Camp long shot Andrew Suarez made a nice first impression

andrew suarez photo day

SARASOTA, Fla. – If you call non-roster invite pitcher Andrew Suarez a long shot to make the Orioles roster, the left-hander completely understands that. And probably agrees with you.

He can also glance at the roster of a team that won 101 games last season and realize his chances to be on it for Opening Day are indeed, well, long.

But he has made a nice first and for that matter, second impression, throwing two scoreless innings twice already. So he has four scoreless allowing just one hit so far in spring games, both against Atlanta.

Suarez is no kid.

He’s 31 and was drafted three times, finally signing with the San Francisco Giants after being taken in the second round in 2015. By 2018, he was a regular starting pitcher in the Giants rotation, making 29 starts with an ERA of 4.49. But he hasn’t had as many chances or found as much success in the majors since.

Continue reading

A take on how the bullpen could look for the opener

Bruce Zimmermann black jersey

It’s still very early in spring training but never too early to take a shot at guesses – and that is what they truly are, guesses – at the makeup of the Opening Day roster.

Today I will take a shot at projecting an eight-man bullpen that would work behind a starting group of five pitching in some order to include Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin and Tyler Wells beginning March 28.

At the back-end closing games is righty Craig Kimbrel, who will have that job for the opener barring a big surprise or an injury issue.

The Orioles, minus Félix Bautista for this season after his surgery, will be turning over the job to a very experienced pitcher who is a nine-time All Star that ranks eighth all-time with 417 saves.

He led the NL in saves four straight years from 2011-2014 and has 11 seasons of 20 or more saves.

Continue reading

Burnes' impact on Orioles bullpen and other camp competitions

Tyler Wells orange jersey

I’ve written about the end of a traditional spring training storyline, the blame falling upon the broad shoulders of James McCann. Only an injury can spark a debate over the identity of the backup catcher.

It’s happening again with the Opening Day starter.

The Orioles didn’t trade for Corbin Burnes to put him behind someone else in the rotation. The announcement is a formality. Manager Brandon Hyde will be asked about it multiple times in camp, probably in a joking manner. Or for planning purposes, allowing beat writers to launch their stories.

Kyle Gibson wasn’t the immediate choice last winter, but he morphed into the favorite in Sarasota based on his experience, impressive results and the lack of an obvious alternative. If not him, whom?

John Means was handed the ball in back-to-back seasons, after losing the assignment to Tommy Milone in 2020 – yes, Tommy Milone – due to a “tired arm.”

Continue reading

Nats want to bridge gap between "A" and "B" bullpens

Kyle Finnegan white jersey

The high point of the 2023 season for the Nationals undoubtedly came in August. Specifically, a 22-game stretch from Aug. 2-26 that saw the team go 16-6 and start catching the attention of the rest of the league, which had all but ignored this organization the entire season to that point.

The remarkable thing about that stretch? The Nats didn’t dominate the opposition. The combined score of those games was 106-104. They just found a way to win the late innings, whether rallying to score the go-ahead run or preventing the other team from doing so. The result: They went 8-1 in one-run games during that period.

It requires outstanding bullpen work to do that, and the Nationals got outstanding work from four relievers in particular who were trusted by manager Davey Martinez to pitch the final innings of close games: Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Jordan Weems and Andres Machado.

Collectively, those four guys made 43 appearances in those 22 games, totaling 40 2/3 innings. They delivered a 1.55 ERA, 1.057 WHIP and 10 saves (nine from Finnegan, one from Harvey).

The Nationals won all 13 games Finnegan pitched. They won 11-of-12 games Weems pitched and 6-of-7 games Harvey pitched after returning from the injured list mid-month.

Continue reading

A look at the potential for O's bullpen after Kimbrel addition

Craig Kimbrel

The addition last week of right-hander Craig Kimbrel as Orioles closer certainly could be big for the Birds, who will play the 2024 season without All-Star closer Felix Bautista.

In fact, we could come up with a potential Opening Day O’s eight-man bullpen right now that features four lefties and four right-handers and looks quite strong on paper. And it does not even include Mike Baumann, Jacob Webb or Bryan Baker.

You start with Kimbrel at the back-end, pitching the ninth and looking to add to a resume that includes nine All-Star games and 417 career saves – eighth-most in MLB history.

Some of the criticism of this move is a bit surprising.

For one, he pitched so well last year after early May and yes, we know he had a couple of rough games in the NL Championship Series. But it doesn’t wash away all that happened before that, and he helped get them there.

Continue reading

Rotation depth could push some real talent to O's bullpen in 2024

Tyler wells

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.

Continue reading

Bigger winter priority: Starting rotation or bullpen?

