The Orioles’ best case scenario for 2022 had John Means, Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall taking the ball every fifth day in July. Unfortunately for the Birds, none of those three are currently in Baltimore’s rotation.
Means and Rodriguez remain out of the picture with injuries, and Hall has yet to exhibit the control required to pitch at the major league level. Their absence has led to an interesting cast of characters.
The Orioles have miraculously managed to fill the holes better than anticipated. Jordan Lyles has strapped on his innings bib and gone to work, while Tyler Wells continues to put together a second impressive season in the big leagues. Spenser Watkins has kept the club in games, and Dean Kremer just capped a streak of 22 2/3 scoreless innings.
Waiver claim Austin Voth currently occupies the fifth place in the rotation. Voth skipped through four innings last night before running into trouble in the fifth. Baltimore’s bullpen allowed all three inherited runners to score, but Voth still delivered by completing four frames. Voth can keep his name in the rotation with more outings like that, but it seems unlikely that he will be fully built up this season.
The Orioles were forced to demote Bruce Zimmermann after the lefty completely lost his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Zimmermann will likely return at some point, but recent comments from Brandon Hyde indicated that the Birds would rather bring him up when he’s ready opposed to when they have a need.
Chris Ellis came and went after arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Kyle Bradish recently threw a simulated game and appears to be nearing a return after suffering experiencing shoulder inflammation. The rookie performed inconsistently during 10 starts but still projects as an impact arm moving forward.
The Orioles will need more than just a healthy Bradish to make it through the season. Baltimore has saddled Wells, their best starter, with a work limit that will not allow him to work deep into games for the remainder of the season.
Hyde recently said that Wells throwing 150 innings this season was not realistic. The Orioles plan to keep Wells on the roster for the remainder of the season but could skip starts or reduce his pitch count. Wells has helped himself by attacking hitters early and often, but Baltimore will monitor “stressful innings” for the converted starter.
Alright, here’s the thing. I waited 400 words to bring up the man in the picture. I wanted to truly justify the need before writing that Matt Harvey is about to play a significant role for the Orioles.
Harvey fully embodies a certain type of pitcher on a rebuilding team. The veteran signs with a basement dweller when it’s his only offer, and the club turns to the starter when they do not have a better option.
Harvey will be eligible to pitch for the Orioles this Friday after completing a 60-game suspension for distributing a prohibited drug of abuse. I’m not going to dwell on the suspension. The Orioles clearly feel that Harvey has the right and the ability to pitch again. They loved the impact he had on their pitchers—including John Means—last season and the way he performed in spurts.
Harvey strung together three consecutive scoreless outings in the middle of last year. He posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.955 WHIP in the month of July last season, and his 4.60 FIP served as a better indicator of performance than his inflated ERA. Harvey has limited opponents to three runs over 16 innings in three rehab starts this season. The 33-year-old struck out 20 and did not walk a batter.
There were plenty of bad outings, but Tyler Young wrote at the end of last year that Harvey did enough to continue his big league career. Tyler mentioned that FanGraphs credited Harvey with 1.7 WAR, and that his .331 batting average on balls in play was likely inflated as well.
The Orioles hope Bradish will flourish after he returns but nothing is guaranteed. Zimmermann will pop back up at some point, but he must prove he can keep the ball in the ballpark. Mike Baumann has not started a game at the major league level this season, and Cody Sedlock does not project as a big league starter.
The Orioles have not ruled out Rodriguez or Hall pitching in September, but there appears to be a gap where Harvey fits sooner rather than later. The Orioles will not need to monitor Harvey’s workload after the Dark Knight threw over 80 pitches in all three rehab starts.
The Orioles are riding high after a winning June, and Harvey may elicit feelings from the past, but the club can still use the veteran to fill a need without taking a step backwards. Harvey will be given an opportunity to prove he can stick, and the Birds could benefit from a rested veteran down the stretch.