SARASOTA, Florida—One of the significant developments in spring training has been the strong performances from the Orioles’ bullpen.
While some unknown candidates have presented themselves as candidates, one who was thought to be a possibility, Evan Phillips, is seeking a second opinion on a sore right elbow, manager Brandon Hyde said on Thursday.
There are some assumptions that can be made. If Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier are healthy, they’ll be in the bullpen to start the season. So will Hunter Harvey, who dazzled folks with his stuff at the end of last season.
There are three other mainstays from last year’s relief corps that didn’t provide much relief while compiling a 5.79 ERA. Miguel Castro has worked two scoreless innings, Paul Fry has allowed a run in three innings, and Shawn Armstrong has thrown three hitless innings, including one on Wednesday against Miami.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations this spring about guys being comfortable in their own skin,” Armstrong said. “The older guys being able to be there and be available to help them be comfortable and be themselves.”
Armstrong had a 5.13 ERA in 51 games. Fry, who appeared in a club-high 66 games, produced a 5.34 ERA. Castro had a 4.66 ERA in 65 games.
Of the three, only Fry has options remaining, but none has a spot locked up.
“They still have things to prove,” Hyde said. How many established guys do we have down there, really? I think you’re always having things to prove. I think all those guys would and should feel like that they want to get better from last year and, hopefully, we’ve got guys pushing them.”
Before his elbow woes, Phillips was hardly a sure thing to make the team. Phillips had a 6.43 ERA in 25 games and remains on the 40-man roster, as does left-hander Tanner Scott (4.78 ERA in 28 games), another who’s shown real promise at times.
Phillips, Scott and Branden Kline (5.93 ERA in 24 games) were often shuttled between the major and minors. Kline was taken off the 40-man last month, and he’s one of many non-roster invitees looking to come north later this month.
One of them is Cody Carroll, who missed nearly all of last season after back surgery. Carroll briefly pitched for Gulf Coast and in the Arizona Fall League, and he’s caught Hyde’s eye with four scoreless innings.
“I came in ready to go regardless of what happened last year,” Carroll said.
Carroll, who came to the Orioles in July 2018 in the Zack Britton trade with the New York Yankees, was expected to pitch in the team’s bullpen last season. He’s impressed by what he’s seen this spring.
“As you can see, it seems like everybody goes out there and throws up a zero every inning out of the ‘pen,” Carroll said. “It’s been real good competition so far.”
Fry, who had a strong debut in the second half of 2018, also likes what he’s seen.
“A lot of guys are finding themselves, whether that was last year or starting this year,” Fry said. “The bats have looked really good. We have a lot of talent on the hitting side and a lot of talent on the pitching side. I think we’re going to do something pretty special this year.”
There are a number of other candidates, including Rule 5 pitchers Brandon Bailey (one run in four innings) and Michael Rucker (five scoreless Innings).
Bailey is a candidate for the starting rotation, but both he and Rucker could end up in an eight-man bullpen.
Among the non-roster pitchers Hyde has praised is Eric Hanhold, who’s allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings. Hanhold has just three games of major league experience with the New York Mets in 2018, and Hyde likes his height (6 feet 5) and presentation.
Another pitcher who showed some promise late last season was Dillon Tate, but he allowed three runs in his first outing and hasn’t pitched since February 28.
Two offseason additions to the 40-man, Travis Lakins and Cole Sulser, seem to be on the outside but both have options remaining and should see action during the season if they don’t make the team.
Hyde is hoping that 2020 includes a better band of relievers.
“I do feel like there are some guys that have made some strides, especially out of the bullpen,” Hyde said. “Now it’s about continuing to get better these next few weeks and take it into the game. I hope that the experience that they had last year for some the last couple of years, they can build on that. We’re throwing the ball pretty well out of the ‘pen right now … and so, hopefully, they’re getting some confidence and take it into the year.”