BALTIMORE—Orioles starters are throwing fewer pitches this season. Some of it is because of short starts, and because manager Brandon Hyde wants to err on the side of caution.
In the Orioles’ first 36 games, no starter has thrown more than 100 pitches. Wednesday night’s starter, Andrew Cashner reached that number when he threw seven innings on April 23. On Wednesday, Cashner threw 104 pitches in six strong innings against the Red Sox.
It’s a difference from last year when Cashner, who started for the eighth time, exceeded 100 pitches in five of his first seven starts.
Dylan Bundy threw 96 pitches while throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings on Saturday, the longest for any starter this season. He allowed three hits to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Last season, Bundy threw more than 100 pitches in two of his first seven starts, and topped out at 121 in a complete-game win over the Chicago White Sox on May 24.
Dan Straily, another experienced starter who joined the Orioles early in the season, hasn’t thrown more than 98 pitches in his six starts. Last year, the threw more than 100 in three of his first six starts with the Miami Marlins.
Hyde says there are several factors he takes into account.
“It’s traffic on the bases, stressful innings,” Hyde said. “Cash’s last start in Chicago, where it was right around 100 (99), and it was only through four, but that fourth inning was 30-something pitches, and he was pitching out of traffic the entire inning. That definitely factors into it.
“If they’re breezing through the game, and there’s a lot of low-stress innings, especially later on, I look to extend guys a little bit. I’m not going to overextend a guy that is continuing to pitch stressful inning after stressful inning.”
David Hess, who hadn’t yet been called up last year at this time, was pulled after 82 pitches in his first start on April 1 when he threw 6 1/3 hitless innings at Toronto.
“A hundred’s not like a limit for me,” Hyde said before Wednesday night’s 12-inning loss to the Red Sox. “It’s just what’s happened so far. I don’t put a number on anything. More, we watch with our eyes and talk between innings, check in with guys and monitor stress level of the innings.”
It’s rare to see a starting pitcher throw more than 120 pitches.
“I think it’s something you definitely monitor,” Hyde says of pitch count. “You definitely want to keep guys healthy, and I would like to have Cashner and Bundy and these guys make 35 starts, so that’s something to always keep in mind.
“I just want to protect guys and especially in our situation where I want guys to have success, and I want to have guys finish throughout the year. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that happens the best way we can. I think there are certain times where guys can get extended , especially if you can get them a day or two rest more than they would normally get following a start.”
Bundy has two complete games in his career. Cashner has three, but none since September 15, 2014. Straily, Hess and John Means, who is a starter for the first time in the majors this season, don’t have any. Alex Cobb, who is on the injured list, has four, and the Orioles’ most recent on August 18, 2018.
“If a guy’s cruising along, I’d love to see him continue,” Hyde said. “I love complete games. I love starters going deep into games. Hopefully, we have a few of those this year.”
Bleier strong in rehab: Richard Bleier was happy with his inning at Class-A Frederick in his initial rehab outing on Tuesday. Bleier allowed a run on two hits, striking out one and throwing 14 pitches.
Bleier has been on the injured list since April 10 because of left shoulder stiffness.
“I feel pretty good. The shoulder feels pretty good,” Bleier said. “I’m just trying to get back to competitive pitching.”
Bleier is scheduled to throw an inning for Double-A Bowie on Friday.
“I’m happy with the pitches I made,” Bleier said of Tuesday’s outing. “I definitely didn’t make all of them. I gave up a run. At that point, I had the loss, and then I got the win.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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