The most surprising Oriole news this weekend wasn’t that the team won its second series of the season after losing six of seven at home. Nor was it that they’re 6-3 on the road and that they were a run away from a .500 record after 16 games.
No, it was that starter Dean Kremer was optioned to the alternate training site at Double-A Bowie after pitching well in Saturday night’s win over the Texas Rangers.
Kremer, a 25-year-old right-hander, allowed a run on five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked only one. It was his best start of the three he has made.
After the Orioles scored six runs in the final three innings for a 6-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, the team announced the move for Kremer, which brought an angry response from fans because there was no immediate explanation.
The Orioles had telegraphed the move before the season began by placing Kremer in the fifth spot in the rotation.
“Dean’s the youngest of the group, and so we’re going to give him the least amount of innings,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said then.
Kremer threw just 18 2/3 innings last season in four September starts, three of which were impressive and a sign of the promise he brings.
“We’re going to go with four starters in this stretch, this unique stretch, which we’re going to have two offdays in a week,” Hyde explained on Sunday. “Hopefully, it’s just a short amount of time and we get Dean back into the rotation. That’s how we explained it to him.
“He was a pro and took it well and knows that we think very highly of him. He’s going to make a lot of starts for us the rest of the year.”
The Orioles are off Monday and Thursday this week and won’t need a fifth starter again until April 28, which is the day Kremer is eligible to be recalled from the alternate site.
Cole Sulser, who had been with the taxi squad, was recalled for Sunday’s game, but didn’t pitch in the 1-0, 10-inning loss that gave the Orioles a 7-9 record.
This time, Hyde didn’t say that the team is trying to conserve Kremer’s innings. If there is a proscribed limit, the Orioles aren’t sharing it, but they want him to try to get as deep into the season as he can before he reaches it.
“I think it’s league-wide, the uncertainty about pitching with the six-month season after last year,” Hyde said.
Workloads were vastly reduced in the 60-game 2020 season because of the pandemic. Alex Cobb’s 52 1/3 innings were the most thrown by an Oriole. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias acknowledged the uncertainty around the game about how many innings could be thrown.
Major League Baseball addressed the issue by eliminating its 13-pitcher limit on the 26-man roster. The Orioles decided to go with 14 pitchers because of the potential stress on pitchers.
“We’re going to try to take care of every pitcher that we have on the roster,” Hyde said. “That’s why now, honestly, a bullpen arm is big. A lot of these guys have a lot of appearances.
“Because it’s a six-month season, sometimes you can get shortsighted into trying to win all these games early, which you want to, but we’ve got to try to take care of our arms as well, not knowing what’s going to happen the second half with the different workload than last year.”
Even though the reasoning is different, conserving innings and adding a bullpen arm during a stretch that includes offdays isn’t new. During Dan Duquette’s time as general manager, he optioned Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk several times.
“I think in this particular case it makes sense to have a four-man rotation with two days off,” Hyde said. “And Dean just be pushed back a little bit. We’ve had to juggle bullpen and roster moves [in 2019] because we’d be short a lot in the ‘pen, and it was survival mode.
“Every team handles it differently. If you look league-wide, there’s a lot of pitching transactions because of this unique season coming from last season.”
In June 2015, Duquette also optioned Wei-Yin Chen to High-A Frederick to limit his workload, a move that annoyed the Taiwanese left-hander. Duquette would regularly send pitchers to the minors around the All-Star break to either rest them or give them a needed start during the four-day break.
This week, the Orioles play at Miami on Tuesday and Wednesday with Matt Harvey and Bruce Zimmermann set to start.
“We have these unique two days off in a week,” Hyde said. “We don’t usually have that, so we have to be creative in our rotation as well as adding a bullpen arm.”
Hyde was happy with how Kremer pitched on Saturday night.
“I hope that he can build off that,” Hyde said. “I’d just like him to continue to get major league experience and continue to work on command. It’s not about his stuff. It’s about being able to work ahead in the count, not make mistakes in bad spots, things that you learn as you’re up here.
“Just continue to do what he’s doing. [Saturday] night was a big step, and he’s going to make a lot more starts for us the rest of the season.”
Welcome, Todd Karpovich: Readers have noted that in the past few days, a new name has appeared on the site. Todd Karpovich, a longtime Baltimore sportswriter, will cover a few Oriole games each month for us. He’ll write Tuesday night’s game.
Two weeks from now, Todd will begin his season-long minor league coverage for us. Minor League Monday will feature news from the minor leagues, and we’re delighted to add Todd to BaltimoreBaseball.com.