O's notes on López, the upcoming draft and Aberdeen's no-hitter

O’s manager Brandon Hyde went to closer Jorge López again Friday night for a save of more than three outs, and once again his right-hander was fully up to the task. López got the final out of the eighth and three outs in the ninth for his 10th save and recorded all four outs on strikeouts, the last with a 98 mph fastball that he threw past Brett Phillips. He protected yet another one-run lead.

Hyde would rather not have to call on López to do such heavy lifting. But he got the job done again. And his five saves of more than one inning put him in a tie with Pittsburgh’s David Bednar for the most in the majors.

“Prefer not to,” said Hyde before Saturday’s game. “Feel like we get two outs in the eighth and there is a big spot and I’ve got a right-hander coming up and Lopie is the best for me. Not the ideal way. But, because of the way he has pitched in the past, he’s not been a one-inning guy; he’s been a starter. He likes going multiple innings; I think that is important also. He wants the ball, and he wants the ball in that spot. He’s done amazing with it.

“Not every closer, ninth-inning guy, or high-leverage guy is like that. That is why Lopie is a little bit unique for me. He can give you a five-out, four outs, six outs, when he is your best option against the middle of the order or in a big spot in the game. When the game is on the line. Because of the pitch mix and he is used to pitching multiple innings.”

López has not allowed an earned run in his last 11 appearances, covering 14 innings. He has recorded a save in four of his past six outings, and 23 of his 28 outings have been scoreless. His 0.82 ERA ranks second among all pitchers (with a minimum of 30 innings).

Rutschman gets his man: When he made the throw to second base in the sixth inning on Friday, it one-hopped to shortstop Jorge Mateo. But O's catcher Adley Rutschman got Tampa Bay's fleet-footed Vidal Bruján as Bruján attempted to steal. And it was an important play in a 0-0 game, made especially tough because Rutschman had to backhand a pitch in the dirt. He is now 2-for-6 throwing out runners.

“For me, that just shows the athleticism and how quick he can turn the ball around on a tough pitch,” said Hyde. “Good runner, great runner, and the way he can transfer the baseball with something on it and put it on line, that’s not easy to do. Especially for a guy that size, it’s pretty rare. He’s showing something a little bit different every time out and getting a little bit better every time out behind the plate.

“He’s improved in all areas. From basic stuff: sign, signal, stance, to relaxed stance, nobody on base. Those are things we’ve been tweaking since he got here. The PitchCom thing, that is an adjustment for anybody, and he has adjusted to that well. Really, really happy with his progress behind the plate and the progress he is making and the progress he is going to make. Such a tough position to be a rookie in the big leagues.”

Feeling a draft: During his latest briefing with reporters at Camden Yards on Saturday afternoon, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias talked about spending time this week in San Diego at the MLB Draft Combine. The Orioles have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft next month, and Elias said the team is studying a group of “probably five players at this point” for the top pick. He said the Orioles will carry that list of five into their pre-draft meetings.

The Orioles have not selected many pitchers early on in any of Elias’ three previous drafts for Baltimore. They selected no pitchers in the first seven rounds of the 2019 draft. A year later, in the shortened five-round draft, of their six players taken, the O’s only selected one pitcher, Carter Baumler, with a round-five pick. In the top 10 rounds of the 2021 draft, they took one pitcher, and it was Carlos Tavera in round five.

Will the O’s be taking more pitching this time?

“Maybe," said Elias. "We’ve been at a point the last few years of really trying to lay down a strong farm system. And we were doing so without an active international pipeline, and usually, the international pipeline provides you with a lot of position players, and a lot of infielders in particular. And so the Orioles didn’t have that, and also Dan Duquette and his guys very well spent some high picks on pitchers. That put us in a position to take a lot of position players and come away with what we hope are some core players from those picks. Right now I look back and, fingers crossed, we got a few, so excited about that.

“But pitching has more inherent risk with the injury rates and the variability. And we want to do as well as we can with these picks because they are very important to the Orioles. We’ll just see. We’re not going to reach for pitchers, but we’re not going to shy away from them if there are ones that fit for us with those high picks. They aren’t any pitchers that you would take with the No. 1 pick this year, so I feel pretty safe in ruling that out. But we pick again at 33, and that could very well be an arm.”

Speaking of arms: The O's high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds team won at Jersey Shore 6-0 last night on a three-pitcher no-hitter, the second no-hitter in franchise history.

Right-hander Peter Van Loon went five innings with two walks and six strikeouts on 78 pitches. He improved to 7-0 with a 2.66 ERA. Daniel Lloyd went three innings and Xavier Moore pitched the ninth. On offense, Colton Cowser had three hits, including a homer, and his OPS is up to .818.

And the big club: The Orioles host Tampa Bay today in the rubber match of this three-game series. So far, the clubs have split one-run decisions. The Orioles won 1-0 Friday, and lost 7-6 yesterday when a rally from four runs down came up short.

The Orioles (29-38) are 5-3 the last eight games and 15-14 over the past 29. They are 8-8 this month and 14-19 versus the American League East.

Their offense has scored six runs or more in four of the past five games and six of the last eight. They've scored 46 runs in those eight games.

Four of their past five games against Toronto and Tampa Bay have been decided by a single run, and they are 2-2 in those games.

 

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