Asked what he’s looking for today from starter Cole Irvin, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t miss a beat. He blurted out a response with an impressive exit velocity.
“Nine,” he said.
Every inning is appreciated.
“I’d love to have Cole go as deep in the game as possible,” Hyde said. “Maybe we can swing the bat and give him some run support and play better defense than we’ve played. That’s been bothering me. We need to play better defense, really how we did last year. We played great defense last year and we’ve got to get back to that.
“I want to see Cole go as deep as he can and give us a chance.”
And give the relievers a break.
The bullpen is gassed, and the option rules prevent the Orioles from recalling a reliever until 15 days have passed. A contract can be selected, but 40-man moves are restricted.
“It’s been a challenge,” Hyde said. “I think that we’ve got some tired arms down there. It hasn’t been the easiest. We’re .500 and we could be a lot better than that. We still have not played our best baseball, by any means. We just have to improve in a lot of areas.”
Mychal Givens is throwing another bullpen session today and nearing an injury rehab assignment. Dillon Tate isn’t coming back before May.
Their absences due to injuries are hurting the club.
“Dillon Tate’s been a go-to guy for me in big spots the last couple years and done a great job,” Hyde said. “Tough right-on-right matchup, got better against left-handed hitters, also. And then, Mychal Givens has been a solid reliever for a long time in this league. But injuries happen, things are going to happen throughout the year, and that’s why you have to have guys be able to step up. We’re not going to have the same bullpen or same rotation all year long. We’re going to have to find a way.
“Those two guys are key pieces for us and we’ve missed them so far this year, but we’re going to miss other key pieces along the way, and to be a winning club in this league you’re going to have to have other guys step up.”
Outfielder Anthony Santander took batting practice this morning and his back has improved. He wasn’t available last night but should be an option today for Hyde.
“Woke up today feeling better,” Hyde said. “Treatment all morning.”
Gunnar Henderson is the cleanup hitter after last night’s single snapped an 0-for-15 streak. He’s batting .147 with a .606 OPS, 10 walks and 17 strikeouts in 44 plate appearances.
“A little bit a young player pressing,” Hyde said. “Like to see him go back to what he does really well, which is hit line drives in the middle part of the field the other way and not try to do too much with one swing. I think it’s getting a little locked up, being too patient at times. I’d like to see him be a little bit more aggressive in the strike zone early in the count, fastballs early in the count, and I think he’s just finding himself in 0-1 holes a lot and then trying to dig his way out of some bad counts almost every at-bat right now.”
Hyde is trying to get Henderson to relax, take his mind off the struggles, keep the positive tones flowing.
“Anything but baseball a little bit right now,” Hyde said. “I just know he’s trying so hard.”
Moving up Henderson to fourth today is proof that the club believes in him, and also a nod to finally seeing an opposing right-handed starter. And Santander being on the bench.
“It’s more a matchup-based thing and Santander’s not in there,” Hyde said. “Still think that Gunner could have a big day. There’s no loss of confidence there.”
The Orioles selected first baseman Ryan O’Hearn’s contract this morning from Triple-A Norfolk and he’s in today’s lineup. Catcher Anthony Bemboom was designated for assignment after going 0-for-2 with a walk in two games.
“Ryan swung the bat really well for us in spring training, it’s a guy that’s been around the big leagues for a little while, and it adds another left-handed bat for us against, we’ve got four right-handed starters coming up. Happy to have him,” Hyde said.
“It’s unfortunate with Bemboom. We love Bemboom and he’s such a pro and he’s such a team guy and a really good catcher, so hoping the best for him.”
O’Hearn was batting .300/.349/.725 (12-for-40) with three doubles, a triple, four home runs, 11 RBIs, three walks and 13 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances with Norfolk.
“I think you never really know what’s going to happen until it happens, especially in this game, but kind of anticipating. I felt like I was playing well and if there was a move that was going to happen, I was hoping, obviously, that it was going to be me,” he said this morning.
“Excited to be here, ready to go, ready to help the team. Seems like there’s really good vibes going on, and guys are having fun. I’m excited to be a part of that.”
O’Hearn slashed .375/.444/.650 with two doubles and three home runs in 18 exhibition games but couldn’t avoid the last cuts. He shrugged it off and put up numbers with Norfolk that got him back to the majors.
“That’s part of the game,” he said. “It’s not easy to do that. You’ve got to get yourself in the right mind frame and really be where your feet are. Just dive into the competition, dive into the game. I look at it as, if I’m in Triple-A at that time, I’m trying to be the best player in the league, and I feel like I played pretty well, obviously gave myself an opportunity to come back up. I feel like this is where I belong and this is, obviously, where I want to be. I’m very excited to be here.
“I feel like I had quality at-bats. Competed, had quality at-bats. Hit a couple homers. I was slugging the ball well. Bounced around between first and the outfield. Nothing different than what I’m trying to do here, and same thing I was trying to do in spring training. Just be myself in the clubhouse, show up and play hard and compete, and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Orioles didn’t wait to get him acclimated to big league pitching, putting him in the lineup against Oakland right-hander Adam Oller.
“It’s always tough when you come up, and it’s happened to me in the past before, you come up and you wait a few days and then maybe you get a pinch-hit or something,” he said, “but it’s nice to come in and get my feet wet. Hopefully, compete and win a baseball game today with these guys and hit the ground running.”
O’Hearn is getting caught up on the new celebrations: the sprinkler for extra-base hits and the home run hose.
“I think I need a briefing from Gibby (Kyle Gibson) or from somebody, but I’ve got the gist of it,” he said, laughing. “It’s called the homer hose, I know that. Not the dong bong or whatever.”