Curiosities mounting over Orioles' pitching plans

The Orioles haven’t announced their starter for Thursday afternoon, when they close out their series against the Yankees and the latest homestand. The spot remains TBA, with an assumption attached that Kyle Bradish is making his 2024 debut.

Bradish would be working on an extra days’ rest after starting Friday with Triple-A Norfolk. Cole Irvin would be taking his normal turn if he’s the choice.

The Orioles head to Cincinnati for a weekend series. Irvin has made three career appearances against the Reds, including one start, and allowed only one run in 5 1/3 innings. But stats in small samples aren’t swaying the Orioles one way or the other.

The number that really matters is six – an extra starter in a five-man rotation.

John Means will make it seven later this week.

“I think that I’m glad I’m not making those decisions. But you can never have too much, right?” said catcher James McCann.

“I think that’s been proven over the course of history. You can’t have too much starting pitching. You can’t have too much pitching in general. And I think it’s really neat that guys have been throwing the ball so well and making the front office’s decision tough. But at the same time, I think with Bradish coming back and Means coming back, anyone who does get bumped out of the rotation or does get bumped to the bullpen, whatever it is, however they decide to do that, they’re going to be a big piece, whether it’s out of the bullpen or a spot start here, coming back to the rotation, whatever it may be.

“It’s 162 games and just because someone may not be getting a start on Thursday or Friday or Saturday or whatever it is when those guys come back doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be helping this team in a big way.”

Reliever Danny Coulombe has the same curiosity as everyone else.

“We can’t control those things, but it’s a good problem to have, a lot of good arms,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

The Orioles will receive a pitcher who finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting last year and a former All-Star who threw a no-hitter and twice started on Opening Day.

“It’s two really, really good starting pitchers,” Coulombe said. “Anytime you can add people like that to your rotation … Bradish is nasty. He’s going to be a Cy Young candidate for years to come. And John just eats innings. He’s a pro. I’m pretty excited to see them pitch.”

Asked about his bullpen recently, manager Brandon Hyde noted how starters could potentially move into it and consume innings, cutting down on the baton passing in the process. What’s harder to fix is the lack of minor league options within the unit.

Dillon Tate was removed from the active roster Monday mainly because he didn’t have to be exposed to waivers. Yennier Cano has two options, but he isn’t leaving. Keegan Akin has one.

The roll call of pitchers with no options includes Irvin, Coulombe, Albert Suárez, Jacob Webb, Cionel Pérez, Mike Baumann and Yohan Ramírez.

The Triple-A shuttle can transport Bruce Zimmermann, Jonathan Heasley, Nick Vespi, Bryan Baker, Matt Krook and Kaleb Ort from the 40-man roster. Non-roster left-hander Andrew Suárez and right-hander Wandisson Charles are down to their last option.

Zimmermann started last night and tossed five scoreless innings.

Vespi quietly is making a case for another promotion. He’s allowed only two runs and struck out 18 batters in 13 1/3 innings and opponents are batting .191 against him.

Baker has registered a 9.72 ERA but his last four appearances are scoreless. His ERA was 18.69 before his streak.

Heasley, who made three appearances with the Orioles, has allowed one run in seven innings with Norfolk. Krook has allowed two earned runs in nine innings, but also 10 hits and with six walks. Andrew Suárez has surrendered nine earned runs (11 total) and 17 hits in 9 1/3 innings.

Suárez inherited a bases-loaded mess from Charles last night with two outs and issued a four-pitch walk before getting a ground ball.

The Orioles are developing left-hander Cade Povich as a starter and he’s flourishing with a 1.03 ERA in five games and 40 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. Keep him in his designated role and don’t disrupt his roll, unless he gets the DL Hall treatment, of course. Could put a big-strikeout arm in the ‘pen for the playoff push, with the understanding that it’s temporary.

“Cade’s doing great in Triple-A,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. “This is what we were hoping to see from him. He’s somebody internally that we’ve been very high on since we traded from him and I think to see these types of numbers in Triple-A has been a nice reassurance of what we thought he was capable of.

“He’s getting really good experience there, and I think one thing that he’s still working on despite the statistical success is maybe getting a little more efficient with his pitch counts, but I’m nit-picking just because you’re asking a question. It’s hard for me to poke too many holes in what he’s doing. He’s gaining valuable experience. He’s really, really close. Great development for us so far. I hope he keeps going and staying healthy.”

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad has witnessed plenty of Povich’s starts and notices the difference in command and how the stuff plays. Povich is pounding the zone, putting the ball where he wants it. Down and in, down and out. And his walks per nine innings have gone from 5.8 last year in 10 starts with Norfolk to 3.4.

“Povich has been really great, even through last year, since he’s been in our org,” Kjerstad said. “He’s always been a solid pitcher. But this year he definitely took a leg up. I haven’t seen the information on his pitches, but his pitches are better than last year.

“I’d say for him, he’s confident in himself and he knows what comes to do. This year, he’s managed the strike zone a little bit better. He’s not walking as many guys and he’s just going after hitters and executing his pitches day. Day in and day out he’s putting up good start after good start. He’s really fun to play defense behind.”

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