In the seemingly constant roster churn in the Orioles bullpen, lefty Nick Vespi was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk today and right-hander Bryan Baker was recalled.
Baker has pitched in 111 Orioles games since the start of the 2022 season and was a fixture on the roster until he was optioned to Norfolk on Aug. 2. Today he returns – just in time to join the team for the biggest series of the year.
In 11 games at Triple-A, Baker went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In 11 2/3 innings he gave up seven runs with seven walks and 16 strikeouts.
In 45 games this season with Baltimore, he is 4-3 with a 3.64 ERA. In 42 innings he has walked 24 and fanned 51. At the time he was optioned, he actually had pitched to an ERA of 2.25 in his previous 12 games.
“It’s great to be back,” Baker said this afternoon in the Baltimore clubhouse. “I’m excited to get back on the bump here at good ole’ Camden Yards and try to get some outs.
“It wouldn’t have mattered who we are playing. Just excited to be back. Back in this clubhouse with this group of guys. Hope to contribute and get some wins here down the stretch.”
He felt his time at Norfolk was well spent, but there was nothing specifically he looked to change or improve while there.
“Good man,” he said of his time on the farm. "Really confident where I am right now. Just trying to fill up the zone and get outs.
“Nothing specific really (that I worked on). Just kind of fine-tuning everything and making sure the workload kind of stays balanced and get full recovery down there too. Just little tweaks here and there but nothing specific.”
Since the 2022 season began, Baker is 8-6 with a 3.51 in the O’s bullpen with a 1.263 WHIP, a 4.0 walk rate and a 10.2 K rate.
After spending so much time on the O’s roster for most of these last two years, no doubt Baker had to battle some disappointment when he was optioned to the Tides.
“Sure, yeah," he said. "You always want to be here and contributing. Something I’ve been part of for a couple of years now and worked really hard to be here. It’s definitely disappointing at first but nothing you can do but look forward and keep working hard.”
While with Norfolk Baker watched Heston Kjerstad play nightly and Kjerstad was also added to the roster today. His first appearance will be his major league debut.
Kjerstad has hit 21 homers with a .904 OPS this season between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk. In 76 games at Triple-A only, he batted .298/.371/.498/.870 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs.
In spring training with the Orioles, Kjerstad tied for the O’s homer lead and he hit .381 with four homers and nine RBIs in 42 at-bats.
“Can change the game with one swing, at pretty much any time," Baker said of Kjerstad. "Seems like something always exciting is happening with that guy at the plate. I have all the confidence in the world in him. Hopefully he can continue to play like he can.”