During pregame interviews on Saturday, it's pretty clear the Orioles still believe in right-handed reliever Cole Sulser. He has a 3.68 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP in 11 games. He has saved five games, but also has had some big issues late in games, like giving up a two-run walk-off homer to Toronto's Randal Grichuk on Friday night.
Darren Holmes, the O's first-year bullpen coach, added a vote of support for Sulser yesterday.
"His preparation for each day, he's at the top of the shelf," Holmes said. "He knows what he wants to do. He did have a long layoff and then back into the game. He's feeling his way through right now and things like this happen. We haven't lost any confidence in him. We still believe he has good stuff."
The O's have taken note of Sulser's exceptional stats versus lefty batters. They are 1-for-29 with an .034 batting average against him. Holmes, who spent five seasons as bullpen coach in Colorado, said coaches take different approaches with struggling relievers.
"Definitely. Definitely," he said. "For me coming over here, the first thing I do is try to build relationships. Obviously, you want to work through mechanical stuff they are doing. But being a new coach with the Baltimore Orioles, I need to get to know the players. I talked to them a lot on the phone in the offseason. We had some Zoom calls, all of us together.
"Each guy you handle kind of differently. There are some guys you can be very up-front with and get on them and they respond to that. And then there are some guys you have to put your arm around and you can teach them and coach them up like that. It's fun to get to know the personalities. There are different ways of getting a guy to do something you want him to do that he may be reluctant. There are multiple ways to bring that message that he understands it better. I think so far, we've done a pretty good job of that."
Holmes provided some insights on a few other pitchers.
On Hunter Harvey, who could be activated as soon as today: "Hunter will add a big arm for us. We're probably not going to throw him in the closer's role - let him get his feet wet. He's not going to be a back-to-back guy. Let's say he pitches an inning and throws 10 pitches, you take a day off and he may be ready the second day. If he throws 18-20 pitches, you're probably going to give him two days off. We want to make sure he finishes the year healthy, so he'll probably have a day or two days, maybe three between outings."
On Tanner Scott making delivery improvements: "The one thing that we did is, we put him into load and go. Most people call it a slide step, a quick pitch home where he didn't lift his leg up. We started this in spring training, the load and go. What we found going back over everything from spring training, we found his strike percentage when he was quick to home was, like, at about 72 percent. And when he raised his leg he was, like, at 48 percent. So, we showed him the information and he said, 'OK, I'm all in.' It didn't take away from his velo but it added command. He's a 96 to 100 (mph) guy at times, and if you can get that in the zone and he has a plus slider, he's going to be very successful."
On right-hander Jorge LÃ³pez, who gets the start today: "When we knew that he was going to be available I talked to some people in Kansas City that I knew, and they gave me some good information on him. He was a guy that had really good stuff, but was very sporadic in the zone. So, me and (pitching coach, Doug) Brocail, we watched a ton of film together and had a good game plan for him when he walked in.
"We actually moved his hands down to his belt, which allowed him to minimize some movement and allowed him to continue his windup, but get into the load a lot better. He was not a guy that could stay in line down the slope. He's been doing a really good job at it. Working on it every day.
"He's been a little sporadic, he's given up some runs. But if you look at his stuff, it's a plus fastball at 95 plus, great movement, a tremendous slider and very good curveball that we're working on getting it a little bit smaller to tunnel off the fastball. He's a great guy, great teammate and we really think that he could be a top-three starter for us."
About last night: The Orioles were shut out for the third time in 2020 in a 5-0 loss to Toronto. They fall to 14-18 on the year, 0-4 on this road trip, 0-5 against Toronto and 2-10 over the past 12 games.
The O's record, which was once 12-8, is now one that is a season-high four games under .500 at 32 games into a 60-game season.
The O's have been a better club playing the National League East (7-6) than against the American League East (7-12).
In starting the year at 12-8 the O's were scoring 5.35 runs per game. In losing 10 of 12 they are averaging just 3.42 runs per game. They scored seven runs or more seven times in those first 20 games and just one time since. They've scored just nine runs during a four-game losing streak.
Today LÃ³pez gets the start against Tanner Roark at 3:07 p.m.
Join me after the game today on 105.7 FM the Fan for "Extra Innings." My guest will be Matt Blood, the O's director of player development.
The highlight of last night was watching 35-year-old right-hander CÃ©sar Valdez throw three scoreless innings with his off-speed assortment. It was his first big league appearance in over three years, since Aug. 4, 2017. Valdez impressed the O's in spring training and again in summer camp, and made his regular-season debut last night.
He threw 35 changeups among 46 pitches. Toronto swung at 17 of them and whiffed nine times. It was impressive and his fastest pitch was recorded at 87.4 mph.
Never stop grinding.-- Baltimore Orioles ðŸ˜· (@Orioles) August 30, 2020
Welcome back, Cesar Valdez. pic.twitter.com/UQMBDviKym
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