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Saturday Bird Droppings: The Orioles bullpen is going through it right now

An ugly loss, Wells returns, and contenders for MVO.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Guardians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Birdland!

It feels like there is some panic setting in among the Orioles’ faithful, and it’s not entirely unwarranted. The O’s lost to the Guardians 9-8 on Friday night, a brutal defeat in which the O’s pitching staff coughed up three different leads. And it wasn’t just the bullpen. Dean Kremer was poor, Danny Coulombe had a bad showing, and Yennier Cano was a disaster. Some ugly defense along the way didn’t help.

The Orioles’ play over the last ~two weeks has been uneven. After starting September on fire they then lost five out of six in a stretch against the Red Sox, Cardinals, Rays. They made up for it with a four-game winning streak. And now they are back on a three-game skid. Altogether it makes for a month in which they have gone 12-9, which is tied for their second-worst month of the season...but it’s still a winning month.

If you had to pick one specific cause of the concern from the fanbase right now, it’s the bullpen. Without Félix Bautista at the backend, the unit lacks bite and dependability. Cano has one strikeout all month. That is not what you want in the ninth inning. Coulombe has allowed a run in three straight appearances. Shintaro Fujinami ebbs and flows. There is some promise in DL Hall. But no one in the group is a sure thing.

There is good news, though. First, the Rays lost on Friday as well, so the Orioles’ 1.5-game lead in the AL East remains while their magic number to clinch the crown decreased once again. As rickety as the Orioles ship has felt recently, the finish line may be too close for it to matter.

On the bullpen front, it seems clear the Orioles’ front office agrees that there is an issue. That’s part of the reason that Tyler Wells is back, this time in a relief role. He should be able to paper over some of the middle-inning issues the team has experienced recently. In addition, it still sounds like Bautista will return at some point. What he looks like in that return is unclear, but even a fraction of his best form is preferred over some others.

The point is that this relief group is not a finished product, even with only days left in the regular season. It seems impossible that all of Kyle Gibson, John Means, and Jack Flaherty will make the postseason roster, and at least one of them will probably transition to the ‘pen. Maybe that shores up the bridge from starter to backend even more. Jorge López will need to be replaced by someone from Norfolk, perhaps Mike Baumann? That feels like a net gain given how homer-prone López has been. And, of course, Bautista’s potential return looms large.

The Orioles can win games without their bullpen being lights out. But it’s tough to do much if it continues to be the albatross we’ve seen recently. Hopefully a much-needed shuffling of the deck will sort things out in time for October.


Wells on role: “I obviously want to help the team win a World Series and that’s my main goal” | Roch Kubatko
It is nice to see Wells back in the big leagues. The timing is perfect, and it didn’t look like he missed a beat returning to the bullpen last night.

Who could win Most Valuable Oriole? These 10 players deserve consideration. | The Baltimore Sun
This is a fine exercise to do, and a team doesn’t compete for a division title without multiple big performances from throughout the roster. But the answer is Gunnar Henderson. He contributes at the plate, on the field, and on the bases at a level that no one else on the team can match.

13 rookies ready for the October spotlight |
The O’s are well-represented here with mentions of Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez. They will both need to have big postseasons in order to make a deep run.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • Willie Greene turns 52. He spent some time in the Orioles’ outfield during the 1998 season.
  • Pete Harnisch is 57 years old. An O’s first-round pick in 1987, he went on to pitch three seasons in Baltimore from ‘88 through ‘90 before he was part of the package sent to the Astros for Glenn Davis.
  • The late Marcelino López (b. 1943, d. 2001) was born on this day. From 1967 through 1970 the southpaw was an important part of the Orioles pitching staff, swinging from starting to the bullpen as needed.

This day in O’s history

1958 - O’s pitching Jack Harshman hits two home runs, the second time he’s done so this season.

1999 - The Orioles 13-game winning streak comes to an end, losing 9-6 to the Athletics in the first game of a double-header. The O’s would win the nightcap 12-4.

2013 - Manny Machado, the Orioles young star third baseman, exits a 5-4 loss to the Rays after stepping awkwardly on first base and twisting his knee. He would miss the rest of the season, and the Orioles would miss the playoffs.