BALTIMORE—In Friday night’s game, Orioles reliever Cole Sulser had an excellent two-inning stint, retiring all six batters he faced. In the seventh, he induced three ground balls on seven pitches. In the eighth, he struck out the side.
Sulser has been outstanding so far this season, allowing just five hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 10 without walking a batter.
“For the most part, it’s actually been pretty simple,” Sulser said. “Some of it is just from an approach standpoint, trying to be more aggressive in the zone early, especially in multiple offspeed pitches.
“A few mechanical changes, one of them, I just moved over on the rubber just a little bit, trying to give my breaking pitches a little bit more room on the plate before breaking off, trying to attack the zone and then make everything look more like a strike, mostly an approach standpoint.”
Sulser began 2020 as the Orioles’ closer. He had some initial success but ended up with a 1-5 record with a 5.59 ERA. He converted five of eight save opportunities.
“I learned a lot,” Sulser said. “There were definitely some ups and downs. The biggest thing you can do in baseball is try to level those off. You never want to get too high on your good days or too low on the bad days.
“A lot of that was looking at what I did well and trying to keep it up and looking at where I may have faltered and gotten away from my strengths and always remind myself that even if my outing isn’t going my best or you’re having a rough stretch, to trust in your stuff and keep your approach simple.
“A lot of times when we overcomplicate things, we end up with some very mixed results. I learned I want to identify my strengths and stick with them.”
Sulser began the 2021 season with the Orioles, then was sent down when Shawn Armstrong came off the paternity list on April 5th. Sulser rejoined the team on April 18th. He knows that because he has options, and the team has attempted to keep two Rule 5 picks, Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, that he can be sent to the minor leagues.
“It’s something you never want as a baseball player,” Sulser said. “It’s never fun to be sent down. You want to be here contributing every day. It’s our dream, and it’s our goal, for sure.
“At the same time, you try not to take it personal. Sometimes decisions have to be made. There’s some roster flexibility or some contract flexibility, and that’s the way it is. You’ve got to go out there whenever your name is called and be ready to contribute to the team.
“As long as you concentrate on that and don’t get too worked up about what’s happening and why or when am I going to be back or when am I going to be sent down. I think it’s a lot better to try to concentrate on what you can control, and that’s going out there with the best stuff I can.”
Sulser thinks the bullpen can have a strong season.
“We have some phenomenal arms in the ‘pen,” he said. “Some of them are doing a great job. They did a great job last year, and they’re continuing to move forward with that. Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, Dillon Tate, [César] Valdez, we have a ton of guys who had really good years last year. They continue to keep excelling. It’s tough to define where that limit might be.”
LeBlanc gets start, Akin injured: It wasn’t a surprise when Wade LeBlanc was assigned the start in Saturday night’s game against the Oakland A’s.
“We decided to give Wade a start, someone who started in spring training and started last year for us, has a lot of starting experience, on the roster right now, and somebody to give us a few innings,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
The Orioles might considered left-hander Keegan Akin, who’s at the alternate training site at Bowie, but he sliced his finger.
“He would have been a consideration, but he got stitches in his left index finger,” Hyde said. “He cut himself in the kitchen with a knife after breakfast, so he’s got stitches for a week to 10 days. He’s somebody that we would have considered to make the start today.”
Sceroler still out: Rule 5 right-hander Mac Sceroler is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list, but he won’t. Sceroler, who has tendinitis in his right shoulder, is improving, according to Hyde.
“He’s progressing, shoulder’s feeling a lot better, but he hasn’t thrown yet,” Hyde said.
Sceroler went on the injured list on April 13th.