BALTIMORE—After four starts of five innings or less, the Orioles decided they needed a fresh bullpen arm and recalled left-hander Nick Vespi from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned left-hander Cole Irvin to Norfolk on Wednesday.
Irvin is 1-4 with a 4.54 earned-run average in 23 games. He has started 12 times and relieved in 11. In Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to St. Louis, Irvin pitched two scoreless innings.
“Our bullpen has taken a heavy load,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We feel like we need another bullpen arm.”
Hyde noted that the six-man rotation has left the bullpen with eight pitchers instead of nine. Without Irvin, Hyde acknowledged that he doesn’t have a pitcher who could work more than two innings in relief.
This is the third time Irvin has been optioned to Norfolk. Vespi is 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA in nine games in four previous stints with the Orioles this season.
“I’m pretty used to it now,” Vespi said of his frequent promotions and demotions. “Just keep working and chipping away at trying to be full-time up here.”
Vespi is 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA and seven saves in 34 games for Norfolk, a team that now has Irvin, Bryan Baker, Mike Baumann, Tyler Wells and Bruce Zimmermann on its pitching staff. It also has infield prospect Joey Ortiz and power hitting outfielder Heston Kjerstad.
“It’s exciting. We’ve got a lot of guys down there that are ready to be up here,” Vespi said. “They’re down there, working hard, winning ballgames and when that time comes, they’ll come up and win, too.”
Webb adjusting: Since his acquisition off waivers on August 7th, relief pitcher Jacob Webb has a 3.45 ERA in 18 games.
Webb came from the Los Angeles Angels, a team that rapidly fell out of playoff contention last month and to a team with the best record in the American League. It was an adjustment.
“It definitely takes a second,” Webb said. “It’s not just overnight you feel part of the team. These guys went through spring training and most of the season together. I came here late in the season. It’s definitely a bit of an adjustment. It takes a second to earn, not so much your place, but to earn your value [among] all these guys in the clubhouse. It took a few outings and then it felt like, not so much I belonged, but I felt comfortable here.”
Webb has enjoyed working with catcher Adley Rutschman, who talks with pitchers on the way back to the dugout.
“He’s probably the only catcher that does that, which is very cool,” Webb said. “It’s always nice to have the battery come up and give you a dap up [fist bump] when you do well. We’re both grinding, working.”
Webb has also enjoyed working with backup catcher James McCann.
“It’s easy throwing to them. Almost every time we’re on the same page on pitch selection,” Webb said.
When Webb came to the Orioles, his stats improved.
“I’d say probably a change of scenery and different catching styles, too,” Webb said. “That plays a big part in being a pitcher. When you’re on the same page with your catcher, you don’t really have to think. You can just focus on executing a pitch every time. That makes my job a lot easier.”
Big series: If the Orioles win on Wednesday night, they’ll begin the four-game series with Tampa Bay leading the Rays by three games in the American League East. Tampa Bay beat Minnesota, 5-4, Wednesday afternoon.
“First and foremost, it’s about tonight,” Hyde said. “We need to play our best baseball and score some runs and put ourselves in a position to stay three games up going into the series tomorrow.
“It’s going to be a big series. It’s a team we know very well. It’s exciting for the fans, and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve come a long way to play in these type of games in mid-September against a team that’s a really, really good club. I want our guys to enjoy it. Let’s win tonight first.
“Everyone understands the standings, and where we are from the finish line. We’ve got to play really well against a really good club.”