When spring training begins, the Orioles must sift through a number of candidates for the bullpen. There are probably eight spots available, and today we’ll look at the top returning candidates.
Background: Fry was acquired by the Orioles from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for international bonus slot money on April 17, 2017. He made his major league debut on June 29, 2018 and impressed manager Buck Showalter with his poise. In 2018, he was 1-2 with two saves and a 3.35 ERA. In 2019, Fry was 1-9 with three saves and a 5.34 ERA in 66 games and, in 2020, he was 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 22 games.
Fry’s 2021: Fry had a nice start, allowing just a run on six hits in 10 innings in April and had a 3.60 ERA. In June, his ERA increased to 5.91 before settling down in July to 2.79.
His August was disastrous. After allowing 17 earned runs and 16 walks in seven innings for a 21.86 ERA, he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk on August 29th and didn’t return. The 29-year-old left-hander had a 7.88 ERA in eight innings for the Tides.
Outlook: After speculation that the Orioles would non-tender or trade him, Fry signed a one-year contract for $850,000 just before the lockout. Fry has been impressive through much of his Orioles’ career, and he’ll have a shot at a spot for 2022.
Background: López, who will turn 29 on February 10th, was acquired on waivers from Kansas City on August 8, 2020. The right-hander was 2-2 with a 6.34 ERA in nine games, six starts in 2020.
López’s 2021: López won a spot in the rotation but, as a starter, he was 3-14 with a 6.35 ERA in 25 games. After manager Brandon Hyde decided to try him in the bullpen, López was impressive, allowing two runs on six hits in 8 1/3 innings for a 2.16 ERA in eight games. His season ended on September 6th when he sprained his right ankle.
Outlook: López and the Orioles agreed on a $1.5 million salary for 2022 before the lockout. Having López as a setup man is intriguing, and if he can build upon his late work in 2021, he could be a candidate for the closer’s role.
Background: Scott was a sixth-round choice in the 2014 draft and made his major league debut in September 2017. His best season with the Orioles was 2020 when he had a 1.31 ERA in 25 games, allowing only one home run in 20 2/3 innings. Control has always been the biggest issue for the 27-year-old left-hander. In 2020, he averaged a career-low 4.4 walks per nine innings.
Scott’s 2021: Scott pitched well in the first half of 2021 with a 3-3 record and 2.78 ERA. In the second half, he had a 9.82 ERA in 22 games and was on the injured list twice because of a sprained left knee. He didn’t pitch after allowing six runs and retiring one batter on September 11th against Toronto. For the year, Scott was 5-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 62 games.
Outlook: The Orioles are expecting a bounce-back year from Scott, their hardest throwing reliever. He was offered a contract and must agree on a 2022 salary once the lockout concludes.
Background: Sulser, who turns 32 on March 12th, is the oldest player on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. He was acquired on waivers from Tampa Bay just after the 2019 season. Sulser began the 2020 season as the team’s closer and was 1-5 with a 5.56 ERA. He converted three of six save chances.
Sulser’s 2021: Sulser was the Orioles’ most effective reliever in 2021, with a 5-4 record and a 2.70 ERA. He had eight saves in 11 chances. He allowed five home runs in 63 1/3 innings, .7 per nine innings, the lowest ratio on the Orioles.
Outlook: Sulser has grown into a valuable reliever who can work the eighth or ninth inning, and it’s possible that the right-hander could be a valuable trade chip come July.
Background: Tate was acquired from the New York Yankees in July 2018 as one of three pitchers obtained for reliever Zack Britton. He made his major league debut a year later and had a 6.43 ERA in 16 games. In 2020, Tate was 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 games. He was on the injured list because of a forearm injury at the beginning of the season and a sprained pinkie at the end of it.
Tate’s 2021: The 26-year-old right-hander was 0-6 with three saves and a 4.39 ERA in 62 games, which tied for the team lead with Scott.
Outlook: The Orioles like Tate’s arm, but he has lacked consistency. He’ll enter spring training with a good shot to make the club but will have to show more to stay in the big leagues.
Background: Wells was selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Minnesota Twins’ organization in December 2020.
Wells’ 2021: The 27-year-old right-hander was a pleasant surprise. He was given more responsibility as the season progressed, and he compiled a 2-3 record with four saves and a 4.11 ERA. Wells’ ERA increased from 3.27 to 4.17 after he allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings in two appearances in September. Wells allowed 6.3 hits per nine innings, lowest on the club.
Outlook: Wells will enter spring training with a shot to be the closer. If he stumbles, the club can use one of his three options because he has fulfilled his requirements as a Rule 5 player.
I’ll be looking at some of the less experienced candidates and some of the new additions to the 40-man roster and waiver claims on Thursday.