ANAHEIM, Calif. – Orioles veteran lefty Paul Fry has been with the team for five seasons now. He’s been in bullpens with the likes of Zack Britton, Darren O’ Day, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier.
Now he is part of this new-look rebuilt Orioles bullpen that is off to such a great start. For a team with an overall staff ERA of 2.87, which ranks sixth-best in baseball, the bullpen has sure been doing its part. The ‘pen ERA is 2.83 and that is ninth-best in the majors. The bullpen pitchers have allowed just two homers in 13 games, tied for the best mark in the majors.
Did Fry see this coming? What potential did he see in his teammates in the ‘pen heading into the year?
“Lot of guys with a lot of talent,” he said during a pregame interview in Oakland. “So we are going out there trying to pick each other up every outing. We’ve said it before, you pass the baton to the next guy. We are subtlety kind of competing with each other there, trying to one up each other, who has the better outing just like the starters do. You know all these close ballgames is really bringing us closer. We are all finding new roles here and there. So I’ve been impressed so far.”
Every year the bullpen is like a team within a team, developing its own collective personality.
“Yeah, for sure," said Fry, who has thrown three straight scoreless outings. "There are a lot of us down there right now with the expanded roster. But we’re all fighting for each other every day and becoming close. You know it’s fun to go out there with these guys every day."
The Orioles bullpen certainly features some gas throwers like Jorge López and Félix Bautista to name two, but some of the success so far has also been individual pitchers’ ability to throw some big-time secondary pitches to get swings and misses and key outs. Bautista has a 66.7 whiff percentage on his split, Dillon Tate a 57 percent whiff rate on his changeup and Joey Krehbiel is at 44 percent on his cutter.
“It all comes down to what we do best,” said Fry. “Personally, my slider is my best pitch. Guys being able to use their weapons is No. 1. And having big velo doesn’t hurt either for the back of a bullpen. Lopy has been outstanding. That last outing was very impressive. You can tell he’s focused in on one pitch at a time and not looking big picture.”
The O’s bullpen had the worst ERA in the majors last year at 5.68 and the overall staff ERA was 5.84. It is only 13 games thus far, but the difference is vast. What happened?
“I think strike one," said Fry. "We’ve got guys that are just pounding the zone and we’re all just trying to stay ahead and put guys away as fast as possible. You know myself, I would get into full counts and had thrown the kitchen sink at them and they have seen all my pitches. I think what we are focused on is getting guys out within three pitches or less. And picking each other up when we have to."
In the opener of the three-game series here tonight, lefty Bruce Zimmermann, who has not allowed a run in his first nine innings, will face lefty Reid Detmers for Los Angeles. He was the No. 10 overall pick out of Louisville in the 2020 draft.
The Angels (8-5) lead their division and have won seven of nine. While their offense has been strong to date, the Angels rank 14th in the American League with a team ERA of 4.15.
I’ll be live on "O’s Xtra" later tonight from Angels Stadium with some notes from the farm and the clubhouse.