Oriole left-handers might be affected by three-batter minimum rule in 2020 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Oriole left-handers might be affected by three-batter minimum rule in 2020

The Orioles have 18 pitchers on their 40-man roster. Only four are left-handers. All four pitchers received from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Dylan Bundy Wednesday are right-handed.

Ordinarily, it might be a given that the Orioles need to add to their left-handed relievers — Richard Bleier, Paul Fry and Tanner Scott.

But 2020 will be different. A rule change requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters has made the left-handed specialist passe. No longer can a Brian Matusz enter a game to face David Ortiz, dominate him and then depart. Ortiz, who went just 4-for-29 (.138) against Matusz with 13 strikeouts.

Pitchers must either face three batters or pitch to the end of an inning. Exceptions are made for illness and injury.

Bleier, who agreed to a one-year, $915,000 contract on Monday, is more effective against left-handers. They’ve batted .228 against him and right-handers are hitting .306. In 2019, the difference was more pronounced — left-handers hit .222 and right-handers hit .355.

Bleier isn’t a one-batter lefty specialist. In only four of his 53 appearances did he face a lone batter, and he was effective in all four, needing no more than four pitches in any of them.

Bleier’s strength is that he can be used against multiple hitters. He faced as many as nine hitters three times, although those were among his least effective outings. Twice, he faced just the minimum six batters in two innings.

Bleier, who recovered from lat surgery in June 2018, got stronger as the season progressed. In 12 September appearances, he had a 2.92 ERA and a 0.717 WHIP.

The Orioles had high hopes for Scott, who made his debut late in the 2017 season, but he’s been bounced between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk the past two seasons.


Scott has been far more effective against left-handers, .204 average, than right-handers, .317.

Scott impresses with his fastball and slider but lacks the control that is a strength for Bleier, who walks 1.5 batters per nine innings. Scott averages more than five walks per nine innings. Bleier strikes out just under five batters per nine innings. Scott averages 12.7 per nine. That’s why the Orioles have held on to him.

Scott shouldn’t be affected by the new rule, either. In only five of his 28 appearances, did he face one or two batters. Three of those outings were successful; he allowed runners in the other two.

On July 20, Scott faced 11 batters against the Boston Red Sox, and allowed just a walk and a hit in three innings. His performance work went unnoticed because Tom Eshelman and Jimmy Yacabonis combined for 16 runs, 12 earned, in the first four innings of a 17-6 loss.

Scott and Stevie Wilkerson, who allowed a run in two innings, kept a long evening from becoming even longer.

Fry is the one lefty who seems to fit the description. In 16 of his team-high 66 appearances, Fry faced just one or two hitters.

In his two-season career, Fry has been slightly more effective against right-handers, who hit .233, than left-handers, .255.

Fry was brought to the majors for the first time in June 2018, and held right-handers to a .218 average. Left-handers hit .264.

In 2019, Fry compiled a sparkling 1.08 ERA in July, but fell to an 8.38 ERA in August and 10.29 in September. Fry allowed five home runs in 16 2/3 innings in those last two months.

The brief outings were generally Fry’s best. In nine of the 16 he didn’t allow a baserunner and was scored upon just three times. Fry walked only one batter in those 16 one- or two-hitter outings.

It’s possible general manager Mike Elias will use the December 12 Rule 5 draft to select another left-hander, although late last month the Orioles signed two left-handers with major league experience to minor league contracts.

One was already in the organization, Hunter Cervenka, who was 1-0 with a 4.69 ERA in 73 games with Atlanta and Miami in 2016 and 2017, was re-signed. Cervenka had a 2.25 ERA in nine late-season games with Norfolk.

Another, Rob Zastryzny was 2-0 with a 4.41 ERA in 18 games with the Chicago Cubs from 2016-2018 when Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was a coach.

Zastryzny had a 5.58 ERA last season in Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

The Orioles might need both if Bleier continues to be as productive as he was late in the season and creates a market for himself. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season.

Orioles hire Fredi Gonzalez as coach: The Orioles 2020 coaching staff is nearly complete with the hiring of former Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez as major league coach.

Gonzalez, who most recently been a coach for the Marlins, will replace Jose Hernandez, who becomes assistant hitting coach.

News of the hiring was reported by The Baltimore Sun and confirmed by an industry source.

The Orioles, who have hired Anthony Sanders as their first base coach, still need a bullpen coach to replace the departed John Wasdin.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB





  1. CalsPals

    December 6, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I’m sure there are plenty more Rule 5 pitchers for the golden boy to find…go O’s…

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 6, 2019 at 8:59 am

    3 batter rule ‘eh? I like it.

    It’s certainly going to change the strategy of the game. I’m also wondering if it might cause a team to carry and extra position player or 2 instead of extra pitchers? Could we possibly see the return of the closer that can go more than 1 inning, such as Goose Gossage or Bruce Sutter? Dunno .. but I’d personally love to see it.

    Seriously, I think this may be a true game changing rule. I look forward to seeing how it all to plays out.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2019 at 10:27 am

      With the 26-man roster, most teams will carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players, Ken.

  3. willmiranda

    December 6, 2019 at 9:57 am

    Thanks, Rich, for the analysis of the lefties. I guess there aren’t many righty specialists. I don’t really like the rule at first glance; it just seems too arbitrary. I suppose that if there are empty bases, a guy could come in for one or two outs with an intentional walk or two sandwiched in there. That would speed up the game. Am I mistaken, or can the batting team insert a pinch hitter during an at-bat?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2019 at 10:28 am

      Yes, Will a pinch-hitter can be inserted during an at-bat. The reason for the rule is to speed up the game.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    December 6, 2019 at 11:47 am

    I don’t mind it. If you are a Major League pitcher, you are handsomely compensated to do something you have been doing since you were about 6 years old. It stands to reason you should be able to figure out how to get more than one hitter out. Same reason it chaps my behind whenever the pitching coach comes out on the field. Between the pitcher and catcher, you are looking at around 40 years of baseball experience, they can figure it out themselves. matter of fact, take all the managers and coaches out of the dugout and stick them up in the pressbox somewhere. Whatever kills this current brand of paint the numbers, risk averse, corporate baseball I’m all for.

