Orioles setup man Yennier Cano was an absolute phenomenon through the first few months of this season and was rewarded with a place on the American League All-Star team, but he’s looking pretty ordinary right now.
That doesn’t diminish his major contribution to the club’s current status as the winningest team in the American League, but it further complicates an already uncertain bullpen situation. Opposing teams clearly have exposed his vulnerability to patient left-handed hitters and Cano has looked less sure of himself on the mound in his most recent appearances.
He entered July with a 1.12 ERA and allowed just 28 hits (and no home runs) in 39 1/3 innings. Since then, he has allowed 16 hits (and three homers) in 12 innings and pitched to a July ERA of 4.50. On Monday night, Cano retired just one of four batters, giving up a home run to Whit Merrifield in the eighth, necessitating a five-out save by Félix Bautista
If he cannot make some reciprocal adjustments, manager Brandon Hyde may have to reassess his bullpen strategy to steer around that vulnerability, even if it means using Cano in key situations in the middle innings.
Of course, for that to work, the Orioles would need to develop or acquire another all-purpose setup man. Barring a deal today for that kind of pitcher, the Orioles would have to hope that recently acquired Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami can fill that role. He certainly has the tools to be a shutdown setup guy if he can continue to display consistent command of his triple-digit fastball and secondary pitches.
That’s a big if.