BALTIMORE—The Orioles’ season is just under 15 percent over, and while it’s far too early to make many conclusions, there have been some surprising and noteworthy developments in the first 24 games.
Beating teams they’re supposed to beat: The Orioles are 16-8 and have won five straight series. Four of those series were against the Chicago White Sox, Washington, Oakland and Detroit—teams with losing records. The other was against Boston, which is 13-13.
They’re playing the Tigers again for four games beginning on Thursday night, and move on to Kansas City, another bottom feeder, for three games before concluding the 10-game trip, their longest of the season, with three games in Atlanta, one of baseball’s best teams.
The rest of May is also difficult — games against Tampa Bay, the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto, the Yankees, Texas and Cleveland.
They’ve already secured a winning April, and if they can at least break even in May, they’ll be able to be considered serious contenders.
The bullpen has been outstanding. Last year’s bullpen was excellent with a 3.49 ERA, and this year’s is actually better with a 2.78 ERA
Bryan Baker and Felix Bautista continue to be dominant, but Cionel Pérez, who had a 1.40 ERA in 2023, allowing just nine earned runs, has already allowed five and his ERA is 4.66.
Dillon Tate, who has yet to pitch this season because of a right elbow injury, is nearing a return, and that should make the bullpen stronger.
The injuries to Tate and Mychal Givens, who also has not yet pitched because of a left knee injury, has allowed others to get opportunities.
Mike Baumann, who struggled in earlier stints, has been reinvented as a short reliever and has given up just one run on seven hits in 14 innings.
Danny Coulombe, an under-the-radar acquisition as spring training ended, has supplanted Pérez as a situational left-hander, allowing just one run on five hits in 9 2/3 innings
Yennier Cano, who had an 18.69 ERA in three games last year, has been spectacular. He originally replaced Keegan Akin on the roster when Akin went on the paternity list two weeks ago, but he stayed when Akin returned.
Cano equaled a club record by retiring the first 24 batters he faced this season and has still yet to allow a hit.
When Givens and Tate return, the Orioles will be faced with difficult decisions on which pitchers they’ll replace.
The disappearance of Cole Irvin: After the Orioles pulled off an exciting 8-7 win over the Oakland Athletics on April 13th, Cole Irvin, who started the third game of the season, was surprisingly sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
Irvin’s acquisition in late January was regarded as an excellent one. The Orioles only had to part with Darell Hernaiz, a shortstop who was stuck behind several other prospects in the trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Irvin had a 10.66 ERA in his three starts, and while they would have been more patient with him in previous years, the Orioles decided they had better options.
In his first two starts with Norfolk, Irvin has a 5.73 ERA. He’s eligible to return this weekend, but barring injury or sudden underperformance by one of the current starters, his stay with the Tides may not be a short one.
DL Hall waits: In addition to Irvin, the Orioles have DL Hall at Norfolk. The Orioles sent him to the Tides because he got off to a delayed start in spring training because of a back injury.
The Orioles wanted to build him up as a starter and didn’t want him on the major league staff as a reliever. At Norfolk, Hall has a 4.41 ERA in four starts and has walked nine batters in 16 1/3 innings.
In 2022, Hall’s Triple-A stats weren’t dissimilar. His ERA was 4.70 and he averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings, a higher ratio than this year, but still the Orioles promoted him.
They’ve been patient with Hall, but like Irvin, there’s no place for him in the rotation unless there’s an injury or underperformance.
In previous years, they might have let him learn in the big league rotation, but they’re not going to do that this year.
Stowers sent down quickly: Many fans were surprised and disappointed when Kyle Stowers was sent to Norfolk after just six hitless at-bats. They wondered why he wasn’t playing more often.
Ryan O’Hearn, another left-handed hitter, was added to the major league roster four days after Stowers was sent down.
O’Hearn has started in just three games since his April 13th addition and is 4-for-11 (.364).
Lack of transactions: A year ago, the Orioles used 58 players, and while manager Brandon Hyde is often predicting there’ll be a lot of movement, there hasn’t been much at all.
Since Kyle Bradish was activated from the 15-day injured list on April 19th, there haven’t been any transactions.
The Orioles have used 30 players in the first four weeks of the season. Spenser Watkins was promoted from Norfolk when Irvin was demoted, but he was the pitcher cut when Akin returned from the paternity list. He didn’t appear in any of the three games he was on the 26-man roster for.
The Orioles will be adding Givens and Tate in the coming weeks, so there’ll be additional movement relatively soon.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB