A few observations from the Orioles’ first six games. They went 1-5, but played close, competitive games against two 2021 division winners in the Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers.
Rotation concerns: It’s too soon for their rotation to be in crisis, but there is some reason for concern. They have uncertainty with what they are doing with the No. 5 starter and now reason to worry about lefty John Means.
Means left after four innings last night with left forearm tightness and didn’t sound too concerned in his postgame interview. An MRI could show the club and fan base if there is any real reason for concern. But how can there not be some worry about a pitcher that has had shoulder issues in the past and is having this issue after just two starts?
Means is not only very talented but is a leader on the pitching staff. Losing him for any length of time would be a blow.
The Orioles have both Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish in the rotation right now at Triple-A Norfolk and both threw four scoreless in their season debuts. Tonight is Rodriguez’s second Triple-A start. The Tides had listed right-hander Kyle Brnovich to start tomorrow night and southpaw Kevin Smith on Saturday.
Is it too soon for either of Rodriguez or Bradish?
Bullpen off to solid start: Jorge López gave up two runs in the ninth as the Birds lost 4-2 Wednesday night to Milwaukee. But through six games, the O’s bullpen has an ERA of 2.45 to rank third in the American League. The bullpen allowed just three runs in 16 innings in the Brewers series for an ERA of 1.69.
The trade of Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott – while met with some fan grumbles when announced – opened ’pen innings for others, not to mention getting the O’s a pitcher in Antonio Velez, who had a strong debut at Double-A Bowie, but also the No. 67 pick in the draft.
Pitchers like Félix Bautista, Bryan Baker, Joey Krehbiel, Cionel Pérez and Dillon Tate are off to decent starts. Not to mention the solid pitching of their homegrown arms out of the ’pen so far in Mike Baumann and Keegan Akin.
The bullpen performance might be what is most surprising so far, and there are some big arms there that could be fun to watch as they get an opportunity this season.
The offense and the wall: The Orioles and Brewers combined for one home run in the series. Is the new left field wall having an impact already? Too soon to know, but it sure is going to take a poke to hit it out there this year.
Before Wednesday’s game, Trey Mancini was asked if the hitters will have to play a mental game of sorts with that wall this year and not get down if a well-struck ball produces a very different result from previous seasons.
“Yeah, you just have to keep doing what you’re doing,” Mancini said. “I think a lot of us, myself included, myself and (Austin) Hays especially, I feel like have been blistering the ball and not having a lot to show for it. But at the same time, you can’t try harder. You can’t really do anything differently. You have to keep doing what you’re doing and you know there are a lot of games and hopefully it all evens out.”
Mancini said he didn’t have any worries that losing homers could get in the heads of some O’s hitters.
“No, I don’t have any concerns at all,” he said. “Everyone has had a very good temperament and (has) gone about their business very well, I thought. It’s been a different feel this year in my opinion, so I’ve been really happy with how everyone has been handling it and keeping perspective.”
The Orioles and Brewers scored just 17 combined runs in the series.
My take is that the wall will create excitement at the Yard. Because fielders will be playing deeper, some speedy hitters might try to stretch those flares to left into doubles. Other hitters will have some real extra-base chances on deep drives that stay in the park. We should see more triples, an exciting play.
A speedy defender with a strong arm like Hays should have some real chances to impact the game on defense for the Orioles. It will be fun to watch him run around out there, especially as he gets more used to playing in left at the Yard, and learns the nuances and other aspects of all the ground he now has to cover there.
Final notes: The Brewers won this series with their ninth-inning rally last night to leave town at 3-3. Old Mill High product Josh Hader got two saves in the series. Milwaukee is now 8-3 in its last 11 games against the AL East.
Anthony Santander is batting .400 (6-for-15) after reaching base three more times last night. Santander has a double, a homer, one RBI, two hit by pitches and six walks thus far. His OBP is .609 right now to rank third in the AL and his OPS of 1.276 is seventh.