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Wednesday Bird Droppings: The Orioles seriously need bullpen help

Relief trouble, Hicks to the IL, deadline needs, and Ryan O’Hearn’s birthday!

Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

We don’t need to relive last night too much. Paul put together the sad recap, but here’s what happened: The Orioles entered the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, Félix Bautista was unavailable, and they lost 4-3. With the Rays also winning, the AL East lead was trimmed to 1.5 games.

Cracks have been forming around the non-Bautista portion of the Orioles bullpen for a while now. Yennier Cano has gone from a revelation to a risk. July has been Danny Coulombe’s worst month in an Orioles uniform. Bryan Baker has his moments, but you never feel great when he trots to the mound. And everyone else beyond them is somewhat untested late in games.

The O’s front office is aware of the need for bullpen help. They added Shintaro Fujinami as a low-risk, high-upside option that may or may not work out. He was bad in the Tampa series but looked great over two innings on Tuesday. He cannot be the only change.

There may be some hope for internal solutions down the stretch.

If DL Hall isn’t traded, he feels like a natural fit for this bullpen. He wants a big league role, and the Orioles could use some electricity back there. It’s tough to see him having the time to get back to a starter’s workload at this point in the season, so a relief role just makes sense.

John Means is expected back in September. The Orioles could go to a six-man rotation as a way to watch innings for everyone, or they could push someone from the starting picture into relief. Perhaps that is Means himself, or maybe the rookie Grayson Rodriguez, or even Tyler Wells, who has experience working out of the ‘pen.

But the most certain solution is to make another trade for a veteran presence that Brandon Hyde can be confident is using for the eighth or ninth innings. Essentially, the goal would be to take on the role that Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens were expected to have, but injuries said otherwise. David Robertson with the Mets could be the ideal fit given his experience, superb 2023 performance thus far, and (as an expiring contract) relative affordability.

Once the Orioles get to the playoffs, they won’t have to worry much about Bautista not being available. The game schedule is spread out enough that he should be able to pitch in every game if necessary. But they need to get to that point first, and that means keeping him healthy and at the top of his game. Hyde is wise to back off of the flamethrower from time to time, as he has this week in Philadelphia. It should not feel this difficult to get through innings when just one member of your relief group is on ice.


Orioles Place Aaron Hicks On IL With Hamstring Strain | MLB Trade Rumors
In case you missed it, the Orioles are dealing with another injury in the outfield. Losing Hicks and Cedric Mullins at the same time hurts. There is reason to think that rookie Colton Cowser will see his offensive numbers turnaround soon, but on defense there is far less certainty compared to the two veterans.

Orioles roundtable: Answering the biggest questions as the MLB trade deadline approaches next week | The Baltimore Sun
There is a lot of talk about the upcoming inning thresholds for the Orioles starting staff. It’s a valid concern, and not every pitcher will be able to power through their previous season highs without issue. But it’s also something that sorta just has to be done. The O’s may add a veteran starter at the deadline, but they aren’t gonna add four of them. Some of the existing rotation will need to step up.

This, that and the other | Roch Kubatko
Quotes and factoids aplenty, but the most interesting may be the final one. The O’s don’t always swing at the first pitch, but when they do they are crushing it, to the tune of a nearly-.400 batting average.

Your AL East-Leading Baltimore Orioles (Ep. 110) | The Warehouse Podcast
Look, I’m not going to beg you to listen to my podcast, but if you have some spare time, then I would appreciate if you head over here and press the play button. You can mute the sound if you like. The analytics don’t know the difference. It’s all about numbers, baby!

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday! Oodles of O’s share the day with you:

  • Ryan O’Hearn turns 30. This guy has come out of absolutely nowhere to become a vital force in the middle of the Orioles lineup this season, his first with the club.
  • Paul Fry is 31. From 2018 through 2022, the southpaw was a mixed bag of results in the Baltimore bullpen. He appeared in 187 games during some mostly dark days of Orioles baseball.
  • Vidal Nuño III celebrates his 36th. A well-traveled swingman, Nuño pitched in 12 games for the 2017 Birds.
  • Alex Burnett is also 36. He made it into two games as a reliever with the O’s in 2013.
  • José Bautista (not that one!) turns 59. He worked as a both a starter and reliever in Baltimore from 1988 through ‘91, appearing in 75 different contests with a 4.79 ERA.
  • The late Pete Ward (b. 1937, d. 2022) was born on this day. He began his MLB career with eight games on the 1962 Orioles before spend many successful years with the White Sox.
  • Lou Jackson (b. 1935, d. 1969) played in four games as an outfielder for the Orioles in 1964.
  • Norm Siebern (b. 1933, d. 2015) spent two seasons in Baltimore from 1964 through ‘65, highlighted by an all-star campaign in ‘64 when he led the league with 106 walks.
  • Bill Miller (b. 1927, d. 2003) was a pitcher with the Orioles for five games in 1955.
  • Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm (b. 1922, d. 2002) also gets a posthumous celebration. His run with the Orioles was from 1958 through ‘62. He made three all-star teams in that time and even earned some down-ballot MVP votes in 1961. But his best season in Birdland was 1959, when he led the league with a 2.19 ERA over 226 innings and was worth 7.6 bWAR.

This day in O’s history

1970 - Boog Powell takes the AL lead with 86 RBI after driving in six to help the O’s beat the Twins 11-1.

1980 - Steve Stone records his 14th straight win as the Orioles ace beats the Brewers 4-1.

1992 - The Orioles are beaten by Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers 6-2 at Camden Yards. In the game, Ryan gets his 100th strikeout of the season, the 23rd year in a row that he has reached the milestone, and passes Phil Niekro on the all-time win list with number 319.

2008 - Angels outfielder Garrett Anderson becomes the first player in franchise history to score 1,000 runs as the Halos top the O’s 11-6.