Cole Irvin addition another step to better overall pitch efficiency for the Orioles

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As the Orioles pitching staff made vast improvement last season – a team ERA of 3.97 after the club had ranked last the year before at 5.84 – there was an area of improvement that may have flown under the radar.

The staff as a whole was much more pitch-efficient in 2022. The O’s staff averaged 16.2 pitches per inning. That was tied for eighth fewest in the major leagues. They ranked last the year before, throwing 17.5 pitches per inning. The Los Angeles Dodgers (15.6) and Cleveland Guardians (15.7) topped the majors in this stat in 2022.

In adding southpaw Cole Irvin via a trade with Oakland, the Orioles get a pitcher who is among the best in the majors in this stat. He averaged 15.0 pitches per inning in 2021 and was even better last season at 14.4. That was second fewest in the American League last season. A pitcher with that average would need just 86 or 87 pitches to clear six innings.

And by the way, while Jordan Lyles led the club with 13 quality starts last year (and the team went 9-4 in those games), Kyle Gibson and Irvin each recorded 15 quality starts. They eat up some innings and provide some quality along the way.

During his Zoom interview with O’s media Friday morning, Irvin talked about how being so efficient with his pitches is a real plus.

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Orioles sign 1B Curtis Terry to minor league deal

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The Orioles have made the following roster move:

  • Agreed to terms on a 2023 Minor League contract with 1B Curtis Terry.
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O's add lefty starter, plus another top 100 prospects haul on Thursday

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The Orioles have the best farm system right now in Major League Baseball. This according to several outlets ranking them that way. And if one big standard in determining that is most prospects on a top 100 list, the Orioles last night matched their Baseball America performance by getting eight ranked on the latest MLBPipeline.com list.

Gunnar Henderson, still prospect-eligible and eligible for the American League Rookie of the Year award this season, was ranked No. 1 by both outlets, and by Baseball Prospectus as well recently.

MLBPipeline.com places three O’s in the top 12, four in the top 40 and eight among the top 99.

Pitcher Grayson Rodriguez is No. 7, Jackson Holliday No. 12 and Colton Cowser No. 40. Jordan Westburg comes in at No. 74, Heston Kjerstad at No. 80, DL Hall at No. 97 and Joey Ortiz at No. 99.

The list doesn’t even include Kyle Stowers, Coby Mayo or Connor Norby, who might well have merited consideration. The Orioles ended the 2022 season with six on the MLBPipeline.com top 100, and Henderson was No. 2 to end the season.

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A few notes on new O's lefty Cole Irvin (updated with new top 100 list)

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The Orioles had a surplus of quality minor league infield prospects and they were still seeking a pitcher to slot into their 2023 big league rotation, especially a lefty. Today those two added up to a deal where the Orioles acquired lefty starter Cole Irvin and Single-A right-hander Kyle Virbitsky from the Athletics in exchange for minor league shortstop Darell Hernaiz.

In the deal, the O’s gave up a top 30 prospect – Hernaiz was No. 16 via MLBPipeline.com – but they also acquired a pitcher that has averaged 180 innings the last two years with an ERA of 4.11. He has made 62 starts the last two seasons, but still has four years of team control remaining and will not even be arbitration eligible until after the coming 2023 season.

Here are a few more notes on the new O’s lefty after the deal was officially announced by the Orioles this afternoon:

* Irvin went 9-13 with a 3.93 ERA last year over 181 innings. He recorded strong numbers in WHIP (1.160) and walk rate (1.8) while making 15 quality starts. He produced 1.4 fWAR to rank second among A’s pitchers.

* An A’s beat writer tweeted today that Irvin was likely going to be Oakland’s opening day starting pitcher this year.

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Orioles add Irvin to camp rotation competition

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The Orioles succeeded today in finding a starting pitcher for their unsettled rotation, consummating a trade after failing to reach terms with a free agent.

Left-hander Cole Irvin and minor league pitcher Kyle Virbitsky were acquired from the Athletics for Single-A infielder Darell Hernaiz. Lefty reliever Darwinzon Hernandez was designated for assignment to make room for Irvin on the 40-man roster.

Irvin, who turns 29 on Tuesday, could be the only left-hander in the Orioles rotation on opening day with John Means recovering from Tommy John surgery and DL Hall a consideration for the bullpen. He’s made 62 starts over the past two seasons and posted a cumulative 4.11 ERA in 359 1/3 innings, with 1.8 walks and 6.4 strikeouts per nine frames in 2022.

The Orioles get more than durability with Irvin, who registered a career-low 3.98 ERA and 1.160 WHIP last year in 30 starts. He’s under team control through 2026.

The Phillies were the third team to draft Irvin, landing him in the fifth round in 2016 out of the University of Oregon. The Athletics acquired him in a cash deal on Jan. 30, 2021.

