Orioles pregame notes on rotation, bullpen, Hicks, and McCann pitching

SAN DIEGO – The Orioles are keeping their rotation in line for the series in Oakland that begins Friday night.

Kyle Gibson starts the opening game, followed by Cole Irvin and Kyle Bradish. The six-man arrangement isn't changing.

The club didn’t make a roster move today to bring in a fresh bullpen arm. The off-day on Thursday influenced its decision after Jack Flaherty worked only three innings last night and Nick Vespi threw 34 pitches in two innings.

"It's always helpful," said manager Brandon Hyde. "We're not in great shape, but if worse comes to worse, probably could throw a couple guys that I normally wouldn't throw."

Outfielder Aaron Hicks is out of the lineup again due to back soreness. He might be available off the bench.

“Hoping he can go today,” Hyde said. “It’s still just a little bit sore, so we’ll see how he is during the game. He’s going to continue to get treatment. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pinch-hit for us. Not quite sure at this time. I hope so. But then the off-day will help tomorrow.”

Hyde also is hoping that tonight’s game doesn’t spiral out of control and force him into using a position player on the mound.

It’s happened three times this season, with outfielder Ryan McKenna, infielder/outfielder Josh Lester and catcher James McCann.

McCann tossed a scoreless eighth inning last night with the Orioles down 10-1, allowing two hits and inducing three ground balls. He threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes.

Pitch trackers can’t always get proper readings. McCann was shown throwing an “eephus” between 43.5-46 mph to Ha-Seong Kim, topping at 48.3 to Fernando Tatis Jr., dropping to 39.1 against José Azocar, starting off Manny Machado at 53.1 and retiring Xander Bogaerts for the final out at 45.4.

“I think I threw harder warming up in the cage than I did on the field,” McCann said this afternoon.

None of the pitches were labeled beyond "eephus," and McCann wasn't pretending to break out an entire arsenal of stuff.

“See how slow I can throw it and make sure I was throwing strikes," he said. "That’s what I tell position players every time I catch them whenever they pitch is, throw as slow as you can for strikes. The reason why I say that is just because there’s no such thing as throwing it above hitting speed, but there’s something to throwing it below hitting speed. If you’re just kind of out there playing catch, well, then it’s like batting practice. So, I’m a big believer in position players, just see how slow you can throw it and let your defense make some plays.”

Hyde said he didn’t sense any excitement from McCann when giving the backup catcher a look and nod before the bottom of the eighth. McCann didn’t have any professional mound experience.

“It’s just kind of one of those things,” McCann said. “Obviously, we wish we weren’t in that situation, but understanding the situation, we’ve got to save our bullpen. Go out there and try to make them hit it right at guys. One of those things that, no one wants to do it, but you understand in the moment the importance of it for today, for the next few days, just to save our bullpen.

“It’s definitely something I’ll remember. I can’t say that I’ve ever dreamt of doing that, but it’s definitely a memory that I’ll have forever.”

Catcher Adley Rutschman put an arm around McCann’s shoulder as they met at the third base line.

“The only thing I remember is (Adam) Frazier said, ‘Well, that’s how you navigate the top of the lineup. Good job,’” McCann said.

McCann’s wife, Jessica, played the video to twin sons Christian and Kane this morning. McCann made a FaceTime call to them after they got out of school.

A moment that should be shared with family.

“They still had big smiles and thought it was pretty funny,” McCann said.

For however long it lasts, McCann can catch Orioles pitchers knowing that he’s got the 0.00 ERA.

“For the time being,” he said, “I guess I’ve got some bragging rights.”

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