PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.—Manager Brandon Hyde had been hoping that right-hander Nate Karns would be healthy enough to begin the season as the Orioles’ fourth starter. That may no longer be the case.
Karns has thrown just 2 2/3 innings in two games because the Orioles shut him down for several days because of arm soreness. He was scheduled to pitch on March 1 against the New York Yankees but was scratched.
He threw an inning on Tuesday and although Hyde said that Karns appeared healthy and should be able to pitch again in a few days, it’s unlikely that Karns will be be in the starting rotation when his turn would come on April 1 in Toronto.
“I think it hinders that a little bit,” Hyde said. “It hinders him being able to be stretched out. We still have about 2 ½ weeks to go. We still have a little bit of time. Any setback right now from an innings standpoint …starters are starting to go a little bit more as we go along.”
Karns missed most of the 2017 season after surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers, and all of last year because of an elbow injury.
“With Nate, he’s just had issues the past couple of years,” Hyde said. “He’s dealt with injuries. Our main focus is his health, and so we’re not going to put him in any position to get hurt. We’re not going to try and push through any kind of injury or any kind of soreness right now, so we’re going to do what’s best for him.”
If Karns is out, the fourth and fifth starting spots are open. Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would fill the top three spots.
“I don’t think anything was set coming in with our roster at all,” Hyde said. “We’re still doing the same, evaluating all the starters.”
There are still a number of potential starters in the mix.
“Great opportunity. Everybody’s getting a great look,” Hyde said.
Wednesday’s starter, John Means, is attractive because he’s a left-hander Only Means, who threw three shutout innings against Tampa Bay, and Josh Rogers, who has allowed one run on four hits in seven innings, are left-handed.
David Hess, Yefry Ramirez and Mike Wright, who will start Thursday, are also options.
Some of those who don’t make the rotation could be contenders for long relief.
‘I’m not ready to give anybody roles right now,” Hyde said. “I’m just trying to win games…You’d like to have a real structured-type pen, and you’d like to have a structured closer, and you would love to have an eighth-inning guy. We’re in a situation here where we’re just trying to match up as best as possible…We’re just going to give our team the opportunity to have success by matching up as best as we can the last four or five innings of the game.”
Dillon Tate, who was thought to be a long-shot contender for the roster, has gotten only four innings in three appearances. He’s scheduled for an inning on Thursday against Pittsburgh and hasn’t been given an opportunity to start because there are so many others to look at.
“I still think we’re going to try to get more innings for him,” Hyde said. “Wherever that may be. We’re trying to extend his innings. We still want him to work on other pitches…We feel that there’s some upside there as a starter.”
Hess, who starts on Saturday at Tampa Bay in the first half of a split-squad doubleheader, is coming off a spotless three inning stint on Monday.
Hess was a starter last season, and the new management team hasn’t offered him any guarantees.
“I think there’s obviously a ton of talented guys here,” Hess said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys competing for a lot of spots. We’re all kind of pushing each other in a way. I think really understanding and having fun with the process. You get to be friends with these guys in the clubhouse and competing against them from a professional standpoint, but more than anything you’re going out there and wanting the best for the team.”
The competition is not a surprise.
“Coming into this year, we knew how good this group of guys was going to be and how talented they were going to be,” Hess said. “It’s not surprising to me to see how good everyone is doing right now. I’m excited for all those guys because in turn that pushes you to have to be great as well.”