  5. NormOs

    December 6, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    I really don’t think the three batter rule will effect this O’s team. What difference does it make if they lose 125 games or if they lose 130 games. WHEN DOES THE REBUILD START?

    • WorldlyView

      December 6, 2019 at 5:07 pm

      The answer to when the rebuild starts can be inferred from the lead story on today’s Orioles website: “O’s priority at Winter Meetings: More prospects.” The rebuild apparently will begin as soon as management has finished the task of ridding the team of all proven MLB caliber players, i.e. trading Mancini, Cobb, Alberto, etc. for more prospects from A-level farm teams. Let us wait until at least 2024 before criticizing the “plan.”

    • Camden Brooks

      December 6, 2019 at 9:16 pm

      Since it is a rebuild of the entire O’s organization, it started back when DD unloaded Manny, etc. in 2018. The rebuild of the big league club is still in its infancy.

  6. Lookouts400

    December 6, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    The caveat to the three batter rule is that if a guy gets out of the inning, someone else can start the next inning. So, if Fry comes in with two outs, gets the third out, Harvey can start the next inning.
    The thing with Scott is that they just need to leave him here and stop the shuttle. Let him go out and take his lumps and learn from them. I believe it’s MASN analyst Dave Johnson who always says, “The best place to learn to play in the Majors is the Majors.” Leave the kid be, see if he can work out of his slumps. Like so many have pointed out, what other difference will it make?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 6, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      You are correct, lookouts, and I should have pointed that out.

  7. Bhoffman1

    December 7, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Rich what would it cost to bring back Gausman. I always liked him better then Bundy and maybe Elias can straighten his head out.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      I am also a Gausman fan, and I think he could help, but I think he’ll be out of their price range. If they signed him, it would be in the hope they could flip him. My guess is he’ll have some better opportunities elsewhere.

      • WorldlyView

        December 7, 2019 at 2:41 pm

        Rich, Who IS in their price range? My guess the answer is: anyone who no other team wants. What is management doing with all the money it is not spending to field at least a half decent team?

        • Rich Dubroff

          December 7, 2019 at 6:44 pm

          Professor Cohen, they say they are investing it in scouting, technology and player development.

      • Lookouts400

        December 7, 2019 at 4:03 pm

        Not like Gauseman has been Don Drysdale since leaving. He might come at a decent “make good” price. And I’ve heard Matt Witers might could come back, on a similar deal. Why not? At least give the fanbase names they’d recognize.
        Rich, when players are making deceision on where to sign, does the fact they might or might not be trade fodder at the deadline play into their decision?

        • Rich Dubroff

          December 7, 2019 at 6:46 pm

          Ken, players look at money, potential playing time and the competitiveness of the club. Perhaps the most important factor is playing enough to try to secure a contract after this one.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 7, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      All they are doing is shaving payroll and paying you know who 1/3 of their budget. Why can’t they spend some money. What would it cost to get Gausman. If the whole pitching staff will be filled with wire waivers until the kids show up it could be worse then last year

    • ClayDal

      December 7, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      Rich makes a good point about the Orioles hoping to flip Gausman. It’s the same issue with Cashner, Gio Gonzalez, Ivan Nova, etc. Do they want to come here knowing the Orioles are going to be trying to trade them the minute the ink is dry on the contract? Probably not. Most pitchers in that category will probably find better options

  8. BirdsCaps

    December 7, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    I hate to be the consistent curmudgeon of the bunch, but I am sick of the constant rule changes. Baseball should not try to imitate the No Fun League, with game-changing rules added every few yrs. I enjoyed the chess match with the pitching changes. One could make the baseball purist argument that pitching changes were few and far between back in the day, with complete games being very common, but with the new metrics and information, the pitching changes were enjoyable to the fans that valued strategy (can you tell that I hate the DH). In philosophical terms, ever since Manfred has taken over, baseball has been on a hedonistic quest to (in my opinion) cheapen the game and take away America’s epicurean pastime. Examples are the superballs that have led to more homers, the stupid clocks, and pointing to first base to “signal” an intentional walk. So, this new rule change leads to shorter games and more offense. I sure hope Manfred doesn’t start timing innings and using the gold ball from the HR derby any time soon. (P.S never thought I would miss Selig)

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 7, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      Epicurean ‘eh? I had to look that word up. Awesome verbiage my fellow fan.

      I agree with almost every point you make, save comparing pitching changes to that of a chess match. In defense of the DH, It was never really that complicated to begin with, but now that pitchers rarely go past 6 or 7 innings, it’s really cut and dry as to when to pinch hit for the pitcher. And now that temas only carrying 3 or 4 positional bench players (due to huge pitching staffs), the point/counterpoint of the lefty/righty battle is often moot anyway. I’m tired of seeing 2 or 3 pitching changes in an inning. I like the new rule considering the circumstances of the modern game, and my point has nothing to due with speeding up a game.

      Other than that my friend … I love what you had to say.

    • Camden Brooks

      December 7, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      Call USA Today again. I’m with BRR on this one.

  9. BirdsCaps

    December 7, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Also, every time I hear Fredi Gonzalez’s name I thinks of the infield fly game in the playoffs

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