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Orioles acquire lefty Cole Irvin from A's

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The Orioles today announced that they have acquired left-handed pitcher COLE IRVIN and minor league right-handed pitcher KYLE VIRBITSKY from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for minor league infielder DARELL HERNAIZ.  

Irvin, 28, made 30 starts for the A’s in 2022, pitching to a 9-13 record with a career-best 3.98 ERA (80 ER/181.0 IP). He set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts (128) and tied his career high with 15 quality starts. The southpaw led Oakland in strikeouts, innings pitched, starts, quality starts, and wins, and ranked second among A’s pitchers in fWAR (1.4). His 14.4 pitches per inning were the second fewest in the American League, while his 1.79 BB/9 ratio ranked sixth best among qualified AL hurlers. 

A native of Anaheim, Calif., Irvin was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Oregon. In 81 career Major League games (65 starts), he has gone 21-30 with a 4.40 ERA (198 ER/404.2 IP) and 288 strikeouts against 92 walks. He made his MLB debut on May 12, 2019 at Kansas City (W, 7.0 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 5 K). 

Virbitsky, 24, made 23 appearances (22 starts) between High-A Lansing and Low-A Stockton in his first full professional season in 2022, going 7-7 with a 4.63 ERA (65 ER/126.1 IP). He issued just 30 walks and struck out 140 batters, the most among A’s minor leaguers. Baseball America recently ranked him as having the best control in Oakland’s system. The right-hander was originally selected by the Athletics in the 17th round of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft out of Penn State University. 

Hernaiz, 21, played at three levels in the Orioles organization last year, slashing .273/.341/.438 (111-for-406) with 21 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs, 72 runs scored, 62 RBI, and 32 stolen bases in 105 games between Double-A Bowie, High-A Aberdeen, and Low-A Delmarva. He played 58 games at shortstop, 24 at second base, and 21 at third base between the three teams. The infielder was originally selected by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Americas (TX) High School. 

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Orioles avoid arbitration with Voth (updated)

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The Orioles finished their arbitration business today and proved again that the file-and-go approach has its exceptions.

Pitcher Austin Voth agreed to terms on a 2023 contract that also includes a club option for 2024. He’s the last of the six arbitration-eligible players to receive a new deal.

Terms weren’t immediately available. Voth sought $2 million after the sides exchanged figures on Jan. 13, and the club offered $1.7 million.

Voth, 30, is also eligible for arbitration next winter unless the Orioles pick up the option.

The Orioles claimed Voth off waivers from the Nationals on June 7 and it wasn’t viewed within the industry as an impact move. Voth was out of options, and he ran out of chances in D.C. after posting a 10.13 ERA and 2.143 WHIP in 19 relief appearances in 2022.

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Orioles agree to terms with Austin Voth

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The Orioles have made the following transaction:

  • Agreed to terms with RHP Austin Voth on a one-year contract for the 2023 season, avoiding arbitration. The deal includes a club option for 2024.
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A look at what Adam Frazier could add for the Orioles

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As infielder/outfielder Adam Frazier joins the Orioles this year after signing a one-year deal for $8 million in December, which player on offense will the club be getting? The player that was above average in 2021 when he was a National League All-Star, or the player that was below average last season?

Or maybe the stats meet somewhere in the middle.

In 2021, over 639 plate appearances between Pittsburgh and San Diego, Frazier hit .305/.368/.411/.779 with 36 doubles, five triples, five homers, 43 RBIs, 10 steals and 83 runs scored.

But over 602 plate appearances for Seattle, which made the postseason in 2022, the 31-year-old lefty hitter batted .238/.301/.311/.612 with 22 doubles, four triples, three homers, 42 RBIs, 11 steals and 61 runs.

Big difference in that Frazier’s OPS+ was 114 in 2021 and just 80, or 20 percent below league average, last season. Frazier has a career .728 OPS, which produces an OPS+ of 99, or just about at league average for his career.

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This, that and the other

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A week has passed since the Orioles made their last transaction, signing reliever Reed Garrett to a minor league contract. The 40-man roster hasn’t been impacted since they acquired left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez from the Red Sox for cash considerations on Jan. 11 and designated first baseman Lewin Díaz for assignment.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 15. The clock on the countdown is ticking louder. Some teams have declared that they’re unlikely to make any other moves, but the Orioles keep trying to find another veteran starting pitcher.

“We’re definitely not going to rest in terms of improving this roster before we leave for Sarasota,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said during Friday’s interview on 105.7 The Fan, “and even after we’re in Sarasota, sometimes things happen.”

They often happen.

Infielder Chris Owings, pitchers Chris Ellis and Conner Greene and catcher Beau Taylor were signed to minor league deals last March after the media arrived in Sarasota. Nothing impactful, as it turned out.

