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The Orioles bullpen is set for a September shakeup

DL Hall, John Means and Tyler Wells are set to shake things up in a big way. How will Baltimore balance talent and experience while chasing a division title?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles hold the best record in the American League, but the baseball world has yet to anoint Baltimore the favorite to represent the league in the Fall Classic. The O’s have excelled in the best division and consistently win on the road, so what’s the issue?

Experts have been quick to point out that the Orioles lack two things—experience and top-tier pitching. There’s no denying it. Baltimore’s roster is filled with young players that have yet to play in the postseason, and the starting rotation does not single-handedly strike fear into opponents.

The experience factor will work itself out. The Orioles attempted to address the other point by acquiring Jack Flaherty, but Flaherty and fellow veteran Kyle Gibson have struggled in August. The pair hold the most significant amount of playoff experience, but they still need to earn their place.

The Orioles have utilized a six-man rotation to help reduce the strain on young pitchers. Several starters have already exceeded their career-highs in innings pitched, and Tyler Wells demonstrated how fatigue can impact a talented arm.

John Means appears set for a September return, and the Orioles now have Tyler Wells working as a reliever in the minors. Both Wells and DL Hall are expected to help bolster a bullpen with plenty of miles behind it already this season.

“We have a lot of interesting stuff brewing,” Mike Elias said during the MASN broadcast last night. Elias said the Orioles were gearing up Hall to hopefully help out of the bullpen and said he could be “what the doctor ordered.”

There’s no denying Hall’s stuff, but control issues have plagued the lefty. He’s built up an impressive portfolio over the last few weeks, but plopping a 24-year-old directly into a high-leverage role during a pennant race carries certain risks. Hall limited the free passes during 10 relief appearances late last season, and the Orioles will know internally whether his arm strength has returned to form.

Hall, Means and Wells are on pace to provide the greatest shakeup of the season. The organization will be thrilled to gain three talented arms, but should they be concerned with the ripple effect?

Even with Hall and Wells heading to the bullpen, Means makes seven in the starting rotation. Several pitchers struggle when immediately returning from Tommy John, but Means appears to be building toward a starter’s workload.

Tyler Young took a crack at the Orioles postseason group earlier in the week, but the Birds will be forced to make moves right away. It’s easy enough to option Nick Vespi, but things get murky after that. The Shintaro Fujinami experiment could come to an end, and Gibson could receive his second consecutive late-year demotion to the bullpen.

The starting rotation will work itself out—hopefully without shutting down Grayson Rodriguez—but the bullpen hangs in the balance. Would a streaky Cole Irvin add another lefty to the arm barn? Would the Orioles ask Dean Kremer to pitch in relief for the first time in his career?

Baltimore’s bullpen ranks in the top third of the league, but the unit has struggled at times to hand the ball to All-Star closer Félix Bautista. Yennier Cano, Mike Baumann and Cionel Pérez have bridged the gap as of late, but the picture could look much different next month.

There’s certainly a world where Hall, Wells and a healthy Danny Coulombe handle late-inning relief with Irvin and another starter providing length. Cano struggled in July, but an uptick in slider usage has the 29-year-old back in Brandon Hyde’s good graces. Cano has not allowed an earned run this month.

The Blue Jays will give Baltimore everything they have this week, but the schedule softens this weekend. Matchups with the Rockies, White Sox and Diamondbacks appear to be perfect opportunities to tinker with the hierarchy. Jacob Webb has earned an extended look in high-leverage situations, and Fujinami could receive his final shot to figure things out.

The Birds will add an extra pitcher when rosters expand on September 1, but the O’s could promote Hall even sooner if they believe he’s fully healthy. Baltimore would love to know whether Hall and Wells are capable contributors prior to a seven-game stretch against Tampa Bay and Houston in a few weeks.

It’s exciting to have reinforcements on the way, but it’s slightly concerning to have so many pitchers potentially switching roles. The Orioles will look to balance potential and experience while chasing a division title down the stretch.