Reviewing Orioles' 2022 starters and a look ahead to next spring's competition -
Rich Dubroff

Reviewing Orioles’ 2022 starters and a look ahead to next spring’s competition

Photo Credit: Brian Fluherty: USA TODAY Sports

While 14 pitchers started a game for the Orioles in 2022, the large majority of those starts came from six starters. Jordan Lyles, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer, Spenser Watkins and Austin Voth combined to start 136 of the team’s 162 games.

Lyles, Wells and Watkins started the second, third and fifth games of the season. Opening Day starter John Means was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery after an abbreviated second start, and Bruce Zimmermann, who started the fourth game of the season, the Orioles’ home opener, started 13 games, but spent most of the season at Triple-A Norfolk.

Means and Zimmermann accounted for 15 of the 17 starts made by left-handers. Keegan Akin, who was an emergency starter in the second game of the September 5th doubleheader against Toronto when Lyles became ill and DL Hall, who started in his major league debut at Tampa Bay on August 13th, were the others.

The timetable on Means’ Tommy John surgery is uncertain, but he won’t be ready for the March 3oth  opener at Boston.

The first question that needs to be answered about the 2023 rotation is the Orioles’ willingness to  pick up Lyles $11 million option for next season. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias gave no clues about his leanings at last week’s end-of-season news conference.

Lyles led the Orioles with 32 starts and 179 innings, one short of his career high. His starts and innings were the most by an Oriole since Kevin Gausman started 34 times and threw 186 2/3 innings in 2017. Lyles was 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA and was not only dependable but a mentor to the Orioles’ young starters.

If his option isn’t exercised, the Orioles will look to sign another experienced starter, which they probably will even if the team picks up the option.

At the beginning of the 2022, the Orioles hoped that Means and Lyles would be their two top starters and that they’d be joined, perhaps in June by Grayson Rodriguez, who’s baseball’s top pitching prospect.

Rodriguez missed three months with a lat strain and finished his season pitching for Norfolk. He threw 75 2/3 innings in 2022 and his 2023 innings will be monitored closely.

So will Hall’s. The 24-year-old left-hander, who was the Orioles’ top draft choice in 2017 finally made his debut more than five years later and allowed five runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings in his first game and was immediately returned to Norfolk, where he relieved.

When he returned to the Orioles on September 1st, Hall was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA with a save in 10 games. Hall struck out 13 and walked three in 10 innings.

Overall, Hall threw 90 1/3 innings, and like Rodriguez, the Orioles will have to closely watch his innings count.

In his first season as a starter, Wells threw 103 2/3 innings, but had two stints on the injured list, one with a left oblique strain, and another to end the season with right shoulder inflammation.

Wells, who was 7-7 with a 4.25 ERA, allowed fewer than eight hits per nine innings and walked just 2.4 batters per nine.

Bradish, whose 23 starts tied for second on the Orioles with Wells, was 4-7 with a 4.90 ERA, missed time with a right shoulder injury and was second on the team with 111 strikeouts.

Kremer suffered an oblique injury warming up in the bullpen at Tampa Bay during Wells’ first start and missed two months. Once he joined the staff, Kremer pitched well with an 8-7 record and 3.23 ERA. His 125 1/3 innings were second only to Lyles, and he threw his first complete game, a 6-0 win over Houston on September 23rd.

Watkins was 5-6 with a 4.70 ERA in 23 games, 20 starts and Voth was 5-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 22 games, 17 starts. Both could return to the team in 2023, but perhaps they’ll have to pitch in relief.

Zimmermann had a 2.67 ERA in his first six starts, four of which the Orioles won. In his final three starts, he allowed 18 runs on 31 hits in 15 innings, and made only two relief appearances for the Orioles in the final three months of the season.

Zimmermann will have another opportunity to make the Orioles next spring but will have fierce competition.

Mike Baumann won the home opener started by Zimmermann and had four late season starts. Baumann finished with a 4.72 ERA and should be in the mix for a spot on the 2023 staff.

If the Orioles want to look at another left-hander, perhaps Drew Rom gets an long look next spring. Rom was 8-3 with a 4.45 ERA in 23 games at Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.

The 2022 starters’ ERAs were 4.35, a great improvement from 5.99 in 2021.

Surely, there will be another candidate or two added from outside to start in 2023, and the caliber of incumbent starters they’ll join is a huge improvement from recent years.

Cave claimed, Reed designated: According to the transactions log and confirmed by an industry source, the Orioles claimed outfielder Jake Cave off waivers from Minnesota.

The 29-year-old left-handed hitter hit .213 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 54 games with the Twins in 2022. In five seasons with Minnesota, Cave hit .235 in 335 games.

To make room for Cave on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated right-handed pitcher Jake Reed for assignment. Reed, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 5th, was 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA in eight games for the Orioles.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions in the coming days. Please email them to: [email protected]

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