In O's 2024 rotation, Cole Irvin and Tyler Wells, come on down

The first day of O’s spring training led to some shuffling of the Baltimore pitching staff. It was quite the day as we found out right-hander Kyle Bradish would begin the year on the injured list and likely be joined at that point by lefty John Means.

So, Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin, come on down.

Two pitchers we figured to have bullpen roles on Opening Day, now likely need to move to the rotation.

This is not bad news for the Orioles, as Wells was one of the American League’s best pitchers in the first half of 2023 and Irvin had an ERA of 3.22 from June 10 on last year. The ability to hold their own and then some in this rotation is there.

Ironically, both pitchers had three-start runs that marred their seasons in 2023. Irvin’s run came as the year began and his ERA was 10.66 on April 13 and he was sent to the minors. Wells was pitching so well in the first half and had an ERA of 3.18 at the All-Star break. But when the second half started, he was suddenly struggling. Three starts later, he had allowed four homers and 11 runs over nine innings and on July 30 he was optioned to Double-A Bowie. Wells would pitch well late in the year for the club out of the bullpen and made the Orioles' AL Division Series roster in the ‘pen. Irvin was not on that roster.

But both pitchers will now likely get the chance to come up big for the Orioles early this year while they wait to see how long it will take for Bradish and Means to return.

While this sure thins out the depth in the rotation and takes away pitchers from the bullpen competition, both had plenty of good moments last season to provide encouragement for Birdland after the gut-punch from the rotation news last Thursday.

In 18 games in the first half last summer, Wells went 7-4 with that 3.18 ERA and 0.927 WHIP. He gave up two earned runs or less in 13 of 17 starts but maybe the 104 2/3 innings he pitched caught up with him. But man, he was throwing well, showing great pitchability and allowing a batting line of just .193/.241/.409/.650.

Wells led MLB with a 0.88 WHIP and a .185 opponent average and ranked second with a .232 opponent on-base percentage through June. He held opponents to a .193 average through July 9, the third-best mark by an O's pitcher (min. 100 IP) before the All-Star break in team history. And his 0.927 WHIP during that time was also the fourth-best in Orioles history, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

We've seen what he can do, but now can he hold up over extended innings through the full year?

While Irvin had a 4.42 ERA for his season with the Orioles over 77 1/3 innings, he posted that 3.22 ERA from June 10 on. In that span he allowed a .239/.292/.394/.686 batting line with a 1.13 WHIP, a 1.8 walk rate and 7.7 K rate. Yep, not bad at all.

So, there is hope that the rotation will keep humming, or have a shot to, after the rough news of last week. The O’s turned to their 2020 Rule 5 draft pick and a player acquired by trade from the Oakland Athletics on Jan. 26, 2023.

Will Wells and Irvin, should they in fact emerge in the rotation on Opening Day, do the job?

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