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On O's hopes for Grayson Rodriguez to move from top prospect to top-of-rotation hurler

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Even for a pitcher who looked to be on the cusp of his major league debut, it was stunning stretch of pitching. During a season when top O’s pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez went 6-2 with a 2.62 ERA, he pitched even better in six starts leading up to when he got hurt.

When the 23-year-old right-hander took the mound at Triple-A Norfolk’s Harbor Park on June 1 versus Jacksonville, a call to Baltimore seemed almost at hand. I was writing at the time that, in my humble opinion, Rodriguez was very ready to debut with the Orioles.

That night he pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings but then walked off the mound and didn’t return. We would later learn he had suffered a Grade 2 right lat strain. He would not pitch again on the farm for three months. On Sept. 1 he returned with a rehab outing for High-A Aberdeen.

In those last six outings at Triple-A, counting the night he got hurt, his ERA was 0.79. Over 34 1/3 innings he gave up three earned runs on 16 hits with nine walks and 47 strikeouts. In four of the games he threw scoreless outings.

It was a stunning stretch of pitching, even for one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Rodriguez is No. 6 on Baseball America’s new listing of the top 100 prospects. When he talked with reporters ahead of his game return in that Aberdeen outing, he noted that his pitching and stats were eye-popping in May for Norfolk.

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Mullins on WBC: "It's a huge honor to be a part of this"

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Cedric Mullins will participate in the upcoming Orioles caravan, added to the list on Jan. 10, and report early to spring training in Sarasota before leaving camp to join Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.

The Orioles aren’t done trying to make other moves to set their opening day roster, but Mullins is certain to roam center field and sit atop the order.

What’s new to Mullins is ramping up for WBC competition while leaving behind most of his teammates. Reliever Dillon Tate also was chosen for Team USA.

“It’s going to be awesome. It’s a huge honor to be a part of this,” Mullins said this week on MLB Network Radio.

“The last one being back in 2017, so a decent amount of time has passed. COVID kind of got in the way of that, as well, so it’s awesome to be amongst this group. Not only being competitive out there, but you’re preparing for the season, as well. It’s definitely going to be an experience.”

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

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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.

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A look at how Joey Ortiz rose from struggling at Double-A to the top 100 list

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How does a player batting .206 with an OPS of .596 at the end of June last year at Double-A end up several months later ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 national prospects?

For Orioles shortstop prospect Joey Ortiz, it took a lot of hard work, a few swing adjustments and belief in self.

He went from a player that had left labrum surgery end his 2021 season in June to one struggling a year later on the farm. And then to one that was tearing up the sport in the last half of last year. His second half tear meant he would rise from No. 28 on Baseball America's O’s top 30 preseason last year to their No. 8 prospect at the end of the year, and now he’s top 100 at No. 95 on the list released last week.

When I talked to a pair of O’s minor league skippers about the club getting eight prospects ranked in Baseball America's top 100, it was clear that Ortiz’s rise may have meant the most to a few people in the Baltimore organization.

“I love this kid and can’t say enough good things about him,” said Double-A Bowie manager Kyle Moore. “He overcame the injury. That could have been it for him. He went through surgery and rehab just to get back to the field and have a chance in ’22 and he worked so hard and put himself in such a position to play with guys like Westy (Jordan Westburg) and Gunnar (Henderson). And then he breaks out. It almost makes you emotional. He was behind the eight ball a few times.”

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A good week for the farm and player development

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For a team looking to build an elite pipeline and support and grow its organization with quality home-grown talent, the last week or so have been good days for the Orioles.

It began a week ago today, when the club announced an international signing class of 27 players, headed up by 16-year-old shortstop Luis Ayden Almeyda. He got a $2.3 million signing bonus, the largest ever handed out by the Orioles to an international amateur. 

The O's class featured 13 players signing for $100,000 or more, and Koby Perez, the club's senior director of international scouting, told reporters the club has about $500,000 remaining from its pool allotment of $5,825,500. They could sign more players through Dec. 15. 

MLBPipeline.com, which ranked Almeyda as its No. 20 international prospect, gave him tool grades of 50 for hitting, running and fielding and 55 grades for power and arm. 

“I’m very excited and blessed,” Almeyda told MASNsports.com in his first one-on-one interview as an Oriole prospect. “I am ecstatic to start out with this organization and develop as a ballplayer and a man as well.

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Will O's hurlers smoothly adapt to the pitch clock?

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The 2023 Major League Baseball season will be unique in a few ways with some new rules coming to the majors for the first time. Such as the use of the pitch clock.

Will Orioles pitchers have any issues adjusting to the clock? We can’t know this answer yet, obviously, but I am going to guess any issues will be minimal.

