Early look at Orioles' starting candidates - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Spring Training

Early look at Orioles’ starting candidates

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

John Means is the first Oriole pitcher to start for the second time. He’s also the most secure in their rotation.

A week into the Grapefruit League schedule, with an offday on Monday, manager Brandon Hyde isn’t in a rush to pick a rotation.

“I think it’s really early,” Hyde said in a Sunday morning video conference call. “Guys have had one appearance.”

In four days last week, Hyde gave three starts to veterans in camp on minor league contracts.

Félix Hernández, who hadn’t pitched in a year, was subpar on Saturday night, giving up two runs in the second inning to Detroit, throwing in the 80s and having trouble with his command.

In his prime, Hernández averaged two walks per nine innings. For his major league career, he has averaged 2.7 per nine innings. He walked two Tigers and seemed more disturbed about the walks than his lack of velocity. Hernández threw only one slider and didn’t throw a changeup.

On Friday, Matt Harvey gave up three runs on four hits in two innings against Atlanta. He thought his fastball was fine, but said he was “babying” his offspeed.

Wade LeBlanc, the left-hander who ended last season with a fractured elbow and an 8.20 ERA, had a good first start, with two shutout innings against the Braves in North Port on Wednesday.

If Harvey, Hernández and LeBlanc manage to make the team, room must be found on the 40-man roster.


Another candidate, who’s also in camp on a minor league contract, is Thomas Eshelman, who began Grapefruit League play a week ago by allowing two runs, one unearned on Trey Mancini’s throwing error, on a hit in one inning against the Pirates.

Dean Kremer, who made his major league debut last season, had a rough first outing. He exceeded his first-inning pitch count against the Red Sox on Thursday, as Means did in his first start against the Yankees on Tuesday. Kremer came back out for the second inning, and his line read: three runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings, two walks and a strikeout.

Left-hander Keegan Akin, who also made his major league debut last year, followed Harvey against the Blue Jays and allowed a run on a hit in two innings, walking two and striking out two.

“A couple of weeks from now, I’ll have a better sense of rotation, rotation candidates, how guys are throwing, but right now, we’re still so early. Just giving everybody an opportunity … See where we are in a couple of weeks.”

Two candidates for either a rotation or long relief spot, Jorge López and Bruce Zimmermann, have pitched well. López followed Hernández in Saturday night’s game and pitched three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. That was an improvement over last Monday’s start against Philadelphia in Clearwater when he gave up two runs on five hits in two innings.

Zimmermann has yet to start, but on Thursday he threw two shutout innings against Boston, giving up one hit and striking out four.

López. is out of options and if the Orioles expose him on waivers, he might be claimed. But if they want three veterans, they could need his place on the roster.

López and Zimmermann could wind up on the roster, perhaps as long men. Unlike López, Zimmermann has options. Zimmermann, Akin and Kremer pitched a combined 51 1/3 innings in 2020, so the Orioles will be careful with them.

Eshelman can be reassigned to minor league camp and summoned if the Orioles need him. That was the case in 2020 when Eshelman, who had been taken off the 40-man roster, was added during the season. He pitched in 12 games, starting four times, and had a 3-1 record and a 3.89 ERA.

Ashton Goudeau, who was claimed on waivers from Pittsburgh last December, could be an option later in the season. Goudeau’s four major league appearances with Colorado last year were in relief, but he has minor league starting experience.

Goudeau threw two hitless innings against Atlanta on Wednesday.

Two of the young starters added to the 40-man roster and seen as   starters later in the season have yet to pitch in a game. Mike Baumann has pitched in a simulated game, and Alexander Wells has been slowed by a strained oblque muscle. Zac Lowther threw a scoreless inning, giving up one hit against Philadelphia last Monday.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. TxBirdFan

    March 7, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    We have a lot of “middlin” pitchers. Nobody stands out which makes for a difficult decision for Hyde and the O’s brass.

  2. NormOs

    March 7, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    So what I’m reading here, we got no pitching! And, if memory serves, pitching is still somewhat important even though my team doesn’t seem to think so.

  3. CalsPals

    March 7, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    With the new rule this spring regarding removing pitchers & then putting them back in would seem to really skew their lines…go O’s…

  4. CalsPals

    March 7, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Means definitely not looking too good, pitching really seems to be struggling, especially the fellas that are supposed to be their better pitchers…oh well…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      March 7, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      4th inning against the powerhouse Pirates, 10 runs, kinda glad I can’t get the games yet…go O’s…

    • Shamus

      March 7, 2021 at 5:04 pm

      Had it on up my way…. I know it’s early in the spring but Os looked rough today . Infield throwing the ball around giving extra outs.

  5. Bhoffman1

    March 7, 2021 at 3:47 pm

    The way the starting pitchers have performed so far along with the infield and starting catcher leaves you with a sick feeling . Hope things improve soon or it could be a long season of gloom

  6. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    March 7, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    I hope Baumann gets a real opportunity. I saw him pitch for the Keys against MB in 2019. His fastball was in the mid to upper 90’s. He had a breakout year and was moved up to Bowie where he excelled there too.

