Orioles reduce rotation to five starters by changing Flaherty's role

HOUSTON – Jack Flaherty is moving to the bullpen.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is starting Kyle Bradish in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale in Houston, and rookie Grayson Rodriguez gets the ball Thursday night in Cleveland.

In a six-man rotation, Flaherty would have taken his next turn Thursday in his eighth game with the Orioles since the deadline trade. He’s carrying a 7.11 ERA and 1.674 WHIP in 31 2/3 innings since leaving the Cardinals.

Flaherty hasn’t worked more than 4 2/3 innings in three starts this month, and he hasn’t reached the same level of effectiveness as in his debut in Toronto, when he allowed one run in six frames.

The switch to relief isn’t necessarily a permanent assignment.

“Starting tonight, Flaherty’s going to be available out of the ‘pen. It’s a move for today right now,” Hyde said.

“This is a Sept. 19 thing, and I like the way (John) Means threw the ball last night. We have five starters. If we lose one, he’s back in. So, we’ll just see what happens.”

Flaherty has made four relief appearances among his 129 games in the majors, the most recent on Oct. 4, 2022, when he tossed a scoreless seventh inning.

Using Flaherty tonight would require him to work on three days’ rest. He threw 79 pitches in four-plus innings against the Rays on Friday and retired nine of the first 10 batters before Brandon Lowe led off the fourth with a home run.

The stuff appears in flashes and can produce high strikeout totals. And the club is missing a long reliever after optioning Cole Irvin.

“I’m really interested to see what it looks like,” Hyde said. “You’ve seen the fastball to 97, you see the sharp curveball, so let’s see what it looks like out of the ‘pen. Maybe he can be a piece for us. I don’t know. Whether it could be a length guy, maybe it could be a right-on-right guy. We’re looking for that. We’re looking for right-on-right guys. I think it’s worth a shot to take a look.

“He’s been such a pro about it. I’ve been talking to him about it the last few days as a possibility. He’s a total team guy. Really, really impressed with his professionalism. Truly, he really just wants to help this team win somehow, and if he can do it in that way, we’ll see.”

The Orioles clinched a playoff berth Sunday and have a magic number of nine to claim the division title. It isn’t too early to begin thinking about the postseason roster.

“You do a lot in pencil right now,” Hyde said.

“We’re still playing for the division, and so for me that’s our main focus right now is to put our best roster out there knowing that we have tough games ahead of us. A team right behind us. And I think when we get to that point we’ll get to that point, kind of see how we look, roster-wise. But trying to put our best team out there right now and try to win this thing.”

The hamstring cramps that forced Aaron Hicks from last night’s game in the ninth shouldn’t prevent him from playing tonight.

“I saw him moving around today. I think he’s fine,” Hyde said.

Ryan Mountcastle is out of the lineup for the sixth consecutive game with left shoulder discomfort but might be available tonight in the field.

“Mountcastle’s a little bit better,” Hyde said. “I keep saying that every day, but it is true. It’s a little bit better. If we run out of first basemen tonight, I think I’d be able to put him out there.”

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