BALTIMORE—In less than three weeks, the Orioles’ starting staff has been remade. Gone are Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Milone and Asher Wojciechowski. In their place are Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Jorge López and Bruce Zimmermann.
The Orioles have been energized by the arrivals of Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann from their farm system and, most recently, the alternate site at Bowie.
“You want them to get the work they need to get in,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said in a video conference call on Friday. “As much as I would like [bullpen coach Darren Holmes] and I to have them up here, you need those guys to grow, and I think down there, suffering through what they’ve had to go through, it’s not baseball, it’s work, work, work, work, work.
“I love having the new blood up here, man. These kids have stepped in. If you look at the first two guys that stepped in, Kremer and Aik, they go about their work, they talk pitching like they’ve been here and done it. Nothing bothers either of them. I don’t have to go out to the mound, and say, ‘Hey, listen, your frustrations are leading to anxiety. Listen.’
“I go out there. They know exactly what they want to do, they know how they want to attack. They tell me instead … These guys have been great coming up here.”
It has made Brocail’s job more enjoyable.
“This group of the three that has come up has really brought new blood in. It’s great to see, and it’s awesome working with them. These guys know what they’re good at, and they’re not afraid of taking that to the hitter.”
Brocail is optimistic that the staff can turn the team into a contender in 2021.
“I don’t see why they can’t,” Brocail said. “The sky’s the limit, especially for the young guys.”
With the attention on Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann, López has been overlooked. On Monday night, he became the first Orioles starter to throw seven innings this season in the team’s 14-1 win over Atlanta. He’ll start against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
López was a waiver claim on August 9th from Kansas City.
“This is a guy, when we looked at it, we knew immediately what we wanted to do. We wanted to get the noise out of his delivery, and see what was going to happen. See if he could throw more strikes with the fastball, thrown more strikes with the sinker and see if his offspeed played because of the direction, and he’s proved it.”
Brocail and Holmes also have helped John Means regain the effectiveness he had last season when he made the All-Star team by making mechanical adjustments that have restored command of his fastball.
“These five or six guys, if we can hold their [walks] down, we’ll have a chance to contend, yes. We’ve also proved that your Dean [Kremers], your Akins can throw against the Yankees. John Means, we know can throw against the Yankees.
“This is a tough team that we’re playing here tonight,” Brocail said, referring to the Rays. “You look out there and see how well they move and the plays that they make, the speed that they have and what they can do with the sticks, we’re where they were a couple of years ago. I think if we can get these guys to buy in and believe what they’re good at, and do it a bunch, we’re going to be right there.”
Hyde on Rays: In his two years as Orioles manager, manager Brandon Hyde has had to answer questions about his team’s inability to beat the New York Yankees.
But this weekend’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays, might be a more realistic measuring stick for the Orioles. Entering Friday’s game, the Rays lead the Yankees by 3 ½ games in the American League East.
“I think organizations go in cycles, and we’re in Year 2 of this,” Hyde said. “This is a tough division, and this is a tough division to do what we’re doing with playing a lot of young players, acquiring players, getting guys off waivers that are playing.
“I feel really good about what we’ve done here in the past couple of years. I feel excited about the young players that have come, and that’s what’s been exciting, especially these last few weeks even though our record hasn’t been very good.
“We’re seeing a youth movement on our team, and you can look to the future and see what we could look like in a couple of years. I just think we’re taking our lumps right now, but we’re playing excellent baseball teams.”
Hyde pointed out that in the last week the Orioles have faced New York’s Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka, Atlanta’s Cole Hamels and Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow.
“We’re facing Numbers 1’s across the board a lot,” he said. “We’re competing. This Rays team, this is a great pitching staff, an extremely balanced lineup that has a little bit of power, they’re athletic, they have moveable pieces that can play all over the place. It’s a well put together roster that is challenging … because it’s hard to score runs.
“We play a lot of close games against them. I feel good about that. I’d love to start winning some of them … Hopefully, we turn that around and we’re on the other side of those games in the next couple of years.”