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The postseason begins in six weeks, on October 3rd, with the wild-card round. If the Orioles maintain their lead in the American League East and have one of the two best records of the three division winners, they’ll begin Division Series play on Saturday, October 7th.
Even though teams get to add two players on September 1st, once the postseason begins, they’re limited to 26. They can change their rosters for each round of the postseason.
While the Orioles resume play on Tuesday against Toronto with a three-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, and BaseballReference gives them a 99.9 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, there’s still much to play for.
If they have the best record of the division winners, they would host four of a possible seven games in the American League Championship Series, and if they have the best record in the majors, they could guarantee home field advantage in the World Series, too.
Those are important things to play for, and each of the current Orioles wants to be on the postseason roster.
Let’s look at some of the players who have much to play for in the final 38 games of the season.
The Orioles currently have a six-man rotation. In the wild-card round, if they don’t win the AL East, it’s best two-of-three, and in the Division Series, it’s best three-of-five.
If they’re able to move directly into the ALDS, they’ll probably go with four starters because there are days off after Game 2 and Game 4. They’ll be able to use the same starter in Game 1 and s a possible Game 5.
Their starters are currently Kyle Bradish, Jack Flaherty, Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez.
Bradish, Kremer and Rodriguez are all pitching well, but if manager Brandon Hyde goes with those three, that leaves Flaherty, Gibson and Irvin and possibly John Means to choose from for a fourth starter.
In his three Oriole starts since he was acquired from St. Louis on August 1st, Flaherty is 1-2 with a 7.07 earned-run average. In his most recent start in San Diego on August 15th, he allowed seven runs on four hits with four walks in three innings.
Gibson has earned Hyde’s trust with his dependability, experience and maturity, but like Flaherty, he hasn’t pitched well recently. In his three August starts, he’s 2-1 with an 8.31 ERA, and he leads the American League with 157 hits allowed.
Last September, Gibson had a 9.73 ERA for Philadelphia, and though he was on the postseason roster, he didn’t get a start and threw just 2 1/3 innings in relief in one appearance in the National League Championship Series and one in the World Series.
Irvin has started only 10 times for the Orioles, but since the team went to a six-man rotation, he has given up just one run on six hits in 10 innings. None of the other starters are left-handed—except for Means.
Means, who had Tommy John surgery last year, threw four innings on Sunday in his third rehab outing for Double-A Bowie and gave up one run on two hits with four strikeouts. He’ll probably have at least two more starts for the Baysox, and perhaps three.
It’s unknown whether the Orioles will put him back in the rotation or in the bullpen, and what role he might have for the postseason.
There’s also Tyler Wells, who had a 3.18 ERA in the first half of the season and an 11.00 ERA in three second-half starts before he was sent to Bowie. Wells has allowed three runs on six hits in 8 2/3 innings in three appearances for Bowie, and threw only 27 pitches in his most recent outing on Saturday.
He was the Orioles’ closer for a time in the 2021 season, and to help conserve his innings, perhaps he’ll return to the bullpen when he comes back to the Orioles.
The Orioles’ bullpen could be exceptionally strong for the postseason. Assuming Danny Coulombe returns from his left biceps tendonitis injury — perhaps on the nine-game homestand that runs from Tuesday through August 30th — the Orioles could throw the left-handed Coulombe, right-handers Jacob Webb and Yennier Cano before they trot out Félix Bautista for the ninth.
Webb, who was acquired off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on August 7th, has been overpowering. He’s allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
If the Orioles added Wells and perhaps one of the starters who doesn’t make the rotation as a long man, that could be a dynamic bullpen.
They also have Mike Baumann, who’s 9-0 with a 3.58 ERA, and they could recall left-hander DL Hall from Triple-A Norfolk when they can add an extra pitcher on September 1st. If they recall Hall and he pitches well in September, they could have a most interesting choice to make.
There’s also the question of what to do about Shintaro Fujinami, who’s been inconsistent in his 14 games since the Orioles traded for him from Oakland on July 19th. He has a 5.79 ERA with 16 strikeouts, nine walks and three home runs allowed in 14 innings.
With Austin Voth’s rehab assignment over and the return of Means and Wells coming, there may not be room or the patience necessary for Fujinami.
The Orioles will get to add another position player on September 1st, and it’s likely that the choice is between infielder Joey Ortiz and outfielder Heston Kjerstad.
The left-handed hitting Kjerstad could give them a power jolt, and Ortiz adds versatility.
Outfielder Aaron Hicks needs to return fairly quickly from his latest back injury and have a strong September to be included in the postseason fun.
Ryan McKenna could be a useful addition, too. He could be a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield.
While there won’t be as much drama in deciding the 13 position players who could begin the postseason, there still are tough decisions to be made.
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