Pitching in with a few ideas about the Orioles' unsettled staff

I wrote Thursday that a week had passed since the Orioles made their last transaction, and the most recent move impacting the 40-man roster came Jan. 11 with the acquisition of left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez from the Red Sox.

And then what happened?

Austin Voth avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a $1.85 million contract that included a team option for 2024. A few hours later, the Orioles announced their acquisition of left-hander Cole Irvin from the Athletics, which caused Hernandez to be designated for assignment.

Irvin’s video call with the media was held Friday morning, and shortly after that the Orioles announced that they signed first baseman Curtis Terry to a minor league contract.

The sounds of silence were shattered.

The Orioles haven’t shared their list of spring training invites, which they’re still in the process of compiling. Terry could be among the guests.

Terry seems like another Triple-A depth move, countering first basemen Lewin Díaz and Ryan O’Hearn by batting from the right side. Díaz and O’Hearn will try to win jobs in camp backing up Ryan Mountcastle, two of the many left-handed hitters brought in over the winter.

Nothing interests me more than the team’s rotation plans, which also impact the bullpen. How it handles the overflow of starters. Who is impacted most by Irvin’s arrival.

Could the Orioles find a way to use six starters in a five-man rotation? It isn’t without precedent.

They needed to piggyback Tyler Wells early last season as he made the transition from Rule 5 reliever to starter, and with spring training shortened by the lockout. One possible idea is to use Wells as a second starter behind rookie Grayson Rodriguez, with the top pitching prospect eased into the majors and the Orioles intent on monitoring his innings without having to shut him down.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe this approach allows the Orioles to keep Irvin, Rodriguez, Kyle Gibson, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer in the rotation, with DL Hall working in left-handed relief, where he began to excel in September.

Voth could be a long reliever/swingman if he fails to win a starting job. Bruce Zimmermann, Spenser Watkins and Mike Baumann remain on the 40-man roster and could fight to stake out their own territory on the pitching staff.

An eight-man bullpen could hold at least two left-handers in Hall and Cionel Pérez. Keegan Akin isn’t a lock after fading in 2022, and he still has one minor league option, but a strong camp could put him back in the ‘pen on opening day.

Nick Vespi is recovering from hernia surgery and won’t be ready on March 30. He’s out of the spring competition.

We’re back to anointing Pérez, Félix Bautista, Mychal Givens, Dillon Tate and Bryan Baker as locks and wondering about the rest. Voth is out of minor league options and in the ‘pen if he isn’t starting. My guess, and that’s all it is right now, is that the Orioles would rather have Hall working in relief than starting at Triple-A Norfolk because strengthening that unit is so important.

Andrew Politi is trying to overcome the odds and stay as a Rule 5 selection. The Givens signing didn’t help his cause, and the more starting candidates who tumble into the ‘pen, the more likely that he rolls out of town. But he’ll get a long look in camp.

Joey Krehbiel is counting on the Orioles judging him more by his first half, with the 2.18 ERA and 0.970 WHIP, than his second, with the 6.20 ERA and 1.581 WHIP before they optioned him in late September.

If Wells, Voth and Hall settle into the bullpen, the relief count grows to eight and we’re done.

Camp injuries jumble the whole thing, which is one reason why you never have enough pitching.

The 40-man roster remains at full capacity. Any other additions must come with a corresponding move.

Here’s how it stacks up:

Keegan Akin
Brian Baker
Mike Baumann
Félix Bautista
Kyle Bradish
Yennier Canó
Noah Denoyer
Kyle Gibson
Logan Gillaspie
Mychal Givens
DL Hall
Cole Irvin
Seth Johnson
Joey Krehbiel
Dean Kremer
John Means
Cionel Pérez
Andrew Politi
Grayson Rodriguez
Drew Rom
Dillon Tate
Nick Vespi
Austin Voth
Spenser Watkins
Tyler Wells
Bruce Zimmermann

James McCann
Adley Rutschman

Adam Frazier
Gunnar Henderson
Jorge Mateo
Ryan Mountcastle
Joey Ortiz
Ramón Urías
Terrin Vavra

Austin Hays
Ryan McKenna
Cedric Mullins
Anthony Santander
Kyle Stowers

Having 26 pitchers makes it easy to target where the Orioles would subtract by designating someone for assignment unless a position player is traded.  

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