BOSTON – Two of manager Brandon Hyde’s most difficult conversations of the season were held this week in the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park.
The Orioles optioned relievers Keegan Akin and Joey Krehbiel, placing them on the taxi squad with instructions to stay ready.
Two pitchers who broke camp with the team and lasted until the fourth week of September. Valuable contributors earlier in the summer who became expendable based on the bullpen’s needs and recent performance.
It’s worked out better for Akin. The Orioles recalled him two days later after infielder Ramón Urías went on the injured list with a sprained right knee, and he tossed three scoreless innings Wednesday night.
Krehbiel played catch yesterday and returned to his locker soaked in sweat despite the cool temperatures in Boston. All he’s got are the workouts.
The season took a wicked turn for Krehbiel, who registered a 2.18 ERA and 0.970 WHIP in 32 games before the All-Star break, and a 6.20 ERA and 1.581 WHIP in 24 appearances in the second half. He allowed six runs and 13 hits in 9 1/3 innings in August, and nine runs and 13 hits in 10 innings this month.
To his credit, Krehbiel isn’t bitter over the club’s decision. He's placing the blame squarely on his shoulders.
“It wasn’t hard for me at all because it was my fault,” he said. “It has something to do with the way I’m pitching. If I’m underperforming and pitching a lot, and not that useful the next game, then that decision in my head is easy. I respect it and I’m not mad at anyone but myself.
“Hopefully I don’t have to be on this the rest of the year, but if I am, then it is what it is.”
Krehbiel took the loss on Tuesday after replacing Kyle Bradish in the third inning, letting three inherited runners score and giving up two of his own to raise his ERA to 3.90, its highest point this season. He didn’t allow an earned run in his first seven appearances and 11 of 13.
“I think it’s just numbers,” Krehbiel said. “I think there was some other stuff going on not related to me, maybe giving up a little bit more hits than I thought I should be. My velo was there, stuff was there, mind. Everything’s still there.”
Akin allowed eight earned runs (nine total) in his last five appearances over 6 2/3 innings before the Orioles optioned him on Monday. Two days later, he was warming in the bullpen.
“It’s been a little bit up and down, obviously, but I get it, I understood it,” he said. “We had a lot of innings thrown out of that bullpen the last couple days, so I was totally understanding of it. Just glad to be back so soon. And knowing I had a good chance of throwing with the bullpen being a little beat up. Just try to go out there and eat as many innings as I can at that point.”
This is pretty much how Hyde explained it to Akin. The taxi squad could be a short ride. Don’t assume that your season is over. And if it is, rest up and get ready for spring training.
“It was kind of just to hang out here and hold tight,” Akin said. “Anything can happen, whether it’s a position player or a pitcher. Guys are getting tired, a little beat up at this point. It was just kind of, hang out here and grind out the rest of the year and go from there, and it ended up working in my favor.
“I was upset, but I guess if I wasn’t upset, my thought was I guess I don’t deserve to be here if I wasn’t upset about it. But I totally understood the move. I get it. We’re beat up and we needed an arm and that’s just how it goes. Obviously, I didn’t have a very good outing the day before, so that made it an even easier decision. So, just got to be better.”
He was. Three shutout innings on Wednesday with only one hit allowed and no walks. No other relievers needed.
“I felt like I had just kind of gotten away from being super aggressive on the mound,” Akin said. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to try to throw every pitch for a strike tonight and get back to what I was doing early in the year,’ and it kind of worked out that way.”
“That was the best he’s thrown in a long time for me,” Hyde said. “He was throwing 95-96 mph, maybe a little chip on his shoulder, too. It’s not always a bad thing. He picked us up in a big way the way he threw. It was fun to watch.
“That’s what Keegan Akin is and could be is a guy with that type of strike-throwing ability with that life to his fastball. Definitely more aggressive with his fastball.”