The one thing that anyone watching the Orioles could take away from the first couple of weeks of the season is that something with the pitching staff has to change. The Orioles front office is not waiting around any longer to try to shake that up and do something about it. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported on Thursday night that the Orioles have optioned Cole Irvin to Triple-A Norfolk.
The full set of moves, according to Kubatko, will see Spenser Watkins and Yennier Canó recalled from Norfolk, with Keegan Akin being placed on the paternity list for the next couple of games. The paternity list is only available for a few days at most so further shuffling is guaranteed soon, in addition to when Kyle Bradish returns from the injured list next week.
This is surely not what the Orioles had in mind when they acquired the 29-year-old lefty Irvin from the Athletics back in January, sending infield prospect Darell Hernaiz to Oakland. Irvin came with a track record of not walking many batters, working quickly, and eating innings in games. Though his season ERAs with Oakland were underwhelming, he was mostly good in every month other than September, something he said he aimed to work on for this season.
Now, April has not been good. Irvin has been handing out walks like Halloween candy, sending eight batters to first base for free in his three starts. Last year, he walked a total of 36 batters across 30 starts. Nothing has gone right. Only the Orioles offense spared him from starting his O’s career 0-3 on Thursday afternoon.
It’s encouraging in a certain way that the Orioles did not feel like they had to keep forcing Irvin to make starts because he was their “big trade.” It’s extremely discouraging at the same time that one selling point of Irvin was supposed to be the team’s ability to control his contract rights for four seasons and they’ve sent him to the minors after three starts. There’s time to get him right, but this wasn’t a trade that was supposed to need this to happen.
Watkins is a familiar name to Orioles fans as he was on the team the last couple of seasons. He was very bad in 2021 (8.07 ERA in 16 games) and better but still not good in 2022 (4.70 ERA in 23 games). He had a 2.70 ERA through his two Norfolk starts this year, with walk problems (6 BB in 10 IP) in the small sample size.
Canó arrived in the Orioles organization in the Jorge López trade last year. The hard-throwing reliever has had a case of walking too many dudes, which he demonstrated in his three games with the Orioles last year, walking five guys in 4.1 innings. That takes work. Canó has walked just one batter through three relief outings for the Tides so far in 2023.
Akin has an 8.31 ERA through six appearances this season. Best wishes to the Akin family for the birth. He can take his time getting back to the team.