CLEVELAND—When the Orioles begin postseason play, whether they’re in the wild-card round that begins on October 3rd or the Division Series that starts on October 7th, they’ll have the opportunity to send some of their starting pitchers to the bullpen. In the wild-card round, instead of using five starters, they might need just two or three. In the Division Series, they’d probably have three or four.
“I think the bullpen could look potentially, a little bit different,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s why winning a division would be so important for these guys to give everybody some time off, and that’s what we’re kind of pushing for. We’ll see where we are health-wise at the end of the season. You could put a couple of starters down there that maybe haven’t pitched in a while. That might be helpful.”
Kyle Gibson, who will start on Sunday against the Cleveland Guardians, was an odd man out for the Philadelphia Phillies last season and was in the bullpen for the postseason.
“It wasn’t a big adjustment,” Gibson said. “They gave me enough of an idea of, ‘hey, here’s your role, here’s where we see you being used and this is what we think you can bring to the bullpen.’ I had a pretty good idea of when I was going to pitch. I think the bigger adjustment could be if we’re in a situation where they send one of us down and [say], ‘we need you in a leverage spot.’ That could be more of a bigger adjustment.”
Gibson, who pitched 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday night in Houston, told Hyde that he was available to pitch on Thursday in Cleveland if needed. He went to the bullpen but wasn’t used.
“I just wanted to really be available and then for him to know if the game situation calls for it, then I’d like to throw two innings,” Gibson said. “I wanted to be down there, so I didn’t have to rush around and get ready because that could be more of a hassle really. If you’re in the dugout and it’s like, ‘can you be ready in an inning?’ You run in here and get dressed. I thought it was a good opportunity to get down there and to be available if needed.”
Hyde had used six starters for about a month. When he decided he needed an extra reliever, he chose Jack Flaherty for the bullpen. Flaherty pitched two innings on Tuesday night when Gibson had his short start.
“The only difference mentally is not knowing when you’re going to pitch,” Flaherty said. “You can have an idea, but it can be at any point as opposed to starting. You know exactly what day you’re going to pitch and you’re going to get the ball for how ever long. The goal remains the same. You go out and make pitches and good things usually happen.”
Flaherty said there’s not a set way to prepare.
“It’s just figure out a routine that’s going to work,” he said. “You’re going to play catch early. You’re going to have some time in between and you don’t know when you’re going to get hot. It’s about staying loose and trusting your body is going to get loose once you start throwing. You’re going to get loose. That’s always the fear, just finding a routine that works for you.”
Flaherty said there’s always a rush when he knows he’s going into a game.
“It depends on when they call. If it’s, ‘we need you to get hot now,’ then things happen real quick,” Flaherty said. “If it’s, ‘OK, you’ve got the next inning,’ it’s about the same. There’s something about that first inning of a game. You finish your warmup, you walk in, you feel what the energy of the crowd is like.
“You can feel that. You look around. You see everything. That adrenaline rush is a lot. The same thing with taking the mound for the first time whether it’s the top of the first or the bottom of the first. That’s a special feeling, but so is running out of the bullpen knowing that you’re in there in the later part of the game. Every game matters and those pitches matter a lot, too.”
Notes: Hyde said that first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who’s on the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder injury, should be ready when he’s eligible to return on Wednesday. Mountcastle has been taking grounders at first base and stood in the bullpen when closer Félix Bautista threw on Friday. … Hyde criticized the schedule that has the Orioles playing 17 games in 17 days. “The schedule-maker needs to take a look at it because it’s really, really unfair and unhealthy to do this to a team in September, especially with the teams that we’re playing,” he said.