Oriole bullpen veterans pitch in to make newcomers feel comfortable - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Oriole bullpen veterans pitch in to make newcomers feel comfortable

NEW YORK—Chandler Shepherd arrived at Yankee Stadium for the first time, hoping that this time he’ll get to pitch for the Orioles. Shepherd was summoned to San Diego for one game, July 30, didn’t pitch, and was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk the next day.

Shepherd, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on waivers on May 22, was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week last week. He’s 1-5 with a 5.61 ERA in 11 games with Norfolk. Overall, he’s 1-10 with a 7.27 ERA in 19 games with Pawtucket, Boston’s Triple-A team, and Norfolk.

If Shepherd pitches, he’ll be the 53rd player used by the Orioles this season, and the 36th pitcher.

There have been a dizzying number of transactions involving Oriole pitchers. Since June 14, 23 pitchers have been summoned from the minor leagues, sent there, traded, released or been placed or taken off the injured list.

“It happens a lot,” Shepherd said. “It’s hard not to notice it.”

Only two pitchers on the Orioles’ 13-man staff, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens, have been on the 25-man roster for the entire season. Excluding the four position players who’ve pitched for the team: Hanser Alberto, Chris Davis, Jesus Sucre and Stevie Wilkerson, 11 pitchers have worked five or fewer games.

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One of the recent mainstays in the bullpen is Shawn Armstrong, who joined the team on April 30 after he was acquired on waivers from Seattle. Armstrong identifies with Branden Kline, Evan Phillips, Tanner Scott and Jimmy Yacabonis, who have had multiple trips between the Orioles and Norfolk.

“I was that guy with Cleveland,” Armstrong said. “Going up and down as many times as I did.”

Armstrong said that during Monday night’s game, the relievers discussed how they could make their new teammates feel more comfortable.

“We’ve all been there,” Armstrong said. “We know when you get that window of opportunity … you’ve almost got to be perfect.

“…You feel like you’ve got to go out there and put up a zero every time. You can’t get behind a hitter.”

That’s not a good mentality, but Armstrong wants to try to ease the pressure.

“Not every team has as many transactions as we do, up and down,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong, Castro, Givens, Richard Bleier and Paul Fry have been with the club nearly all the year, but the other few spots are always up for grabs.

“It takes us a group to be able to make them comfortable,” Armstrong said. “Help them with scouting reports, help them with hitters, just be comfortable with the little things.”

Manager Brandon Hyde notes that the bullpen shuffling isn’t an Orioles phenomenon.

“I think it’s the nature of the game,” Hyde said.

Hyde points out that even the New York Yankees have used 45 players.

“It’s the way pitching is right now,” Hyde said. “Part of major league baseball is shuffling your bullpen and getting fresh arms because starters aren’t going very long. They’re not going as long as they used to, and they need help.”

Seattle has used 61 players, just three shy of the major league record of 64 set by the Texas Rangers in 2014.

“They all understand it,” Armstrong said of the movement. “It’s frustrating. It’s sad in a way for you to get sent down, but they understand it’s part of baseball because we’ve all been there … The guys that are in bullpens, their job is to make those guys comfortable and set them up for success.”

Stewart’s making progress: Outfielder DJ Stewart, who was hit in the head by a fly ball, will play for Norfolk at Pawtucket on Wednesday and Thursday and then is scheduled to come off the seven-day concussion injury list on Friday when the Orioles are in Boston.

Starters in flux: Currently, the Orioles have six starting pitchers. Hyde says he’s not sure which three starters he’ll use in the three-game series that begins in Fenway Park on Friday.

For now, John Means, who’s starting Tuesday, and Dylan Bundy, Wednesday’s starter, are firmly in the rotation along with Aaron Brooks and Asher Wojciechowski. Ty Blach and Gabriel Ynoa are also considerations.

“We’re in wait-and-see mode a little bit,” Hyde said. “We’re going to discuss.”

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