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.