Irvin: "Whatever the team needs of me I’m going to do"

Cole Irvin understands the situation. The sub-3.00 ERA and the scoreless streak that reached 22 2/3 innings don’t make him immune to a sudden switch in roles.

Irvin would have started Wednesday afternoon against the Blue Jays if inclement weather hadn’t forced a postponement the previous night. He’s skipped in the rotation and sitting with the relievers.

The Orioles are listing Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and John Means for the series in St. Louis. Grayson Rodriguez and Corbin Burnes would work on normal rest if they start the first two games in Chicago.

Irvin could hop back into the rotation, which is going to expand to six starters with one off-day in June. In the meantime, he’s finding ways to prevent any rust from accumulating, getting in his throwing without letting it impact his availability.

“We need another bullpen guy,” he said yesterday morning. “Unfortunately, we lost Big Mike (Baumann) and we need Grayson back and he’s healthy. Just a numbers thing, you know? I’m going to do my job the way I was doing it at the beginning of the year, the way I did it last year. Like, whatever the team needs of me I’m going to do. So, just keeping it simple, don’t think about it too much other than I have a job to do now out in the bullpen.”

Irvin was on the best roll of his baseball life with only two runs allowed in 25 2/3 innings in his last four starts and four in 30 1/3. He walked three batters, struck out 21 and surrendered two home runs in that span.

The complication was pending for a while. What to do about six starters after Rodriguez’s reinstatement from the injured list. It actually dated back to Bradish and Means being on the IL and what would happen after they returned.

Rodriguez’s right shoulder inflammation delayed it. He returned Saturday and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, blanking the Mariners before the bullpen allowed four runs.

Irvin has heard murmurings of an expanded rotation.

“I’ll let that happen when it happens, and if it does,” he said. “Those decisions are out of my control. Personally, for me, I like our bullpen being at full strength. We’ve got the starters capable of being able to pitch every five days and I know we’ve got the guys in the room that want the ball. At the end of the day, if the team decides to go to six men, they go to six men. But again, that’s out of my control.

“I want the best, I want everyone to be healthy. Ideally for my role, it’s get the job done, execute pitches and just keep doing what I’ve been doing. Nothing changes.”

Well, there’s the routine.

Side sessions between starts are tweaked because Irvin isn’t on a set schedule. He hasn’t pitched since May 10.

“I threw a little 10-12 pitch bullpen yesterday after the game,” he said. “That was one of the more challenging bullpens I’ve thrown because we had the rain delay and it was like nine hours since I threw last, so that was a little different. But all things considered, still got work in, got a late lift last night. Just trying to do my best to stay ready and make sure that I’m getting the things that I need to that keep me consistent – lifts and long programs and all that stuff. Stay in some kind of routine. Luckily I have everything written down from what I did last year that’s going to help me stay consistent.

“I still need to execute pitches. My job doesn’t change, which is the good thing. I don’t mind being a little Swiss Army knife. It’s kind of fun.”

There’s accepting change and there’s embracing it. Irvin is the ultimate team guy. Of course, he’d rather start after his 24 appearances last year were divided between rotation and bullpen. He’s earned it at 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA and 1.066 WHIP in 40 1/3 innings before yesterday. But the Orioles are in a bind with 43 games in 45 days and a vacancy in the bullpen with Baumann designated for assignment over the weekend.

That one stung.

“It was tough,” Irvin said. “He’s arguably one of my closer friends in the clubhouse, and to see him go stinks, but he’s going to be a huge asset for another club. We all know how good he is and how good he can be. Some of us were joking about how he’s going to be closing for some team this year at the end of the year because he’s got that stuff.

“We kind of had a logjam here. I’m excited for his opportunities, I’m excited for his continued success at the big league level. Sucks to lose a guy who’s such a good teammate and person in the clubhouse that everyone enjoys being around. It hurts that side of things a little bit, but not anything that’s going to take us out of our roles. But he’s going to be missed by us for sure.”

Irvin, working on eight days’ rest, replaced Jacob Webb yesterday in the seventh inning with a run scored and two runners on base. He got a double play, allowed a single to Julio Rodríguez that let Luis Urías cross the plate, and retired the next four batters to carry the lead to closer Craig Kimbrel.

Irvin earned a hold and lowered his ERA to 2.76.

“He’s definitely the most rested, and I’ve been waiting a couple days to kind of get him a situation where I can just pitch him more than an inning,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It didn’t work out for Webby there, and to get him get two full innings there, we felt like that was a great spot for him.”

Irvin will take any spot. At any time.

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