-day opener. He pitched 2.2 innings in his first start and tossed three frames in his next two appearances. Things got less clear after that. Voth worked into the fifth inning in his next two starts against the Rangers and Angels.
Voth came out of the bullpen in the final series before the break, but the move kept the former Nat from a long layoff. Were the Orioles stretching Voth out? He pitched three innings his last time out against the Rays, but the righty did not appear to have his best stuff.
Baltimore swapping Bradish for Voth makes sense, but Voth has one thing on his side. The Orioles have won in seven of Voth’s last eight appearances.
Voth has done his job with a 3.38 ERA in 10 games for the Orioles, but the bullpen has played a large role. Baltimore’s relievers have overachieved this season and Voth’s abridged outings provide the unit their best opportunity to shine.
This is where baseball executives make their money. Have the Orioles won those games because of Voth or in spite of him? It’s a reasonably small sample size, but Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde must determine if its worth further exploration.
Baltimore’s bullpen tossed six scoreless innings in Voth’s last start, but it did not carry the load each time. Relievers allowed three runs after Voth’s five innings of two-run ball against the Angels and six runs after Voth exited against the Rangers.
The Orioles have averaged six runs in Voth’s last eight games. It turns out that healthy run support is good for every pitcher. Voth has lost only one game for the Orioles, but the bats have won a few for the Birds.
Bradish wowed with 11 strikeouts in seven innings against the Cardinals back in May. The rookie may not pitch consistently at that level, but Voth will never be expected to deliver seven innings this season.
Baltimore will likely ease Bradish back at the big league level. Either way, there will be plenty of demand for long relief. Bradish failed to complete five innings in his last four starts. The Orioles bullpen could see a departure or two at the deadline, but even a fully stocked ‘pen can be overworked.
The Orioles could option Bradish back to Norfolk, but the 25-year-old has proven everything he can with the Tides. He’s allowed only four earned runs in 19.2 innings at Triple-A this year.
Baltimore has a history of utilizing pitching prospects out of the bullpen, but the move would not make sense here. Bradish has exclusively started in 10 games this season, and the club could even use the righty as an opener in place of Voth to keep innings down.
Plenty has changed since Bradish’s last start in mid June, but there’s not a single pitcher on this staff that should block Bradish from starting if healthy.