ARLINGTON, Texas—Before the Orioles traded Kevin Gausman, it was easy to think of Yefry Ramirez as the team’s fifth starter. But with Gausman gone, the only veterans remaining are Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb.
Unless the Orioles try to take the rebuild further and trade Bundy during the winter, the three veterans are likely to be back next season, leaving two rotation spots in play.
Ramirez is 1-4 with a 4.59 ERA, and his last start, which was his worst, got little scrutiny because it came hours after the team traded Gausman, reliever Darren O’Day and second baseman Jonathan Schoop at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
In five innings against the Yankees on Tuesday, Ramirez gave up six runs on six hits, boosting his ERA from 3.49 to 4.59.
Major league scouts think Ramirez could be a back-end starter for the Orioles next season. There are promising signs from the 24-year-old Ramirez, who was acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Yankees for international signing bonus slot money.
He’s struck out more than a batter per inning and allowed fewer than one hit per inning. Even in his last outing, there were moments when Ramirez showed the potential for a bright future.
Ramirez moved ahead of David Hess and Jimmy Yacabonis in manager Buck Showalter’s pecking order. Hess, for the moment at least, is back in the rotation while Yacabonis is back at Triple-A Norfolk.
Yacabonis has been recalled for spot starts this season. There are other candidates who could get a shot when the Orioles get to add a 26th man for their split doubleheader against Boston on Aug. 11.
Norfolk teammates Josh Rogers, acquired in the Zach Britton trade from New York, Luis Ortiz, who came in the Gausman deal from Atlanta, and John Means, an 11th-round choice in 2014, could be options. Rogers and Means are left-handers, and the Orioles haven’t had a left-hander start a game all season.
Means, Ortiz and Rogers could compete for spots in the rotation along with Hess and Ramirez. It’s unlikely that the rebuilding Orioles will spend big money on a free-agent pitcher during the offseason as they did for Cashner and Cobb. They could, however, sign a modestly priced veteran to a one-year contract as a bridge starter.
Ramirez is getting an opportunity to show Showalter what he’s capable of in the final 50 games of this lost season for the Orioles.
Showalter pointed out on Saturday that spring training and September often can present inaccurate portrayals, but August is another matter.
If Ramirez can pitch well in a few starts this month, perhaps the Orioles have another starter they can depend on for 2019—and maybe beyond.