The Orioles can change their roster for the American League Championship Series if they get past the Rangers. A new set of decisions to make based on the opponent and matchups.
Time to reconsider whether to stay with only 12 pitchers.
Shintaro Fujinami sat on the Division Series bubble and it popped underneath him. His inconsistency in the strike zone, the bouts of wildness, convinced the Orioles to drop him.
Maybe there were other factors, but if the results matched the stuff, you’d think Fuji would be in the bullpen.
He appeared to have a small abrasion on his face yesterday at quick glance, and a Japanese reporter also noticed a mark on the pitcher’s hand. Of course, he asked manager Brandon Hyde about it. His beat consists of one player.
Hyde said it was “nothing big.”
“I think he fell down, but he’s fine and he's ready,” Hyde said. “He's going to go out and throw. He's perfectly fine.”
The real shocker, of course, was John Means’ exclusion due to a sore left elbow. He isn’t fine.
Means pitched in Thursday’s simulated game, and by coincidence, it began as the media’s 90-minute access window closed.
We saw the entire four-inning game a day earlier from the visiting dugout and don’t know whether we would have noticed anything wrong with Means. Like, did he flex the arm or look concerned?
Most likely, he felt the discomfort later in the day. But we don’t have the details.
How can you not hurt for Means after what he’s gone through in his recovery from Tommy John surgery and the strained muscle in his upper back that delayed his return until September? It’s just so unfair.
Not real serious, but unfair.
As Hyde explained, the Orioles couldn’t carry Means on the roster with the uncertainty over his availability. He could be doing one-hand pushups now, but it’s too late.
I ranked Mike Baumann as the top seed to go from taxi squad to active roster, but Bryan Baker was the surprise choice after a spot opened. Baumann is here in case of an injury.
Jack Flaherty made the roster and can provide length. He also seemed like a bubble guy, but I liked his chances over Fujinami.
I finally got one right.
Hyde used five relievers, none for more than DL Hall’s 1 2/3 innings. Rookie Grayson Rodriguez starts this afternoon in what amounts to a must-win Game 2, unless you’re cool with being down 0-2 going to Arlington.
Maybe Arlington, Va., but not Texas.
The Rangers are the team with the bad bullpen in this series, ranking 24th in ERA compared to the Orioles being fifth. Their relievers got 16 outs yesterday. It wasn’t pretty – Anthony Santander homered off Dane Dunning and the Orioles drew four walks – but late clutch hits were non-existent.
“It worked out well,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “The bullpen did a great job. Got bumpy, but found a way to get through it.”
The Rangers swept the Rays in the wild card round and are 3-0 on the road in the postseason.
“It's always good to get the first one,” Bochy said. “It's best out of five, though. We know that. Come in here and get the first one off a really good team, a great pitching staff. These guys found a way to get it done.”
“Right now, a win is a win no matter what it looks like,” said rookie third baseman Josh Jung. “It's a big one to come in on the road, first game to get that. It's good for the club. It's good going forward. We keep the pedal to the metal tomorrow.”
The Orioles can't stay in their skid.
The team that ran its sweepless streak to 91 series. That had 48 comeback victories in 2023. That didn't lose more than four games in a row.
That earned the top seed.
“I was just thinking to myself, it’s not the first time we ever lost the first game of a series and came out on top,” Cedric Mullins told reporters gathered at his locker. “We’ll continue to stay positive, learn from this one and be prepared for tomorrow.”