BALTIMORE—The Orioles’ decision to option Grayson Rodriguez, who earlier this year had been considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, was certainly understandable.
Rodriguez just wasn’t giving the Orioles enough innings. In three of his last five starts, he didn’t complete the fourth inning, and in only one of his starts did he even get an out in the sixth inning.
The Orioles are contenders now, and they wanted to ride with him, but they couldn’t.
“Any time you’re trying to win, your philosophy changes a little bit,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve had too many starts of 3 1/3. What that does is it really taxes your bullpen.
“Fortunately for us, [Friday] night, Austin Voth. That was a savior for us. If I have to go through a couple more guys there, it puts us in a terrible spot [in] in a series here against a really good club [Texas] and then Cleveland. You want to minimize those type of starts for the other guys as well.”
Voth allowed a run on two hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“Austin Voth really picked us up last night and saved me having to use two other guys that you wouldn’t want to use to then [so we could] be fresh as we can for these next two games.”
The Orioles will need a starter on Wednesday against Cleveland and Voth is a possibility.
“Voth’s an option, yeah,” Hyde said.
In 18 relief appearances this year, Voth is 1-1 with a 4.10 ERA. Last season, Voth was 5-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 22 games, 17 of them starts.
“We’re discussing all options, but Voth going 3 2/3 last night, that was helpful,” Hyde said. “Him being in the rotation last year and doing a really nice job for us is definitely something we’ll consider.”
The Orioles have some other options at Triple-A. Bruce Zimmermann pitched six scoreless innings for Norfolk on Friday night. He’s 2-3 with a 4.05 ERA in nine starts.
Drew Rom was briefly with the Orioles during the last homestand but didn’t pitch while he was here. Rom is 4-3 with a 4.57 ERA with the Tides.
The Orioles are trying to make sure DL Hall gets through the season without a pause, and they’ve shortened his starts, so he’s probably not an option, and he has a 5.06 ERA in eight starts.
Cole Irvin is not currently eligible for a recall unless he’s replacing an injured player. He was optioned a week ago to make room for Mychal Givens on the active roster and can’t pitch for the Orioles until June 6th.
Spenser Watkins missed time with a finger injury and hasn’t made a start since. He’s 2-1 with a 5.74 ERA in five games.
If the Orioles chose to add Chris Valimont, who’s 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA but not currently on the 40-man roster, they could because there’s an open spot on the 40. If they want to make additional room soon, they could by transferring Dillon Tate to the 60-day injured list.
The Orioles can’t place Tate on the 60-man now because the 40-man roster contains only 39 players.
Keegan Akin, who was recalled when Rodriguez was optioned, knows the volatility of the roster. The Orioles have made numerous moves in recent weeks to make sure they have fresh bullpen arms.
“You’ve just got to take the opportunities that you get, really,” Akin said. “There’s a lot of good things going on up here in this clubhouse. To get up here and be able to join these guys again is exciting and an honor. I give them my innings wherever they need them and go from there.”
Akin knows that with the team in contention, a reliever’s time may be brief.
“I don’t think we’re looking over our shoulders. Guys understand it,” Akin said. “We’re in a pinch for innings. We needed length. You have options and you’re going to come up here. That’s why there’s 40 guys on the roster. We’re all going to contribute at some point.”
Hyde says the Orioles still think Rodriguez will be a contributor.
“This level is so different that you have to be able to command your fastball,” Hyde said. “You have to be able to throw your offspeed in fastball counts. You’ve got to be able to work to both sides of the plate. You’ve got to be able to put a guy away with two strikes. You’ve got to be able to go deep in a game and those are things that all starting pitchers have to do, and the good ones do it consistently for a long time and get paid a lot of money because of it.
“He’s going to be that type of guy. Right now, we feel like the right thing for him is to go work on those things and come back up here and ready to help.”