Once a promising rotation prospect, Mike Baumann is now finding MLB success in the bullpen

At age 27 and after two previous seasons seeing some big league time, it appears things are finally starting to click for right-hander Mike Baumann. He was drafted by the club in round three of the 2017 MLB Draft and has been ranked among the Orioles' top 30 prospects coming up through the minors.

He was ranked as high as Baltimore's No. 8 prospect by Baseball America in 2021 and has been ranked every year since 2018.

The debate, at least for now, as to whether he is a starter or reliever is over. The club made the call during spring training to move him into a bullpen role. And his last three outings, all on the Toronto-New York road trip, were scoreless.

He showed good life on his fastball and got some big outs against the Blue Jays and Yankees.

“It really just feels like everything is coming together,” Baumann said Friday in the O’s clubhouse. “Just feel a lot more comfortable in a spot where I can attack the hitters and be more aggressive. Really just not holding anything back. Trusting all the work I have been putting in and that makes it more fun.”

In his past two outings, he topped at 99.3 mph, the fastest pitches of his career, per Statcast. Last season Baumann averaged 95.8 mph on his fastball, and that is now up to 96.5.

“I think the velo is just a bonus,” he said. “The biggest thing is being able to command it and put the ball where you want with good location. To keep the hitters off certain pitches and being able to mix it up.”

Baumann is 4-0 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 27 innings in 23 games. This after his ERA was 5.89 over 44 innings in parts of 2021 and 2022. He is trying to get off the Triple-A Norfolk/Baltimore shuttle, and over his past nine games his ERA is 2.89.

The more he pitches out of the 'pen, the more he learns how to most effectively do it, getting input from his bullpen teammates.

“I think, really (it’s about learning), just the mindset of being able to get hot at any time and being ready to go into any situation. Being able to be part of this group has been great so far, and everyone in the bullpen can pick each other up. Been a great experience learning from these guys.”

And after working to find consistent success in the major leagues, maybe now is his time. It would be quite meaningful for him to become a dependable, consistent pitcher for the only pro organization he has ever known.

“Yeah, there have been some hard times. Just had to always believe in myself, and that makes the good times even more sweeter,” Baumann said.

Trying to avoid the sweep: The Orioles have three-game series sweeps this year against Detroit and at Toronto, but they have not been swept three in a row by another club. They need to win today against the Texas Rangers to avoid that fate.

Texas beat the Orioles 5-3 on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 37,939 at Oriole Park. The loss dropped the O's record to 33-19 and they fell behind Texas (33-18) for the second-best record in baseball. They remained four games behind Tampa Bay for the American League East lead as the Rays lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The Orioles have lost three in a row just one time this year, from May 6-8 as they lost the last two games of their series at Atlanta and to Tampa Bay in the opener of a series in Baltimore.

The Orioles are now 12-9 during a 22-game stretch of games versus winning clubs that ends today.

The Orioles have lost this series, making them now 11-2-1 in their past 14 series.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish (2-1, 4.34 ERA) gets the start today. He allowed four runs over five innings on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. But in five outings since April 30, he is 1-0 with a 3.62 ERA.

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