    • CalsPals

      March 7, 2021 at 4:58 pm

      Then he has no chance..manipulating of his control yrs…sad, but true…I say let him throw, get rid of the rule 5 guys & Harvey, still deciding about Prince Felix…let ALL the youngens play…go O’s…

      • NormOs

        March 8, 2021 at 4:35 pm

        You nailed it Cal. They found all these young pitchers and after their six years the O’s will find some more. The well never runs dry with prospects.

  7. TxBirdFan

    March 7, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Based on his box score today, maybe I wasn’t too hard on Means last year. Sad to say but I’m just not sure he has consistent stuff to pitch in the majors. Hope I’m wrong. We have no pitching.

    • CalsPals

      March 7, 2021 at 6:35 pm

      & he’s our #1?…agree with you…go O’s…

  8. Bman

    March 7, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    Way too early. Guys are just starting to ramp up. Means will be fine. Lopez and Zimmerman both make the team.

  9. dlgruber1

    March 7, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    I was perusing various O’s sites and I saw video from Baseball Performance Center of D L Hall. I’ve never seen him pitch before and it was an indoor session and I have no idea who the hitters were but if you can find it it’s worth a look. Excellent fastball with movement and a really great breaking ball. Again, it was my first look at him and he certainly wasn’t facing the Yankees but it’s still exciting thinking he’ll be in an O’s uniform hopefully by next season.

  10. B.C. Bird

    March 7, 2021 at 8:38 pm

    I know it’s too early to panic, but someone has to step up and appear to be a real starting pitcher. Even though I absolutely loath the Blue Jays they seem to be able to uncover potential gems and even let them pitch as rookies. The same team drafts position players and they turn out to be able to develop them into future stars. Are their scouts that much better than ours? What I do like about Blue Jay management is they bring them up young and let them play, maybe it’s time time we tried their approach
    Keep the faith

    • CalsPals

      March 7, 2021 at 8:44 pm

      Totally agree, it won’t happen because of player control…sad, but true…go O’s…

  11. WorldlyView

    March 8, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    The pessimism conveyed by many of the comments above, is, I fear, entirely justified. I think the odds of witnessing a truly horrible season, judged by wins and losses, are high. I think the pitching does not even rise to the level of “middlin.” The staff consists of unproven rookies, overaged veterans, and an uncertain Means. The key statistic is how cheap the staff payroll comes. If one believes in the old adage that “you get what you pay for,” the team ERA may set the record for an MLB high. And then it gets worse.
    If the team’s ERA will be 5 or 6, or higher, where will the runs come from to outscore the opposition? From the infield or catching? No. All from the outfield? Doubtful. From CD as DH? Nope.
    There’s yet another source of my pessimism. It looks like there will be 14 pitchers on the roster, hardly too many given the quality of the staff. That would mean one reserve infielder and one reserve outfielder. The position players will then get very few days off. They will have to play nearly everyday. How will their energy levels hold up come the summer? If a position player gets hurt, it’s either a minor league call-up or another waiver wire wonder.
    There are two long-shot positives. Some decent free agents become available after the start of the season and we sign them. The other salvation, maybe, is to bring back Mason Williams.
    No matter how much you believe in the long-term plan, expect short-term agony. Have a nice day.

    • dlgruber1

      March 8, 2021 at 8:56 pm

      I know I’m old and don’t have the patience I once had but here’s what really irks me. The White Sox as recently as 2018 lost 100 games. They are considered by most a definite playoff contender this season. Their fans don’t deserve that any more than ANY of us do. If current O’s management has no plans on putting a competitive team on the field then sell them to someone who will dammit!!

      • WorldlyView

        March 8, 2021 at 10:34 pm

        dlg: It’s all the more unforgivable if the online estimates of Peter Angelos’s net worth are correct: $2 billion!! I can’t see why some say the family should penny-pinch until the team is in a better position to win.

    • dlgruber1

      March 9, 2021 at 12:31 am

      WorldlyView I really wish you hadn’t disclosed that little nugget of information. It’s probably better I didn’t know that. Now I’m afraid if I’d ever see him at a game I’d repeat the same thing I did once when I saw Irsay at a Colts game. It wasn’t my finest moment and I’m not proud of it looking back but at the time it sure felt great to make it crystal clear to him exactly how I and many Colts fans felt about him.

    • CalsPals

      March 9, 2021 at 9:14 am

      All we ask is they act like a major league team, try to win, invest…go O’s…

  12. Orioles 1968

    March 9, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    I really hope that at some point we field a competitive major league team, we seem to be very worried about money, and not a winning team, this seems to be an ownership problem and I think it is about time ownership worried more about winning and less about money other owners are able to do this, why can’t ours

    • CalsPals

      March 9, 2021 at 7:09 pm

      :)…great call…go O’s…

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