Every time a former Oriole pitcher has a solid game in another uniform this year, I’m alerted by fans.
Call it the Jake Arrieta whiplash effect.
The rallying cry is simple: The Orioles have the American League’s worst rotation ERA and no starters pounding down the door from Triple-A Norfolk, and yet all these young guys the Orioles gave up on are succeeding elsewhere.
I try to temper that noise with some reality, explaining several of those “Lost Boys” wouldn’t be having the same run in the AL East and at Camden Yards.
In response, the fans rattle off myriad names, starting with Arrieta and Eduardo Rodriguez, then Zach Davies, Ariel Miranda, Steven Brault and Parker Bridwell, all current starters in the majors (and Josh Hader, currently a rookie reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers). Some fans have also mentioned Oakland’s Andrew Triggs as one that got away before he had season-ending hip surgery.
I get the sentiment. The Orioles have shipped off plenty of arms in the Dan Duquette Era, and yet Duquette is still scrambling for quality starters every year. So that’s not good.
But it also rankles me when fans make it sound like all of these guys are Arrieta, Cy Young or a combination of both. They aren’t. I expect Rodriguez to have a good career assuming he stays healthy, but he wasn’t given away for nothing. Trading him brought Andrew Miller to the Orioles for the 2014 playoff run. I’d probably do that trade again.
Davies, Miranda and Brault were parts of three separate trades that all failed. Gerardo Parra (Davies), Wade Miley (Miranda) and Travis Snider (Brault) did not make this organization better, just more expensive.
So, yes, they were bad trades. Because even if all involved are mediocre, you’d rather have cheap controllable guys than aging millionaires.
But my contention remains that Davies, Miranda and Brault might be options for the struggling 2017 rotation, but they also might have been more of the same.
Davies, when traded, was considered a slightly younger Tyler Wilson — a battler with great makeup and an underwhelming arsenal. And though Davies is 13-5 with a 4.18 ERA for the Brewers, his ERA was over 5.00 for most of the season – in the NL — until he strung together gems in his last four starts.
Sure, I’d take back the 24-year-old, but I’m not positive he’d get close to those numbers in the American League East.
I am positive, however, that Miranda’s overall numbers would be worse if he pitched half his games in Baltimore. The 28-year-old Cuban defector has a 4.65 ERA this season, and a 6.25 ERA away from pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. I’ve never liked his chances in Baltimore.
I know little about Brault, but he’s been shuttled back and forth between the majors and minors by the Pittsburgh Pirates. I love Hader’s arm, but his lack of command raises the question that maybe his future could be at the back-end of a bullpen.
So that brings us to Bridwell, who befuddled Orioles’ hitters Tuesday night in a 3-2 Los Angeles Angels win.
The 26-year-old right-hander allowed one run on six hits in seven innings to pick up his sixth win in seven decisions. He didn’t walk any, struck out four and lowered his ERA to 3.00 in 11 games (10 starts).
All of those Orioles naysayers are screaming now about letting Bridwell go, too.
And, honestly, I’m with them on this one.
I’m still not sure why the Orioles designated Bridwell for assignment in April (to make room for lefty reliever Paul Fry, who has struggled and been hurt at Triple-A Norfolk) and ultimately sold Bridwell to the Angels for cash considerations.
Say what you want about losing Davies, Brault, Hader, etc., but at least the Orioles got players in return – often stiffs, mind you, but big leaguers, nonetheless.
The Orioles got money for Bridwell, a former ninth-round pick in 2010, and nothing else. I scratched my head at the time of that giveaway. And am still scratching it.
I’m not suggesting I thought Bridwell would excel. I’m not suggesting he absolutely will keep it up.
But I did think he could have been a useful arm in an organization starving for useful arms. The biggest knock on Bridwell was an inability to stay healthy, which he seemingly had overcome. His ERA in the minors hovered in the high 4s, but he had plenty of supporters in the organization that claimed he was a late bloomer. It’s why the club added him to the 40-man roster before the 2016 season.
It seemed like the Orioles always had high hopes for Bridwell, whose fastball sits in the 92 to 95 mph range and who possesses a solid changeup.
When he was signed in 2010, a couple club officials told me they thought they had gotten a steal. I remember seeing him at an Orioles’ road game in Texas just after he graduated from high school, and understood their reasoning: The tall, lanky kid sure looked the part of future big league pitcher.
And the Orioles, to their credit, were patient with him, waiting for Bridwell to figure it out. Yet just when it looked like he was on the cusp of helping the Orioles, he made two relief performances for them in 2016, two relief outings for Triple-A Norfolk in April and was sent packing. Head-scratching commenced.
I’m not sure what Bridwell becomes. This hot start may not be indicative of what he’ll be as his future unfolds. But I do think the Orioles misjudged this one. And not just because of what he did Tuesday night against his old team, but because there was no real reason to punt him from the roster before he had a chance to show what he could do in the majors. He never really got that.
In my opinion, Orioles fans shouldn’t be losing sleep over the departure of Miranda or probably even Davies or Brault. But my gut tells me, that among the Orioles’ recent Lost Boys, Bridwell’s departure is the one that’s going to sting for a while.