Under the new rules, pitchers will have 15 seconds to pitch with no one on base and 20 seconds with a runner or runners on. The timer starts when the pitcher catches the return throw from the catcher, and to beat the clock the pitcher must start his motion before the clock runs out. The ball doesn't need to touch the plate before the clock expires, but the pitcher's motion must have started. Pitchers can step off the rubber and reset the clock, but this year can do that just twice per plate appearance.

MLB is trying, it seems, both to improve pace of play and improve time of game. In the minor league games using the clock last season, the average time of game was about 26 minutes shorter. Major league games moved past the three-hour mark on average in 2014. In 2021 big league games took an average of three hours, 10 minutes. The average last year was three hours and four minutes.

On Statcast they actually have a “pitch tempo” leaderboard. It tracks the amount of time from one pitch to the next for hurlers. Among the Orioles, when no one was on base, lefty Keegan Akin was the fastest worker with an average of 14.4 seconds between delivering pitches.

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O's minor league skippers talk about building the farm into a powerhouse

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The 2016 season was a good year for the Orioles. They won 89 games and they made the playoffs before one swing in the American League wild-card game ended their season in Toronto. But the calendar year began with the Baseball America release of its top 100 prospects list. There were no Orioles among the top 100. Zero.

The year before, only two were ranked, with Dylan Bundy at No. 48 and Hunter Harvey at No. 68. The year after, 2017, the O’s had just Chance Sisco on the list at No. 57.

So maybe now, looking back, that was insight into the mounting losses that were ahead for the club. But now things are vastly different on the Baltimore farm. The Orioles led all clubs, with eight players on the new Baseball America top 100 prospects list this week. Evaluators see others who could be on the list.

Three players in three years and eight in one year. The Orioles never before had more than five on this offseason Baseball America listing of the best young talent in the sport. Now they show the way.

What happened to make this so?

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Orioles announce Levy as hospitality partner for Oriole Park at Camden Yards

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The Baltimore Orioles have teamed up with Levy, the market leader in creating unforgettable hospitality experiences at sports and entertainment venues, to craft an elevated food and beverage experience for fans visiting Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The partnership will kick off with the 2023 season, when Levy’s team will welcome fans with new signature offerings highlighting the iconic tastes of Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay, upgraded technology to allow faster and frictionless check-out options, and new culinary training opportunities for up-and-coming hospitality talent.

“Oriole Park has been a first-class destination for sports and music entertainment fans for over three decades, and as we look to the future to enhance the footprint and impact of Camden Yards, we are excited to welcome Levy onboard,” said JOHN ANGELOS, Orioles Chairman and CEO. “Together with Levy, we will provide world-class hospitality, food, and beverage experiences, to further develop Camden Yards as a top destination for sports, entertainment, and community service.”

“We’re so proud to partner with the Orioles at the truly iconic Camden Yards and build upon their vision for the ballpark,” said ANDY LANSING, CEO of Levy. “Camden Yards is a truly special place, and it sparked the evolutionary thinking that brought the fan experience to the forefront. With this inspiration, we look forward to collaborating with the Orioles and their fans to bring forward a hospitality experience that creates long-lasting memories on game day and throughout the Baltimore community.”

“We are thrilled to embark on a new partnership with Levy and bring exciting and innovative options to our ballpark,” said GREG BADER, Orioles Senior Vice President Administration and Experience. “We will work seamlessly with Levy to elevate the fan experience at Oriole Park from the concession stands to the Club Level suites, all while providing further opportunities to Strengthen Our Community and Empower Our Youth.”

Core to the partnership with Levy will be creating opportunities for up-and-coming chefs, restaurateurs, and food and beverage tastemakers in the Baltimore area. Hospitality enrichment and training programs will also be created to provide hospitality career advancement opportunities at the ballpark. Fans can also expect a food and beverage experience with local twists, as well as frictionless experiences that provide faster, more convenient ways to access food and beverage.

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Orioles sign Garrett to minor league deal

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The competition for bullpen spots on the Orioles roster got a little deeper this morning.

The club announced that it signed right-hander Reed Garrett to a minor league contract, which could put him on the list of spring training invites.

Pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Feb. 15, with the first workout held the following day.

Garrett, 30, made seven relief appearances with the Nationals last season and allowed seven earned runs (eight total) with 13 hits, eight walks and six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Richmond native had his contract selected on June 14 after a three-year absence from the majors.

The Nationals used Garrett in three June games and three more in July. He served as the 29th man in an Oct. 4 doubleheader and tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Mets.

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Orioles agree to minor league contract with RHP Reed Garrett

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The Orioles have made the following roster move:

  • Agreed to terms on a 2023 Minor League contract with RHP Reed Garrett.
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