There are a lot of questions to be answered for the Orioles between now and Opening Day 2024 on March 28 versus the Los Angeles Angels.
The makeup of the pitching staff and starting rotation is a big one.
If the Orioles add a starter who could slot into the top half of their rotation – something they have said they seek – it will be getting pretty crowded in that starting five.
There are already the quartet of Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer who could easily take four of the five slots. A new addition could grab the last spot.
So where does that leave everybody else, including lefty DL Hall, once one of baseball’s top pitching prospects and right-hander Tyler Wells, a pitcher who had a 3.18 ERA as a starter at the 2023 All-Star break? And a pitcher who on the last day of the first-half led MLB in WHIP at 0.90.
Both those pitchers, with their considerable talents and both who finished pitching very well late last year, could be part of the 2024 bullpen. At least at the start of the year.
When he spoke to the media at his season-ending press conference in October, executive vice-president and general manager Mike Elias said he was not ready to address roster specifics for next season yet. A specific like whether Hall and Wells are starters or relievers now?
"Both of those guys had difficult years,” Elias said then. “Tyler Wells, to start the season and be disappointed he didn’t make the All-Star team. And then, for whatever reason, kind of run out of gas or just not have the weapons at your disposal you are used to in the second-half, go to Triple-A, get through that and he came up and pitched like nails in a playoff race at a time when he was badly needed. That was inspiring to watch, and I wasn’t surprised. We were counting on him, and he came through.
“DL, all the injuries and then going to Florida. He was off the grid and just got it all together at the exact perfect moment when we needed him most is one of the many things I’m proud of with this group of guys.”
Both Hall and Wells clearly have the pitches to be starters. But if they do get pushed to the bullpen to the begin the year, the pitching staff’s depth could really be something to begin next year.
They could pick up where they left off last year.
As a reminder the Orioles’ 3.89 season-ending team ERA ranked fifth-best in the American League and was just a few points behind Tampa Bay at third at 3.86. In the second-half, the team ERA of 3.58 was first in the AL and third in MLB. In that half the Orioles went 47-26 (.644) playing at a 104-win pace.
The Orioles gave up 21 runs in being swept by Texas in the American League Division Series. That is the last impression of the 2023 season, but the bigger sample of the full year is more representative of what they could do next season.
Wells returned from his trip to the minors to throw five hitless and scoreless innings late last year. He looked great. Hall pitched to a 3.26 ERA in the majors and his nearly six-week trip mid-summer to Florida to build arm strength and regain velocity worked perfectly. In his last 10 2/3 innings over nine games counting two playoff games, he allowed just four hits and one unearned run, allowing four hits in 37 at-bats (.108).
Manager Brandon Hyde was raving about him at his season-ending presser.
“I’m just so excited about how he threw the ball in September and how he threw the ball on the national stage. Whatever we decide to do with him, he’s going to be a huge part of our team next year. That was an unbelievable performance the two games he pitched in the postseason. And he wasn’t really stretched out to those two-type innings either. Just the way it fell, and he was just fantastic. Down the stretch and in the postseason, he showed everybody the kind of pitcher we’ve been waiting for and he’s going to be a big impact for us going forward.”
Pretty high praise there.
In Hall and Wells the O's have two real good ones. Now we wait to find out how they will be deployed come March and April.