DL Hall black jersey

The question of do the Orioles more need a starting pitcher or a reliever may well be asked but isn’t the answer probably “both.” And can’t they get both?

Not only can they, they probably will. They surely can multi-task and it’s very unlikely that any one addition will keep them from making another. Even in the same spot on the roster, that spot being the pitching staff.

What is their biggest need is subjective to all of us pondering the question and whatever we come up with may or may not match the team’s thinking and that is the one that counts the most.

And unless they make a major expenditure here and sign someone to a larger than expected contract, adding someone as a starter or reliever is not likely to impact the addition of the other.

When it comes to the market, how that plays out may also determine in what order the Orioles proceed here. It takes two to tango and sometimes players and their agents want to wait to see others sign before as they say, “setting the market.”

Continue reading

Even without Bautista, O's look to 'pen in close games with Tampa Bay

Danny Coulombe

In the first nine games this year between the Orioles and Tampa Bay, the Orioles went 6-3 and they were 6-0 in games decided by two runs or less. 

But in the series opener last night in Baltimore, Tampa Bay won a close one by 4-3 on Luke Raley's tiebreaking homer in the seventh. The Rays bullpen put up four perfect innings to protect that lead. The Rays 'pen has thrown 34 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

Tonight, the Orioles hope their 'pen gets a chance to protect a late lead.

Then we will find out - Can the Orioles win close games against Tampa Bay without closer Félix Bautista?

It is really a question they are going to have answer the rest of the way and a big question for October playoff baseball.

Continue reading

Coulombe's strong season continues as 'pen tries to overcome Bautista's injury

Coulombe and McCann celebrate

As they continue to navigate life in the Orioles bullpen for now without closer Félix Bautista, the Orioles relievers are going to do their best to overcome this loss. But they know this pitcher can’t be easily replaced – if at all.

“I think it’s going to give some guys an opportunity to step up,” said bullpen lefty Danny Coulombe in an interview last night on the Orioles Radio Network. “Obviously you cannot replace him, but we are going to have to step up and move on. We’re going to have to.

“Not only is Bautista a great pitcher, but a great guy too. We love him in the clubhouse. Hard to lose a guy with the year he was having. He is my vote for Cy Young – at least in the top five.”

But maybe the bullpen is better positioned now to withstand this injury than it would have been earlier in the season. Coulombe has returned from the injured list. DL Hall has arrived. Yennier Cano recently threw 11 straight scoreless appearances. Jacob Webb has an ERA of 1.86 as an Oriole. Cionel Pérez has not allowed an earned run his last 12 outings. Shintaro Fujinami has thrown four straight scoreless games.

“Yeah, absolutely,” said Coulombe of the ‘pen’s recent performance. “We’re going to do the best we can and just take it pitch-by-pitch and day-by-day and hopefully keep having success.”

Continue reading

A few more thoughts on Wells reliving his reliever days

Tyler Wells vs. TB

The Orioles are a long way from setting their pitching staff for the postseason. As manager Brandon Hyde reminds us, he’s just trying to get through each game and hope that no one else is injured.

He won’t count his playoff chickens before clinching is official and the team can hatch a plan.

However, some light was shed yesterday on its bullpen strategy.

Tyler Wells is going back to his former relief role at Triple-A Norfolk beginning tonight, with the Orioles shortening his appearances to freshen an arm that can be used as a weapon. The decision made after he posted a 3.18 ERA and 0.927 WHIP, for a time the lowest in the majors, during a first half that created some chatter about his candidacy for the All-Star team.

Three starts after the break rattled his season.

Continue reading

Martinez managing bullpen on daily basis to win games

martinez blue

Davey Martinez always lives in the present. He has the mantras to prove it.

Go 1-0 today. Be where your feet are. One pitch, one at-bat, one inning, one game at a time.

And even as the Nationals organization builds toward a bigger picture of success in the future, that’s how the skipper has managed his team to an already higher win total than last year.

That’s how he used his strong, yet exhausted bullpen in last night’s 8-7 win over the Phillies. After the Nats rallied to take a 7-6 lead in the fourth, Martinez used six relievers to close out the last five innings en route to victory. That included his top bullpen guys Jordan Weems, Andrés Machado, Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan, who was pitching for the third straight day.

“Losing's not fun. I don't like losing,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “So when you feel like you have an opportunity to really win a game, then you take that opportunity. Yesterday was one of those games where we knocked the starter out and we got into the bullpen. I felt like some of our guys were still fresh enough to be able to pitch yesterday. So we went for it and it worked out well. Today might be a different story, but we'll see. We'll play today, Jake Irvin's gonna start for us. I hope he gives us what he's been giving us. And if he does that, then we have another opportunity to go 1-0 today.”

