ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The visiting bullpen had a chance today to provide a hint to the identity of Tuesday night’s starter.
The length guy behind Orioles right-hander Tyler Wells would be excused from the guessing game.
Just as interesting as the outcome of today’s game against the Rays.
Wells supplied only 1 2/3 innings, his exit coming after Brandon Lowe’s two-run homer. Félix Bautista made his major league debut, fed Wander Franco 99 mph fastballs and struck him out with a changeup.
Dean Kremer warmed in the bullpen, appearing to eliminate him from the assignment at Camden Yards, but he walked to the dugout while Bautista came back out for a scoreless third. Joey Krehbiel, Bryan Baker and Paul Fry followed in an 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay that completed the sweep.
So much for a tandem setup. And so much for Kremer pitching today or anytime soon. He injured his left oblique on one of his last pitches and seems headed to the injured list. The Orioles are preparing to make a roster move.
The bullpen registered 4 1/3 scoreless innings until the seventh, when the Rays collected four more runs.
“I was piggybacking Dean with Tyler,” Hyde said. “Bautista was going to come in … I didn’t want Dean to start with a runner on base, so it was going to be a clean inning to start, and he felt an oblique strain in the bullpen. We had to make it a bullpen game, which was difficult.”
Kremer never was going to start Tuesday. Spenser Watkins already was emerging as a leading candidate. The 40-man roster has an open spot.
Keegan Akin may ride yesterday’s outstanding performance out of the bullpen into a continuing relief role.
Check back on Tuesday.
The Orioles are 0-3 for the first time since 2007, when they opened in Minnesota. They hadn’t started 0-2 since the 2010 season, avoiding a sweep at Tropicana Field with a 5-4 win. Every game was decided by one run.
They were down by four today after the second inning.
Wells threw 54 pitches and allowed four runs and three hits, with two walks and two strikeouts.
“He just didn’t have his command that he normally has,” Hyde said. “A lot of deep counts.”
Wells was on a shorter pitch count than veteran starters John Means and Jordan Lyles, and he needed 22 to complete a scoreless first inning. He struck out two batters with his slider, sandwiched around Franco’s infield single and stolen base. A misplayed popup in foul territory, with the shift forcing Ramón Urías into a mad sprint past the third base line, kept Wells on the mound longer than necessary.
Consecutive walks and a misplayed comebacker loaded the bases with no outs in the second. Wells let Harold Ramirez’s one-hopper deflect off his glove and roll to the right side, where his backhand flip was late.
Mike Zunino’s fly ball to deep center scored Yandy Diaz. Manuel Margot’s grounder nicked Ryan Mountcastle’s glove on a diving attempt, but he recovered and flipped to Wells for the out as Josh Lowe raced home. Brandon Lowe crushed a 93 mph fastball and the Rays led 4-0.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of positives to take out of it,” Wells said. “The result wasn’t what I wanted it to be, obviously. I felt like I threw competitive pitches. I felt like I nibbled a little bit, but as far as overall locations go, they were right off the plate, and that’s something to improve on. But I threw one bad pitch to Lowe and he took advantage of that.
“It’s definitely different than relieving, though. There’s a lot of things I learned today, a lot of positives to take away from it. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about how my stuff was. Overall location can improve, but those are things you can improve between starts.”
Wells knows he’s got to get quicker outs, especially against the potent lineups he’ll face in the division.
“Not sit there and get foul balled to death,” he said.
“I ended up running out of gas kind of just with the 30 pitches I probably threw that inning. It is what it is. There’s really nothing I could have done about it other than just make better quality pitches. It’s a living and learning experience.”
Bautista struck out Randy Arozarena on a slider to begin the third, gave up a single to Ji-Man Choi, retired Diaz on a liner and induced a ground ball from Josh Lowe that resulted in a force out. Twelve of his 16 pitches were strikes.
“It’s a 6-8, high arm slot, it’s 99 mph,” Hyde said. “Threw a couple of really good sliders, some good splits. It’s a unique look and good stuff. That was the highlight of the day.”
Bautista dedicated the game to his mother, Polonia, who’s celebrating her birthday today in the Dominican Republic. Bautista was pitching for the first time in the majors at age 26, and he’s saving the ball for her.
“More than anything, I feel really blessed to be here today,” he said through interpreter Brandon Quinones. “This is a special moment for me, a special day. Really happy to go out there and compete.
“I was a little bit nervous and anxious, as well.”
Krehbiel, who lives near the Blue Jays’ spring complex in Dunedin, made his Orioles debut in the fourth and tossed two scoreless innings. Baker retired the side in order in the sixth with two strikeouts, but Margot reached on an infield single leading off the seventh, with Rougned Odor making a backhand stop and bouncing the throw past Mountcastle.
Fry, who stranded three runners in the opener, allowed back-to-back groundball singles through a drawn-in infield. Franco collected two RBIs, the second because Brandon Lowe hustled to second base on Mullins’ throw to third. Franco scored on Choi’s double, and Choi came around with two outs on Ramirez’s single for an 8-0 lead.
The Rays collected three runs, four hits and a walk against Fry, who compiled a 34.71 ERA and 5.357 WHIP against them last season in only 4 2/3 innings.
Hyde stayed with Fry in the eighth, and the left-hander issued a leadoff walk before rebounding with a strikeout and double play.
Clutch hitting with runners in scoring position is an early challenge for the Orioles, who have lost 15 in a row to the Rays.
Mountcastle singled with one out in the first inning and Anthony Santander walked, but Trey Mancini struck out and Urías grounded into a force. Mullins led off by striking out for the sixth time in nine at-bats.
Mullins singled and stole second base in the third inning and was stranded. Mancini led off the fourth with a walk and didn’t budge. Mullins walked with two outs in the fifth, Mountcastle singled, left-hander Jeffrey Springs replaced starter Corey Kluber, and Santander flied to deep left-center.
Austin Hays led off the seventh with a double off left-hander Jalen Beeks and Jorge Mateo walked. Pinch-hitter Chris Owings and Mullins struck out, and Mountcastle flied to the center field warning track.
Mancini doubled with one out in the eighth, the ball slamming into the top of the fence in left-center, and he was stranded, making the Orioles 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-24 over the weekend.
The Orioles struck out 13 times today and 37 in the series.
“This is a tough way to start the season,” Hyde said.
“It’s a tough series for us offensively,” Hays said. “I thought our pitchers did a pretty good job this series keeping us in the game and giving us a chance. … We made some adjustments the second and third game and drew a few more walks, got a few more guys on base, tightened up the zone a little bit.
“We had a couple nice swings with guys on base. Santander, I thought he got that ball to left-center, and Mounty with two guys on, he hit a ball up against the wall in center. So, we put some good swings on balls on some good pitches to hit with guys on base. Just unfortunately they didn’t fall.”
Down on the farm, outfielder Hudson Haskin hit three home runs at Double-A Bowie. Jordan Westburg also homered.
Antonio Velez, acquired from the Marlins in the Tanner Scott/Cole Sulser trade, tossed four scoreless innings with one hit allowed and seven strikeouts.
Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Robert Neustrom had three hits, including a home run. Catcher Jacob Nottingham also homered.
Outfielder Kyle Stowers hasn’t played since being hit on the hand in Tuesday’s opener, but it’s just a bruise and he’s improving.
Update: The Orioles optioned DJ Stewart to Triple-A Norfolk after the game. The corresponding move will be announced on Monday.
Stewart went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the series.