ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – New Orioles reliever Shintaro Fujinami is traveling from the West Coast and could report to the club on Friday.
“We’ll see,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “We’re not quite there yet.”
Fujinami was acquired from the Athletics last night for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas. The Orioles will make a corresponding roster move after he arrives.
Logan Gillaspie was recalled yesterday and could be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. The decision could hinge on tonight’s bullpen usage.
Fujinami is the second Japanese-born player in Orioles history, joining Koji Uehara from 2009-11. He’s the latest plus fastball, plus splitter pitcher to join the bullpen, his four-seamer increasing in velocity and touching triple digits after the Athletics pulled him from the rotation.
“I think you just look at his video, he’s got great stuff,” Hyde said. “Talked with some Oakland people last night, they’re so encouraged by the progress he’s made this season. He’s throwing really well out of the bullpen, especially the last few weeks to a month.
“You’re always looking to upgrade, always looking to add depth on your roster, and we feel like he’s going to be an impact pitcher for us out of the bullpen.”
Hyde doesn’t know how he’ll use Fujinami except that it’s in relief. The right-hander made seven starts and could provide some length, though he hasn’t gone more than two innings since May 10.
“I think I’ll wait to see him and talk to him and kind of all get together,” Hyde said. “I’m not going to jump the gun on what role I’m going to use him in until I see him and talk to him and let him pitch a little bit. So, we’ll figure that out.”
Reliever Mychal Givens has a locker set up in the visiting clubhouse. He’s working out in Sarasota while on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation.
“He’s still doing is throwing program and some light sides,” Hyde said.
The Orioles are percentage points ahead of the Rays for first place in the American League East, bringing a more intense atmosphere to Tropicana Field for the four-game series.
“You know them well, they know us well, and it’s a really good ballclub over there,” Hyde said. “They didn’t have a very good series last time, but it doesn’t matter when it comes to today. It’s a division rival that we’re looking forward to playing against. We don’t play them very much the rest of the year, so all these games against our division teams, especially these guys, really matter.”
This is the latest that the Orioles (58-37) have sat atop the division since Aug. 12, 2016. Hyde was hired in December 2018.
“I’m proud of our team,” he said. “It’s July 20. I’m proud of our record and what these guys have accomplished, but we have so much more to go and our goal isn’t to be in first on July 20, but to be there at the end of the season. A lot of baseball left. But our guys have played their butts off this whole season. Proud of them, to put themselves in the position we’re in right now. But still a couple months to go.”
Cedric Mullins and John Means are on the injured list but made the trip.
“It’s an exciting series coming up. I’m glad I can actually be here and not shipped off to Sarasota for a rehab,” Mullins said.
“To be around the team, to stay engaged with the games in person, is going to be good.”
Mullins, who’s cleared for baseball activities except running, appreciates how the team kept winning during his first stay on the injured list that lasted almost a month.
“I think that’s the makings of a good team to begin with,” he said. “It’s going to happen. Injuries happen throughout the course of a year. It’s a ton of games, so for guys to be able to step up in those moments kind of defines who we are.”
The Rays have used 31 different pitchers, excluding position players, which is tied with the Reds for the most in the majors. They’ve used 14 starters, tied with the Red Sox, Tigers and A’s for second-most behind the Royals’ 16. But their staff continues to lead the majors with a 3.73 ERA.
Tampa Bay hasn’t been shut out this month but has scored three runs or fewer eight times and been held to one run in five games.