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Brandon Hyde has a new favorite in the bullpen

Right hander Yennier Canó has gone from depth to the most reliable setup man on the team right now.

MLB: APR 19 Orioles at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two confirmed things about O’s manager Brandon Hyde: One, he’s never seen a lineup card he couldn’t tinker with. Two, he likes to ride the hot hand.

No arm is hotter right now, and more unexpectedly, than Yennier Canó. Who? (Nah, I can’t pretend. That would have worked a month ago, but the secret’s out now.)

Yennier Canó became an Oriole last August, part of the midseason haul the Orioles received for Jorge López along with Juan Núñez, Cade Povich and Juan Rojas. (Núñez, 22, is currently at Delmarva with a 5.40 ERA in 11.2 IP, Povich has a 2.25 ERA in 8.0 IP for Bowie, and Rojas, 19, has a 2.79 ERA in 38.2 IP for Delmarva.)

At the time of the trade, CC’s Mark Brown had this to say:

Cano, 28, has appeared in ten games at the MLB level for the Twins this season. The 6’4” Cuban is a right-handed reliever who’s been in the Twins system since 2019, when they signed him out of Cuba. He has a 9.22 big league ERA because he’s walked too many dudes: 11 men in 13.2 innings.

Oof. When your ERA is the same as your strikeout rate, 9.22, it’s not ideal. But the promise was there, even if the numbers weren’t. Canó appeared in 11 games for the Norfolk Tides in 2022, putting up a 4.32 ERA with a 4.3 walk rate, although he did average 10.8 strikeouts a game.

With a 5.14 ERA out of spring training this year, Canó didn’t figure to be a core piece of the Orioles bullpen. But after the Orioles optioned Cole Irvin and put Keegan Akin on the paternity list on April 14, Canó seemed like he could fit in well to an Orioles ‘pen that had been sorely lacking in set-up men to bridge the gap between Félix Bautista and the starters.

Thus far, the experiment is working. Not only does Canó have a 0.00 with four strikeouts in 4.1 innings, he is looking the part, the sinker unhittable and filthy. He’s also throwing 68% strikes, his highest rate ever.

That sinker, by the way. On Wednesday night, announcer Ben McDonald marveled at the pitch: “I don’t know how it moves that much.” Apparently, a few seasons back, Canó had been messing around in the Twins’ bullpen and tried out a low arm angle. The bullpen coaches took a look at the data on the Canó sidearm and told him, “OK, that’s how you throw now.”

With a three-pitch mix featuring a sinker, slider and changeup, Canó hasn’t changed his pitch offerings much since last season, but under the Orioles tutelage he is leaning on the sinker more than he used to (60%). Why not? It’s his best pitch, with an .063 XBA and -2 run value. Here’s the divebomber in action, drawing some weak contact off the bat of Luis Robert Jr.

Canó has also reportedly made some mechanical adjustments this season, among them keeping his front shoulder closed longer, in order to achieve better control. Orioles coaches have also helped him get more “locked in,” encouraging him to focus less on the score and the game situation and more on his plan of attack against hitters.

The party can’t last forever, but Yennier Canó’s stuff is looking good enough that you never know.

For the Orioles, the timing couldn’t be better. In March/April, their starters put up a collective 5.79 ERA in 88.2 innings, the fifth-fewest total in the American League. Setup guys Austin Voth, Keegan Akin and Cionel Pérez have stumbled so far, while injuries have taken down Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens. Hyde likes to have people he can rely on, and Canó is looking not just reliable, but very difficult to square up.

From a random piece in the Jorge López trade to Brandon Hyde’s most trusted setup reliever at the moment, it’s been a nice stretch for Yennier Canó. “It’s hard not to [pitch him],” said Hyde Tuesday night after Canó retired the side in order. “He’s throwing bowling balls up there, and so I’m going to take my chances.”