Orioles' Zimmermann could be swingman; Mullins abandons switch-hitting - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

Orioles’ Zimmermann could be swingman; Mullins abandons switch-hitting

What’s happening? – The day after Trey Mancini played his first game with the Orioles in nearly a year because of colon cancer surgery, he’ll get the day off. So will Sunday starters Chris Davis, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Pedro Severino.

The Orioles will travel to BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday at 1:05 pm. Jorge López will face Aaron Nola. López will be followed by Shawn Armstrong, Evan Phillips, Zac Lowther, and Rule 5 draft choices Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells.

The Orioles will be careful with the number of players who go on the road and stay home because they’re limiting the number of people in the dugout and bullpen.

“Only game players are going to be in the dugout as well as pitchers that are going to pitch that day or potentially pitch that day are going to be in the bullpen,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “You’re not going to see the overflow number in the dugout as in years past. We’re going to have limited coaches in the dugout as well as limited players in the dugout to stay spaced out and follow the protocols. If you’re not a game player, you’re not staying for the game.”

Vi Ripken, who was the mother of Cal Jr. and Bill and the widow of Cal Sr., died on Friday at 82. She would have turned 83 on Saturday. Ripken was an avid fan of the Aberdeen IronBirds, owned by her sons, and was a regular at the team’s games.

Along with López, Bruce Zimmermann is trying to make the Orioles, either in the rotation or as a long reliever.

“Coming into last year, I knew that there was a lot slimmer chance of breaking with the team,” Zimmermann said. “Obviously, I think this year there’s more on the table, but in the same regard, I’m still trying to make the team and prove that I can be a valuable contributing member of the pitching staff, whether that may be in the starting rotation or maybe as a swing guy in the ‘pen — just finding whatever role I can be successful in and contributing to the team.”

Zimmermann has two professional relief appearances, one with Double-A Bowie in 2019 and one last season with the Orioles.

“When I was in the ‘pen last year, those guys … I was able to pick their brain when I wasn’t pitching as much as possible,” he said. “How do you get ready in a shortened time? I’m used to a long warmup as a starter. I had to figure out what I had to do in a shortened sense to get me ready to get off the mound right away?”

What happened? Thomas Eshelman allowed two runs, one unearned, in the first inning as the Orioles lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4, in eight innings before 1,705 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota in a game whose highlight was Mancini’s return.

“It was a little bit of a battle with myself with mechanics, two walks in the first, getting deep in the counts,” Eshelman said. “Not what I do and not what I want to do. Just one of those to learn from and take it into my next one.”

Eric Hanhold allowed two runs, one unearned, Josh Rogers and Isaac Mattson each allowed a run. Mattson walked two.

“I thought we had a really tough time throwing strikes for the majority of the day,” Hyde said. “The majority of our pitchers, a lot of deep counts.”

Hyde was impressed with minor league pitcher Conner Greene, who worked a spotless seventh, striking out two. Another minor league pitcher, Spenser Watkins, threw a perfect eighth, striking out one.

Outfielder Yusniel Diaz hit a two-run home run in the sixth.

Other than Mancini, the biggest news of the day was a decision by Mullins to stop switch-hitting. He will focus on hitting left-handed, where he has been a better hitter and starts closer to first to take advantage of his speed. He was 1-for-3 on Sunday.

Davis was hitless in two at-bats, striking out once.

Left-handed pitcher Alexander Wells has been slowed by a strained oblique muscle. Last year, Wells’ first in camp, he didn’t get into a game because of an oblique injury.

What’s up with? Fernando Abad was signed to a minor league contract on December 21, 2020. The 35-year-old left-hander has pitched for six major league teams — Houston, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota, Boston and San Francisco — in a nine-year major league career that began in 2010. He did not pitch in the majors last season.

Abad, who has a career record of 8-29 with a 3.67 ERA, pitched a scoreless second inning, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out one.

“Really good arm,” Hyde said on Saturday. “He had a really good winter and he’s come in looking sharp, so he’s a guy that’s been in the league for a while and pitched for multiple teams. He’s got really good stuff. He’s a really tough at-bat against a left-handed hitter. He’s got some weapons. It’s nice to have some experience, left-handed, in our bullpen mix trying to make the club.” 

What’s what? Eshelman, López, Ashton Goudeau and Wade LeBlanc are among those that are being stretched out as possible starters and long relievers.

“There’s a lot of great pitchers in our camp,” Eshelman said. “Tons of competition. [Hyde] stresses competition. Obviously, the organization wanted to bring guys in and create that competitive edge between the staff.”

Hyde hasn’t committed to having a long man in the bullpen.

“You’ll see a lot of those bullpen guys, especially those guys we had last year, they’re going to go two-plus towards the end of spring training,” Hyde said. “I’d like to see some of those guys go three innings, if possible, and then we’ll see where our numbers are and where we are.”

What’s the word? “I’m not going to probably be a back-to-back guy or anything like that. I would assume I’d probably land in that swingman role, but basically figuring out what I need to do in each situation to be ready to go whenever my name gets called.”-Zimmermann on a possible transition to the bullpen.

What’s the number? .147, .251. Lifetime, Mullins is a .147 hitter batting right-handed with a home runs and four RBIs. As a left-handed hitter, Mullins bats .251 with six home runs and 23 RBIs.

What’s the record? 0-1. The Orioles face the Phillies in Clearwater at 1:05 pm.

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