Looking at Orioles' upcoming schedule, rotation and bullpen

The Orioles are off again today before beginning a stretch of 10 games in a row, the next six at home against the Tigers and Red Sox. They’ve gone 6-0 in series openers.

If you’re wondering why the Orioles have two off-days as bookends to a two-game series in D.C., you aren’t alone. I’m sure they’d prefer having those breaks spread out.

The timing is unexpectedly good, though, with shortstop Jorge Mateo day-to-day with right hip discomfort.

Detroit won five in a row before yesterday’s loss to the Guardians. The Orioles and Tigers also meet in a four-game series at Comerica Park beginning on April 27.

This is still viewed as the “soft spot” in the schedule, which began after the Yankees left town. The Orioles won three of four from the Athletics and two of three from the White Sox, and swept the Nationals in their two-game set.

Doing what a team that intends to contend is supposed to do.

The series in Detroit comes after the Orioles get another chance against the Red Sox, who won two of three at Fenway Park to open the season, and is followed by three games in Kansas City, which has lost six in a row and is 4-15, including 1-12 at home.

The series in Atlanta from May 5-7 is followed by three home games against the Rays, who started 13-0.

It isn’t all fun, though it’s all games.

The Tigers are starting right-hander Michael Lorenzen Friday night at Camden Yards and left-hander Joey Wentz Saturday night, with Sunday TBA. The Orioles are countering with Tyler Wells, Kyle Gibson and Grayson Rodriguez.

Nothing new with the rotation beyond Bradish’s return last night. Rodriguez gets another opportunity. And he should. What he’s working on should be done against major league hitters.

Like, learning what works from his arsenal against major league hitters and avoiding that one blowup inning against major league hitters.

The bullpen has undergone a few changes in recent days. Left-hander Keegan Akin returned from the paternity list Monday and Spenser Watkins was optioned without throwing a pitch. Logan Gillaspie was optioned yesterday after the Orioles activated Bradish from the 15-day injured list.

Watkins hadn’t appeared in a game since April 8 with Triple-A Norfolk before making last night’s start and allowing three runs and throwing 55 pitches in three innings. He held Gwinnett to an unearned run over five innings in his previous outing before the Orioles brought him up last Friday as long relief insurance. I don’t recall seeing him warm up in Chicago before he was sent down.

All three runs last night scored in the third inning, and Watkins was removed. Guess he has to build back up slowly after so much idle time.

Gillaspie’s spot seemed to be in jeopardy and the trap door finally opened. He didn’t allow an earned run in seven exhibition games, striking out 10 batters in seven innings and beating out Joey Krehbiel and Rule 5 selection Andrew Politi, among others. But he surrendered four earned runs and five total with eight hits and three walks in eight appearances with the Orioles covering five innings.

The first three outings were scoreless and Gillaspie was credited with holds in the first two, but he began to scuffle and took the loss in Sunday’s 10th inning at Guaranteed Rate Field, facing three batters and retiring none.

Yasmani Grandal led off with a fly ball that fell inside the left field line for a run-scoring double. Even Gillaspie’s luck had turned.

“We’re making roster moves all season long, obviously,” manager Brandon Hyde told the assembled media yesterday. “These things happen just from availability and injury. Logan’s going to go down and be ready to come up whenever his name is called.”

Yennier Cano figured to be a temporary promotion with Akin away from the team, but you just never know. He hasn’t allowed a run, hit or walk in four appearances and 4 1/3 innings, striking out four batters, retiring all 12 that he’s faced, and brandishing an absolutely filthy sinker.

Cano inherited two runners from Cionel Pérez last night in the eighth inning and stranded them, retiring two batters in five pitches.

Just about anybody can be used in high-leverage situations in this bullpen, but Cano isn’t doing it because there aren’t other options. He’s gone from the guy acquired from the Twins in the Jorge López trade who allowed nine runs and nine hits and walked five batters in 4 1/3 innings last summer with the Orioles, to being trusted in setup and, quite possibly, backing up closer Félix Bautista.

“It’s hard not to,” Hyde said Tuesday night after Cano retired the side in order in the eighth to protect a 1-0 lead. “He’s throwing bowling balls up there, and so I’m going to take my chances.”

I remember when an opposing hitting once described Orioles closer Jim Johnson as throwing bowling balls. That phrase stuck with me, and now Cano is the one doing it.

You just never know.

Setup isn’t a cinch for the Orioles with Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens on the injured list. We’ve been told that Tate won’t be back until May. Givens’ situation was murkier with just a few updates about bullpen sessions in Sarasota.

Finally, some clarity. Hyde told the media yesterday that Tate and Givens could go on injury rehab assignments next week.

Plenty of time for Cano to further cement his role in the bullpen. And the same goes for Mike Baumann, who also benefitted from the unexpected vacancy created with Givens’ knee injury, along with Tyler Wells going into the rotation when the Orioles optioned Grayson Rodriguez at the end of camp.

Baumann tossed a scoreless ninth last night, striking out two, and has allowed only one run in 10 1/3 innings after the Orioles decided to shorten his appearances. He’s exceeded one inning in three of eight games but hasn’t gone past two.

The only negative is the five walks he’s issued, but none last night.

Because baseball is so unpredictable, it’s understandable if you didn’t think Cano and Baumann would be two integral members of the bullpen 18 games into the season.

I checked on Politi and he began yesterday with a 6.14 ERA and 2.045 WHIP in seven appearances with Triple-A Worcester. The five runs he allowed came in back-to-back outings over two innings. He followed with two scoreless innings on Tuesday.

* Jackson Holliday had two more hits yesterday with Single-A Delmarva, and the 19-year-old shortstop is batting .385 with a 1.074 OPS in 10 games.

What’s the over/under on how many he plays for the Shorebirds before joining High-A Aberdeen? The Carolina League isn’t providing much of a challenge, though he can get important work done to further his development, and his goal is to reach Double-A Bowie by the end of the summer.

* With three more hits last night, Norfolk's Joey Ortiz became the first Tides hitter to record four consecutive three-hit games in the franchise’s history as an Orioles affiliate.

Ortiz is 12-for-18 in his last four games, and he's the likely replacement if Mateo goes on the injured list.

* Norfolk outfielder Hudson Haskin went 2-for-2 Sunday in Nashville and was removed from the game and later placed on the seven-day injured list.

Haskin has a left hamstring strain, interrupting a hot start that saw him batting .391/.500/.652 (18-for-46) with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and 11 RBIs in his first 13 games at the Triple-A level.

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