The warning, or maybe it was just a gentle reminder, came from executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias on the day that the Orioles made their deepest roster cuts in spring training.
“We’re going to need more starters,” Elias said, as media crowded him outside the baseball operations center and sought an explanation for Grayson Rodriguez’s unexpected optioning to Triple-A.
Elias wasn’t breaking new ground, of course, as he stood on the concrete. No team goes through an entire 162-game grind with the same five members of its rotation. But the Orioles were only four deep into their season, the home opener on hold until later in the week, when Jonah Heim’s 104 mph line drive nailed Kyle Bradish on the right foot Monday night and made those words echo louder.
It also made a sickening thud, with initial fears that Bradish suffered a fracture. X-rays were negative for that, but further tests had to be scheduled because MRIs always reveal more.
I wonder why teams even bother with X-rays. There’s always the inevitable MRI.
Bradish appears headed to the injured list because of the discomfort that persists and won’t allow him to push off the rubber. And Rodriguez is headed to Globe Life Field, apparently to make his major league debut this afternoon, as first reported by Baseball America and The Baltimore Banner and later confirmed by a source.
(The Orioles haven't confirmed Rodriguez's arrival or today's starter.)
If Heim sounds familiar, the Orioles drafted him in the fourth round in 2013 and former manager Buck Showalter spoke glowingly of him in spring training. A 6-foot-4 presence. Similar traits to All-Star Matt Wieters. And then traded to the Rays three years later for Steve Pearce.
Anyway, managers for centuries have talked about the importance of the “what ifs” on the night before the next game. What if our starting pitcher is hit by a line drive in the first inning? Or the second, in this case. Who’s available to unexpectedly cover the innings?
Let your guard down and the baseball gods will bury you alive.
Brandon Hyde could have called upon Austin Voth, but he also had Tyler Wells, the scheduled starter last night, volunteering to get in full uniform and rescue his teammates.
Wells tossed five scoreless and hitless innings and the Orioles won 2-0 to ease some of the sting of the series loss in Boston. A heroic performance for the ages. Would attain legendary status if it happened in September while in the middle of a pennant race.
Bradish was more likely to have the bloody sock, but still …
One problem was resolved, but as usual, a new one opened. Who replaces Wells last night?
Kyle Gibson could have moved up from Wednesday and pitch on normal rest, taking advantage of Friday’s off-day in Boston. Voth could have gotten the ball, his arm fresh after working only one inning and throwing 22 pitches on Saturday.
The club also could have sifted through its options at Triple-A. Bruce Zimmermann and Spenser Watkins probably weren’t available because they’d be pitching on short rest. DL Hall wasn’t stretched out. He hadn’t even made his first start before last night.
Drew Rom is scheduled to start for the Tides tonight. Rodriguez would have been on turn if the Orioles summoned him to close out the Rangers series, but he allowed three runs (two earned) and walked four Durham batters in four innings. Calling him up would have countered the reasons why he was sent down.
Those were the scenarios.
The Orioles went with Gibson last night, an extra day of rest more important later in the summer than in the season’s first week. It made sense. And he responded by holding the Rangers to two runs in seven innings.
Voth avoided arbitration by signing for $1.85 million, which might seem steep for a pitcher who was more likely to work out of the bullpen than rotation. But he’s the innings guy out of the ‘pen, with Keegan Akin the closest to a duplicate. Every team needs that type of reliever.
Akin was used in all three games in Boston but totaled only 1 2/3 innings. He made an emergency start last season among his 45 appearances. Employing him as an opener today opposite Rangers starter Jacob deGrom wouldn’t have been wandering too far outside the box.
Instead, the Orioles called up Rodriguez, certainly the popular choice among fans still steaming over his demotion. The Texas native couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
Voth and Akin are able to back up Rodriguez if he struggles the second time through the order.
Can never have enough pitching, never have enough starters.