Continue reading

Reliving the relief situation in Baltimore

Cionel Perez

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.

Continue reading

Bautista on bouncing back from blown save

Felix Bautista

The same whistle played and the same video appeared with the flashing ballpark lights. The crowd roared as usual, quick to forgive the previous day’s blown save.

Félix Bautista wanted the ball again Sunday afternoon. He understands the life of a reliever, and how failings are magnified in the ninth.

The memory of the two-out, game-tying home run that he surrendered to Mike Ford disappeared like his first-pitch four-seamer. Bautista recorded back-to-back strikeouts, allowed a single and blew away another hitter to preserve a 3-2 lead.

The tying run stood on second base after a steal. Bautista’s first pitch to Teoscar Hernández was clocked at 103.4 mph, the fastest by an Oriole in the Statcast era that began in 2015.

How did we live without it?

Continue reading

Off to good start, O's offense scores well in a few surprising areas of stat sheet

Anthony Ssantander

As the Orioles offense has gotten off to a productive start to this season – and they rank among the AL leaders in several categories, including very important ones like runs per game, team OBP and OPS, walks and pitches per plate appearance – there are a few stats where they are at or near the top of the league that might be surprising.

As of Monday, the Orioles lead the American League with 13 sac flies which is two more than the next closest team, Cleveland with 11 with the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers next with 10. Anthony Santander is the O’s leader with three sac flies while Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle and Adley Rutschman have two each.

Sometimes it is important to get that run in with less than two outs from third. Heck, when is it not? Sunday at Detroit – in a game the O’s would win 5-3 – Mountcastle led off the fifth with a double and then Kyle Stowers moved him up a base by hitting the ball on the right side for a groundout. Austin Hays' fly ball to right got him in. Beautiful - get him on, get him over, get him in.

This was an area where the Orioles were not always proficient. Last year they did okay, ranking seventh in the AL with 43 sac flies. They would have 75 this year producing them at their current pace.

The Orioles are also tied for the AL lead to this point with Oakland with six sac bunts. They ranked seventh in the league in 2022 with 12 all year. Mateo, Cedric Mullins and Terrin Vavra have two each. Those that believe “never bunt” will not like this stat but there are times advancing a runner seems pretty important.

Continue reading

O's game blog: O's look for a series win against the Boston Red Sox


After one comeback from four runs down that led to a win and one from seven behind that fell short, the Orioles (15-8) host the Boston Red Sox (13-12) today in the final game of a three-game series and six-game homestand.

Baltimore is 4-1 this homestand after a series sweep of Detroit followed by Monday’s 5-4 win at Oriole Park and last night’s 8-6 loss. The O’s were behind 7-0 in the third inning to Boston on Tuesday and 8-1 heading to the last of the ninth. But then Gunnar Henderson hit a solo home run, Cedric Mullins added a grand slam, and they pulled within the final two-run margin.

The Orioles are 2-3 this year against Boston. Their pitching staff has allowed 9, 9. 9, 4 and 8 runs in those games, yielding 39 runs with an ERA of 7.42 and 1.626 WHIP. Boston batters are hitting .307 with an OPS of .888 versus O’s pitching in 2023.

"We haven't pitched very well against the Red Sox this year," O's manager Brandon Hyde said this morning. "That is a good offensive club. Always been a big Justin Turner fan, that is a big add for them and (Rafael) Devers is one of the best hitters in our game, top three to five, super dangerous. They have a real balanced lineup with a lot of lefties that makes it challenging. But I just think we haven't pitched very well against them. Won't see them again until September, little different this year."

Baltimore’s starters in this series – Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish – have combined to allow 15 hits and 11 runs over eight innings. And O’s pitching has allowed eight runs or more six times this season – four times versus Boston.

Continue reading

Again pondering what's happening with the Orioles' 'pen

Felix Bautista Orange Jersey

SARASOTA, Fla. – Just as the Orioles appear closer to deciding on their eight relievers for Opening Day, they toss another grenade into the projections and mocks that already are ill-equipped to instill absolute confidence.

I’m expanding my locks to six, with Dillon Tate absent due to the forearm strain that’s kept him out of games but closer Félix Bautista back in the mix.

Bautista is pitching later today against the Phillies in Clearwater, increasing his number of games and innings to three. He’s expected to make another appearance Thursday night against the Tigers in Sarasota. The big man inching closer to that charter flight to Boston.

Cionel Pérez, Mychal Givens and Bryan Baker already were secure. Baker had a nice bounce back outing yesterday with a scoreless sixth inning, striking out a batter and allowing just a soft single from Ji-Man Choi to the opposite field. He retired Oneil Cruz and Carlos Santana on fly balls and fanned Bryan Reynolds.

