Reliving the relief situation in Baltimore

Austin Voth’s injury rehab assignment moved to Triple-A Norfolk yesterday, his third affiliate on the road to a return from elbow soreness that’s plagued him at various times since spring training.

Updates on three other relievers – Mychal Givens, Dillon Tate and Keegan Akin – have been scarce at best. But Voth could be close to reinstatement unless the Orioles choose to use the entire 30 days.

Or if they put heavy emphasis on results.

Voth lasted two-thirds of an inning and was charged with two earned runs and three total, with three hits, a walk and two strikeouts. He threw 33 pitches, 21 for strikes.

He’s lurking either way, a pitcher who’s out of minor league options and capable of providing length out of the bullpen when healthy.

Ah, the bullpen.

It’s a magnet for trade deadline talk despite the 3.73 ERA that ranked sixth yesterday in the majors. The expected priority of the Orioles before 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The unit doesn’t include a Triple-A shuttle guy. Logan Gillaspie, Bruce Zimmermann and Nick Vespi are back with Norfolk. Eduard Bazardo was here and gone.

There isn’t an obvious counter move for Voth or an outsider.

Cole Irvin was moved from the rotation to bullpen, covered four innings on July 18 and didn’t pitch again until the eighth inning Wednesday night. His ERA has dropped from 7.71 on June 21 to 5.27.

Irvin could be optioned again and start for Norfolk, but performance wouldn’t dictate it.

Shintaro Fujinami isn’t going anyway after the Orioles acquired him from Oakland for Triple-A pitcher Easton Lucas. That’s a power arm in theory to carry leads to Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista on nights that they’re available. Or to fill in for them.

Danny Coulombe is out of options and having a terrific season after the Orioles acquired him from the Twins on March 27 for cash considerations. He’s posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.154 WHIP in 42 appearances, has surrendered only three home runs, is averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and has allowed only nine of 35 inherited runners to score. He stays.

(The Twins might want to block calls from the warehouse.)

He’s also hopped into Cionel Pérez’s old role with the lefty’s regression this summer.

Which brings us to Pérez, who’s out of options. His ERA has grown from 1.40 last year to 4.81, his WHIP from 1.162 to 1.842, his hits per nine innings from 7.2 to 11.0, and his walks from 3.3 to 5.6.

Pérez had five scoreless outings in a row before going on the injured list, allowed two runs with three walks in an inning after returning, had back-to-back strong outings at Tropicana Field, earned his second career save Monday in Philadelphia after stranding two of his runners, and let all three batters reach Wednesday. Nine of his 22 inherited runners have scored.

The Orioles want to get him on track, remembering how he was such a weapon last summer. High-velo lefties are sweet commodities. But they also need to be able to trust him in a pennant race.

Bryan Baker has two options, and he isn’t pitching at quite the level of his 2022 season. He’s been charged with only two runs this month in eight innings, but 14 of 30 inherited runners have scored this season, and his 46.7 percentage was seventh-highest in the majors yesterday among qualified relievers. One run was prevented in Philadelphia with Jorge Mateo’s relay nabbing Bryce Harper at the plate.

The Orioles would like to see a reduction in walks. He’s averaging 5.1 per nine innings compared to 3.4 in 2022. But they already saw Baker string together 15 consecutive scoreless appearances beginning April 2, and come back later with shorter bursts of effectiveness.  

Mike Baumann has emerged as a valuable middle and high-leverage reliever after the Orioles switched his role late in camp. He’s off the shuttle. Finally.

How many people thought that Baumann would break camp with the team and stay with it?

I think Bautista and Cano are safe.

I also think the ocean is salty and Whole Foods is pricey.

One of the many tasks for manager Brandon Hyde is finding rest for the dynamic duo. They always want the ball, and the Orioles usually need them to take it. But we’re still in July and fatigue is real.

Hence, the reason why the bullpen is a focal point in trade discussions.

Because of the unpredictable nature of rosters and the deadline, beyond Shohei Ohtani not coming to Baltimore, I’ll mention how the Orioles could trade for a starter and bump one of their rotation arms to the ‘pen. Also creating a numbers complication.

Notes: Norfolk left-hander Darwinzon Hernández was released yesterday.

Hernández, whose contract was purchased from the Red Sox in January, appeared in 27 games and had a 2.96 ERA and 1.171 WHIP with 19 walks and 37 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.

Chayce McDermott tossed five scoreless relief innings yesterday for the Tides, allowing two hits and striking out seven. Heston Kjerstad doubled and hit his sixth home run. Connor Norby had three hits, including his 26th double.

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