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.

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.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. CalsPals

    August 13, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Not sure it’s wait & see, more like Hyde & seek…go O’s…

  2. CalsPals

    August 13, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Means made it to the…first batter before giving up a dinger…gonna be a long night…go O’s…

    • Ekim

      August 13, 2019 at 10:52 pm

      It was… Just saying…

      • Jbigle1

        August 14, 2019 at 12:29 am

        Shepherd did a decent job mopping up. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a few starts down the stretch. He still has options for next season. That’ll hold some appeal. Wojo, Brooks, Yacabonis, and Ynoa are all out of or will be out of options next season. Shepherd certainly looked like more of a ML capable pitcher than Eshelman or Blach.

        • Jbigle1

          August 14, 2019 at 1:52 am

          Hess is who I meant to say at the bottom. Blach’s first start was terrible but he’s had a bit of big league success. And historically gets the ball on the ground at a decent rate. I’d rather see more of him than David Hess giving up bombs. Who is utterly useless in Camden Yards. Maybe if MLB fixes the ball back he can hang around. Because he sure can’t provide any value now.

  3. Hallbe62

    August 14, 2019 at 2:12 am

    A concise accounting of the last week or so of Orioles Baseball losing in this Sports Illustrated article exploring “anti-Tanking” measures

    By JON TAYLER August 13, 2019


    I pass it along for your reading displeasure

    • CalsPals

      August 14, 2019 at 7:06 am

      Very ugly…go O’s..

    • Bhoffman1

      August 14, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Great article. CD twice as many strikeouts as total bases and 23 mil a year. Until this cancer is gone and we play our youngsters over has beens I agree with the article that ML has to do something. Elias doesn’t get it that the rebuild cannot be this uncompetitive.

      • Hallbe62

        August 14, 2019 at 3:15 pm

        It has been ugly. It’s hard to believe there is 1 team worse than us at the moment.

    • SailinO

      August 14, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      Thanks for that link. I agree with the O’s current rebuild approach because there is no penalty associated with it. I think relegation would put a screeching halt to tanking, and possibly spark a renewed interest in AAA ball, as relegated teams try to claw their way out. I also think it has zero chance of happening. Tho one can always hope. Much is made of salary caps in pro sports – how about the idea of a salary “floor” or minimum a team must spend to remain in the majors?

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