Lyles: "I would love to come back here"

NEW YORK – Veteran pitcher Jordan Lyles is hopeful that the Orioles pick up his $11 million option for the 2023 season. He wants to stay. He’s grown extremely fond of the team, and he’s excited for a future that could include a soon-to-be 32-year-old starter.

“I would love to be back here,” he said this morning. “To see what we’ve done in the last calendar year as an organization, from what was expected of us coming into the season, and the transition to be where we are right now, it’s pretty special. I enjoy the guys. Hyder (Brandon Hyde) has been amazing. Definitely Manager of the Year in my eyes. A good clubhouse. Everything is positive here. I would love to come back.”

The Orioles gave Lyles a one-year guarantee and knew he could be flipped at the trade deadline, but he became too valuable to them. The anchor of a rotation that could have been dragged down by John Means’ elbow surgery and a collection of inexperienced starters.

A deal consummated right before the shutdown, with his physical put on a lengthy hold, turned out to work tremendously for both parties.

“Definitely has grown on me as time as went on,” said Lyles, who held the Yankees to one run in seven-plus innings last night in his career-high 32nd start.

“I knew what I signed up for. I knew what we had coming up, young guys-wise. How talented we were. They didn’t pitch well the year prior to me signing here. I thought one of those five days I could help that.

“Winning is winning and we were starting to win, and obviously having more fun as winning comes. I’ve enjoyed my whole time here. There’s nothing to complain about. There’s no negativity. A bunch of positives.”

The leadership aspect with Lyles has been invaluable. Younger pitchers flock to him, refer to him as their dad.

“I lean heavily on that,” he said. “I don’t tell guys to watch after me or look after me, but hopefully they see how I go about things. As I always tell people, if you take anything away from me, just be a good teammate. At the end of the day, show up to work and support the next person beside you. Pick up guys when they’re down, support guys and encourage guys even when they’re doing well, and being a good teammate is at the top of the list for me. That’s what I stress on guys.

“I don’t tell people to look after me, but if you’re able to watch how I talk to people and encourage people, that will take you a long way.”

Hyde made it clear again today that he’d like to have Lyles on the club next season.

“To be able to plug in a guy every five days and keep us in almost every single game he pitched,” Hyde said. “He’s done so many things. Veteran leadership with an extremely young, inexperienced pitching staff. Being able to pitch in the AL East and keep us in games. Just the whole package. He has been absolutely fantastic for us this year.

“What he did last night was unbelievable, to be able to pitch in that environment, going into the eighth inning. Showing our guys, showing our young pitchers, even though he never wants to come out of the game and lets me know, that’s huge for me, that’s huge for our young starters to see that. That it’s not a five- or six-inning start. 'I expect to go longer and I expect to go win this game and this is my game.' That type of mentality is lost right now, and to have our young guys see that is huge.

“If we didn’t have Jordan Lyles this year, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Hyde is going to get plenty of votes for Manager of the Year in the American League after leading a team projected to lose 100-plus games into contention through September. Lyles is on board with the campaign.

“I can’t compare it to years prior, just what I have seen from him, known from him, meeting him in spring training,” Lyles said. “It was a little difficult this offseason with the lockout and all that kind of stuff, but when I got to spring training, easy to talk to. Probably can’t tell that from the outside in. He looks grumpy all the time. But no, he’s been amazing.

“He leans on his players to make a lot of decisions that go on in this clubhouse. Definitely what they say, a player’s coach or a player’s manager. His door’s always open. A lot of people say that, but sometimes it is not true. It’s definitely true with him. There’s an open dialogue, just anytime you want to talk to him, baseball or not. It’s just been really good.”

Elimination from the wild card race came after midnight with Seattle’s walk-off win. With five games left in the season.

“Sadness, disappointment, yeah,” Lyles said. “But also, it’s a time to reflect. A calendar year from today, no one would have expected it. Definitely more, look at what we’ve done. And the future’s bright. A lot of positive things going in the right direction here.”

Lyles said he knew it would be better in Baltimore after a sluggish start. After getting a closer look at a collection of unheralded relievers who at times carried the team.

“I don’t think we came out of the gates strong early in the season,” he said. “Got off to a little of a rough stretch when we were facing a lot of our East opponents. And then, I don’t know, after three or four weeks, we kind of started to put things together. We knew how good our bullpen was. I think that’s probably where we can hang our hat on this year.

“Once we started handing the ball off from our starters to our bullpen, and knowing that they were reliable, I think that kind of changed. The offense was steady at the time. Probably three or four weeks in, knowing that we had a legit bullpen, we could win 3-2 games, 2-1 games, that’s when it kind of changed for us, that the offense didn’t need to put up a five- or six-spot.”

Lyles is one inning away from tying his career high of 180 set last season with the Rangers. He’d be working on normal rest if he starts the final game on Wednesday at Camden Yards.

Hyde is expected to let Lyles make that decision.

“I haven’t even talked to him about it,” Hyde said. “I’m going to leave it up in the air for now, but I’ll probably leave it up to him.”

None of the starters are listed for the Blue Jays series that begins Monday at Camden Yards.

Reliever Félix Bautista’s left knee is better today, and he could be available within these last five games.

“Possibly,” Hyde said. “I’m going to see how he is day-to-day.”

Hyde ate his dinner and watched the end of the Mariners’ game after midnight to find out whether the Orioles were officially out of the wild card race.

“Definitely disappointing,” he said, offering congratulations to the Mariners. “Very, very disappointing, but yeah, I am proud of how our team has played this year, how we’ve exceeded everybody’s expectations and stayed in it until Oct. 1, so pretty cool for our guys. But as a competitor, I wanted to be in the playoffs and I want to experience those things and I want our guys to, but we gave it a good run.”

Hyde said he realized that the Orioles had staying power in the race when catcher Adley Rutschman arrived on May 21. Baseball’s No. 1 prospect finally cleared to make his debut and live up to the tremendous hype.

“We started playing better baseball, started taking better at-bats, winning more series,” Hyde said. “We had winning months of just playing good baseball, pitching well. I don’t know if there was a moment, but once Adley got here we started playing better. I wanted to win as many games as we possibly could.

“To be able to put him in the top part of the lineup, to be able to catch the majority of the games. The way him and Robby (Chirinos) handled our pitching staff I thought was incredible. To have the guy behind the plate controlling the game, and the at-bats he takes, as well. He got a bunch of big hits late in games. He’s been a huge difference for our team.”

Today’s game won’t start until 1:30 p.m. The tarp is rolled up.

The Orioles will try to achieve their 82nd win and guarantee a finish above .500.

“I think our guys still have a lot to play for,” Hyde said. “There’s pride, No. 1. Finish the season. We’re a pretty young group and our guys will play hard to the end.

“Fun summer. I’m glad our fans got to be re-energized with our club, and felt like that there was a lot of support behind us, and I thought we were a fun team to watch this year.”

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