Baker insisted that felt good on the mound and the results would get better. Not an ounce of concern from the reliever or anyone else in the organization. And yesterday proved why.

Continue reading

Finnegan not concerned about specific role in Nats bullpen

Kyle Finnegan throw gray Mothers Day cap

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Finnegan has come a long way in three seasons with the Nationals since signing a major league contract as a minor league free agent in December 2019.

The 31-year-old went from unknown rookie who flashed impressive stuff in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to trusted reliever who fizzled out late in 2021 to de facto closer in his first complete major league season in 2022.

Now entering his fourth season with the club, the right-hander isn’t too concerned about his role in the Nationals bullpen. He just knows he’ll make most of his appearances in the later innings.

“Back end of the bullpen, which you know is up for hot hand-type situations,” Finnegan said of his role this season. “I was told I'll get some chances back there, but we also have so many good guys that we can play matchups a little bit and bring guys in in different situations. So I think kind of building off last year, we've got a lot of guys that are feeling confident and having success. Having too many guys is always a good thing.”

Too many guys is a good thing, especially when the inevitable injury bug hits that part of the roster, as was the case last year when Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey went down in the first couple of months with season-ending injuries.

Continue reading

Is there room for Colomé in crowded Nats bullpen?

Mason Thompson throwing gray

In some respects, the Nationals’ signing of veteran reliever Alex Colomé to a minor league deal Friday makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t this team take a chance on a 34-year-old with 159 saves and a 3.34 ERA over 446 career big league appearances, especially on a contract that won’t cost them anything unless he makes the club out of spring training?

But will he actually make the club? Is there room for Colomé in a bullpen that already looked plenty deep on paper prior to his signing?

The unquestioned strength of the Nationals during a dismal 2022 season, the bullpen returns almost entirely intact in 2023. Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr. and Hunter Harvey all avoided arbitration and agreed to affordable one-year deals. Erasmo Ramirez, so valuable last season as a jack of all trades, re-signed for a guaranteed $1 million, with the possibility of earning another $1 million in incentives.

Mason Thompson, who impressed in limited big league time last season, is back and should be given a good look as a potential long-term piece. Thad Ward, the top pick in the Rule 5 draft, has to make the team and stay in the majors or else be offered back to the Red Sox. And conventional wisdom suggests the Nats will keep either Paolo Espino or Cory Abbott as a long reliever and emergency starter.

So that’s seven spots right there, and we haven’t even mentioned Sean Doolittle, attempting to return from an elbow procedure and serve as the only left-hander in the 'pen. Or Victor Arano and Jordan Weems, who seemingly are in the mix but are likely saddled by the fact each still has minor league options.

Continue reading

Nats add veteran reliever Colomé on minor league deal


The Nationals added another experienced reliever this afternoon to what already looked like a deep bullpen, signing veteran right-hander Alex Colomé to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.

Colomé, 34, isn’t guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster and will have to prove himself during spring training. But his lengthy track record as a late-inning reliever should give him a leg up over others trying to break camp with the club.

The Nationals have long been intrigued by Colomé, his name having come up several times in the past when they were searching for late-inning help at the trade deadline. Only now, on the heels of back-to-back rough seasons with the Twins and Rockies, is he finally joining the club.

Owner of 159 career saves, Colomé was an All-Star with a 1.91 ERA in 2016 and closed out 47 games for the Rays in 2017, leading the league.

Traded the following year to the Mariners – along with former Nationals center fielder Denard Span – he continued to enjoy success in Seattle and then in Chicago with the White Sox. At the end of the 2020 season, he sported a 2.95 ERA and 1.177 WHIP across 326 big league appearances.

Continue reading

Will a unit that was a real strength in 2022 be that again for Birds?

Cionel Perez throwing black

It was a real strength of the much-improved 2022 Orioles – the Baltimore bullpen. Will it be a team strength again this year? It will likely need to be for the Orioles to keeping trending upward toward an American League playoff berth.

In 2021, the O’s bullpen ERA of 5.70 ranked last in the majors. The final season bullpen ERA of 3.49 from last year ranked as seventh-best in the American League and ninth-best in MLB.

On Aug. 16, the Baltimore bullpen ERA of 3.05 was among the best in the majors. That would not hold up and there was some falloff late in the season. But the final mark was over two runs better than the previous season.  

That can help a team improve from 110 losses to 79.

Bullpen pitchers can be volatile in performance with much variation from year-to-year. Lefty Cionel Pérez, who pitched to an ERA of 1.40 averaging 3.3 walks per game with the Orioles, had an ERA of 6.04 and allowed 6.2 walks per nine innings over 50 2/3 innings in parts of season between 2018 and 2021.

Continue reading