Orioles' rotation woes; Rule 5 dilemma; McKenna down, Hays coming back - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ rotation woes; Rule 5 dilemma; McKenna down, Hays coming back

After another disappointing start by Matt Harvey on Wednesday night, which left him with an ERA of 7.41, there was speculation that the team might cut ties with him.

That’s a possibility, but manager Brandon Hyde said after Harvey’s start, when he allowed seven runs on eight hits in three innings to the New York Mets, that Harvey would continue in the rotation.

The Orioles have had three offdays in the past eight days, and they won’t need a fifth starter until they play at Cleveland next week.

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Keegan Akin will get Friday’s start when the Orioles begin a seven-game road trip at Tampa Bay. Jorge López and Bruce Zimmermann are expected to start on Saturday and Sunday.

John Means is on the 10-day injured list because a strained left shoulder. The Orioles aren’t likely to rush the return of their ace.

Without Means, the Orioles need another starter, and it’s likely that Dean Kremer will rejoin the team. In his last start at Triple-A Norfolk, Kremer allowed three runs on one hit, walking three and striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings.

With Akin, López, Zimmermann and perhaps Kremer in the rotation, the bullpen is likely to be tested. Although Harvey has been ineffective — in his last six starts, including one as an opener, Harvey has allowed 31 runs in 19 2/3 innings for a 14.19 ERA — the Orioles are likely to keep him, hoping that he could reverse course and eat some innings as he did in the season’s first month.

If they cut ties with Harvey, they’d have to add another starter, perhaps left-hander Alexander Wells, whose innings’ count would be closely monitored, putting more pressure on the bullpen.

Harvey’s performance eventually might force the Orioles’ hand. Wells, who is 3-2 with a 6.35 ERA in six outings with Norfolk,  is on the 40-man roster. So is left-hander Zac Lowther, who is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in three starts with the Tides.

Lowther, who was optioned to Norfolk on Monday, can’t be recalled until June 17th unless there’s an injury. He has a 15.19 ERA in three outings with the Orioles this season.

There are other choices. Right-hander Thomas Eshelman, who pitched in parts of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, is at Norfolk, but not on the 40-man roster. He’s 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA with the Tides.

Kyle Bradish is 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in three starts at Norfolk since his promotion from Bowie. He’ll get a shot, but the Orioles might choose to keep him with the Tides for a while longer.

The Sceroler issue: The Orioles reinstated right-hander Mac Sceroler from the 10-day injured list on Tuesday to take Lowther’s place. Sceroler had a nightmarish two innings on Wednesday night. While Harvey allowed seven runs in the first three innings, Sceroler allowed six in the final two. He has a 14.29 ERA in three games.

The Orioles selected Sceroler and right-hander Tyler Wells in the Rule 5 draft last December.

Wells, who has a 4.28 ERA and 1.066 WHIP, has pitched well and it’s possible that the Orioles might try him as a starter later in the season.

Sceroler, who never pitched above High-A before this season, appears overmatched. Because he spent eight weeks on the injured list because of soreness in his right shoulder, the Orioles must keep him on the active list for almost all of what remains in the season so that his Rule 5 status won’t carry over until next season.

A player must accrue 90 days on the active list during his Rule 5 year so that he can be freely optioned the following season. Should Wells remain on the active list for the last three weeks of this month, he’ll have his 90 days, though the Orioles can’t option him until 2022.

Anthony Santander didn’t accrue enough days on the active roster in 2017, and his Rule 5 status was carried until May 2019. Reliever Pedro Araujo also was short of qualifying in 2018 and began the season just shy of 90 days, but the Orioles decided he wasn’t worth keeping and he was cut loose after the 2019 season. He hasn’t pitched in organized ball since.

The Orioles could always return Sceroler to the Cincinnati Reds, the team that drafted him.

Some fans have expressed hope that Zach Pop, the right-hander drafted by the Arizona and swapped to the Miami Marlins, will be returned to the team.

Pop has a 7.32 ERA in 18 games with the Marlins, who are last in the National League East. Hoping for Pop’s return seems like wishful thinking. If he were returned, he would go on a minor league roster and, if not added to the 40-man roster in November, he would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft next December.

McKenna goes back: The Orioles optioned outfielder Ryan McKenna to Triple-A Norfolk. They’re expected to activate Austin Hays from the 10-day injured list for Friday’s game.

Hays has been on the injured list since May 26th because of a strained right hamstring. McKenna, who has had four stints with the Orioles this season, is batting .195 with three RBIs in 33 games.

Note: The Orioles have signed right-handed reliever Logan Gillaspie. He pitched 43 games for Milwaukee in the 2018 and 2019 seasons and has been assigned to High-A Aberdeen.

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