FORT MYERS, Florida-What’s happening? Bruce Zimmermann will start for the Orioles when they face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last home game of the Grapefruit League season at Ed Smith Stadium at 1:05 p.m. on Monday. Zimmermann, who’s in contention for the starting rotation, has allowed four runs on three hits in five innings in two starts, striking out six and walikng one.
Zimmermann will be followed by Zac Lowther, who pitched two hitless innings on March 24th in his only official spring outing. Bryse Wilson will start for Pittsburgh.
With three exhibition games remaining before Friday’s season opener against Tampa Bay, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has many decisions to make.
“Our roster right now is really up for grabs,” Hyde said before the Orioles’ game with the Minnesota Twins. There is the starting rotation, backup catcher, alignment of the infield, backup outfielder, and bullpen roles.
“Not even close to that,” Hyde said. “I think that just like in the past years, we haven’t had a ton of back-of-the-bullpen experience and we’ve had guys that we’ve shuffled around back there. If the season started tomorrow, we’ll do our best from a matchup standpoint. Roles have not been set in any way in the back of the bullpen.”
That’s especially true after the Orioles traded veteran relief pitchers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Miami Marlins for 17-year-old Dominican centerfielder Kevin Guerrero, 25-year-old left-handed pitcher Antonio Velez and Miami’s Competitive Balance Round B pick in this summer’s draft. The trade opens two spots on the Orioles’ 40-man roster and creates questions about the late-inning composition of the bullpen.
What’s happened?—Dean Kremer allowed five runs, one unearned, on seven hits in four innings as the Orioles lost to the Minnesota Twins, 8-2, before an announced crowd of 3,936 at Hammond Stadium on Sunday.
Kremer, who struck out four and walked three, remains in contention for a spot on the Orioles’ staff. He allowed two doubles to Byron Buxton and a two-run home run by Miguel Sanó.
Hyde isn’t sure about Kremer’s status.
“We’re coming down to the end,” Hyde said. “We’re going to have to collaborate and make some decisions on everybody and we have a lot of guys in that same bucket that we’ve been talking about for a few weeks.”
Kremer has allowed eight earned runs in nine innings in three spring appearances.
“The results may not have shown it in some innings, but I definitely feel good,” Kremer said. “I pretty much know where everything is going. It’s just a matter of mixing the right combinations.”
With a 28-man roster to start the season and open rotation spots, Kremer thinks he’ll make the team.
“I hope so,” Kremer said. “It’s not really my call. I hope so. I’ve shown myself I have the ability to throw all four pitches for strikes and be competitive.”
Hyde thought Kremer’s March 28th start against Philadelphia, in which he wallowed three runs on five hits, was better than his outing on Sunday.
“That’s a tough lineup. He got behind in some counts,” Hyde said. “Walked a few too many guys and made him pay when it came to the strike zone. I thought he had shown better stuff than when he left us last year. I’m encouraged by that.”
Kremer, who was 0-7 with a 7.55 ERA in 13 starts last year, has tried to be more aggressive this spring.
“Making sure that I’m not pitching around people and pitching through people as opposed to trying to nibble at corners,” Kremer said. “Making sure that I’m trying to mix.”
Centerfielder Cedric Mullins had the Orioles’ first hit, a sixth-inning single. He played behind Kremer in his two starts and in his 2020 and 2021 starts.
“I feel his has more confidence in his pitches,” Mullins said. “Some moments, I thought he was having more worries about attacking the zone, just trusting the defense in moments where he might be getting hit a little bit. We’re out there to help you out. We’re behind you the whole time. Have a little faith in us to make the play, and that’s what he’s come to realize. He has good stuff.
“It’s just a matter of him executing pitches, which is step one in being a good pitcher. It’s a learning curve. Everyone goes through it. I feel like he’s making improvement.”
Bryan Baker, who had thrown three perfect innings, allowed an RBI single to Max Kepler in the fifth.
Félix Bautista allowed two runs on two hits, walking three while recording only two outs in the sixth inning.
Mike Baumann threw 2 1/3 hitless innings in relief of Bautista.
“That was the highlight of the day was the way Michael Baumann threw the baseball,” Hyde said. “Coming into a tough spot, bases loaded, two outs with [Gio] Urshela, gets out of the inning and goes two scoreless after that. I was impressed with how he threw the ball, only one walk. I thought the fastball was good, the curveball was good. Nice to see him fill up the strike zone.”
Hyde didn’t plan to have Baumann enter the game in a jam.
“That’s not how we drew it up,” he said. “We don’t have defined roles right now. It might be realistic in a season, where he’s coming in in long relief and faces a tough right-hander with guys on base. Did a good job getting out of it and two good ones after that.”
Outfielder Ryan McKenna had a two-run home run in the eighth, his second of the spring.
What’s up with Kelvin Gutiérrez? Gutiérrez, who played well at third base late last season, is hitting .364 this spring.
In 2021, Gutiérrez hit .248 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 47 games with the Orioles.
“I feel really confident in my abilities,” Gutiérrez said through an interpreter. “I feel like I did a good job last year. Obviously, the goal is to play third base in the major leagues for a long time, and I feel confident that I can do that.”
What’s what? Jon Heyman, an influential writer, reported late last week that the Orioles were interested in a reunion with veteran right-hander Matt Harvey, who led the team in starts with 28 in 2021.
A minor league contract for Harvey might have made sense at one point, but in his testimony at the trial for Eric Kay, a former communications director for the Los Angeles Angels, Harvey admitted sharing opioids with the late Tyler Skaggs.
Skaggs died of a fentanyl overdose, and Harvey could be subject to a lengthy suspension if he signs with a major league team. The team’s supposed interest wasn’t reported by anyone else and doesn’t seem to make much sense.
What’s the word? “I know I’m an athlete so I feel confident I can play just about any position. I can assure you of that.”-Gutiérrez on his ability to play other positions.
What’s the number?-8. Oriole pitchers walked eight batters in eight innings. Kremer and Bautista each walked three. Baker and Baumann walked one.
What’s the record? 8-6-2. The Orioles will play the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:05 p.m. on Monday.
Question time: I’ll be answering Orioles questions in the coming days. Please email your questions to: [email protected].