Decision pending on Orioles reliever Dillon Tate (and other notes)

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NEW YORK – The Orioles aren’t ready to announce their plans for reliever Dillon Tate, whose 30-day injury rehab assignment has reached its conclusion.

The choices are clear: Reinstate Tate and put him on the active roster, with a corresponding move necessary, or reinstate and option him to Triple-A Norfolk.

“We’re making decisions on that right now,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I don’t really have anything to report right this minute, but it will be soon.”

Tate didn’t pitch in spring training due to a right elbow flexor strain. He’s made 10 appearances on his injury rehab assignment, the last five with Norfolk, and allowed 13 earned runs (15 total) and 19 hits with five walks in 8 1/3 innings.

The entire weight of the decision doesn’t come just from statistics. A balance exists.

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More chatter about Orioles' bullpen

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NEW YORK - Kyle Bradish gave the Orioles five innings last night. Manager Brandon Hyde gave the ball to his relievers to cover the last four.

Mychal Givens retired the Yankees in order in the sixth, on a strikeout and two ground balls. A nice little reminder that he can be a weapon during any stretch of the game.

Also, a reminder that Hyde doesn’t want to use him for more than one inning. Givens threw nine pitches and stayed in the dugout until the handshake line.

Yennier Cano put runners on base in the seventh and eighth and got out of jams. Stranded and straddled.

Félix Bautista struck out three batters in the ninth, but a 12th save eluded him thanks to Aaron Judge’s game-tying home run with one out. A poorly located splitter. Was supposed to be low and on the outside corner.

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O's activate Mychal Givens for series finale, plus today's lineup

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TORONTO - The Orioles are getting a reinforcement today for their heavily-used bullpen as right-hander Mychal Givens has been activated as the Orioles try to sweep Toronto today at Rogers Centre. Givens has not pitched in an O's game since March 16 in spring training.

But today he comes off the 15-day injured list - he's been out with left knee inflammation. To make roster room lefty Cole Irvin was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk. Recalled Tuesday from the Tides, Irvin pitched just once since his return to the club and that was in yesterday's 6-5 Orioles win in 10 innings. 

He faced two batters in the seventh inning, allowing an inherited run on an RBI single to Alejandro Kirk and he got a popout to the infield from Matt Chapman. He threw just seven pitches.

With Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista having pitched in both games of this series and very likely not available today, the O's are short in the bullpen today and enter Givens to provide a lift.

Orginailly drafted by the Orioles as a high school shortstop out of Tampa, Fla. in the second round in 2009, he was later converted to pitcher. The O's traded him on Aug. 30, 2020 to Colorado in a deal that brought the club Terrin Vavra, Tyler Nevin and a player to be named later that became minor league outfielder Mishael Deson.

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A scout's take on Orioles and their prospects

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The Orioles finish their series in Toronto this afternoon, enjoy an off-day in New York before playing three games at Yankee Stadium, and don’t return home until Friday, when infielder Ramón Urías hopes to be reinstated from the injured list with the Rangers in town.

Scouts will be watching. Never too early to file reports that could spur a trade or at least initiate talks. And the group will grow in the coming months,

A veteran scout who’s familiar with the Orioles said recently that the infield defense without Urías “is not the same.”

Further evidence that Urías’ value can’t be overstated.

Perhaps a silver lining to losing a Gold Glove winner is the regular starts that Gunnar Henderson is receiving at third base.

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Kyle Gibson was indeed a tone setter in Toronto series opener (plus other O's notes)

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TORONTO – They recently took two of three at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. And Friday as the Orioles started their first stretch of the year playing AL East opponents in back-to-back series, they got off to a winning start thanks to a pitcher that enjoys being a tone setter.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson, at 35 the oldest player on the club, has said he enjoys the challenge of pitching series-opening games. He has now done this five times this season and the Orioles are 4-1 in those games and they were shut out the only time they didn’t win.

But what a tone that was set last night. Gibson went seven innings at Rogers Centre allowing one run as the Orioles won 6-2 to improve to 13-2 in series openers and 8-0 in such games on the road.

Said manager Brandon Hyde: “Gibson definitely pitched like an ace tonight, there’s no doubt. This is such a tough environment to pitch in. A really good hitter’s ballpark against a powerhouse offensive team. For Kyle to go seven innings against them in their home ballpark, that is next level.”

The Orioles pitching has been stepping up the last few weeks against some good teams with a staff ERA of 3.04 the past 14 games and a rotation ERA of 3.29 in that span, allowing three runs or less nine times. The Orioles now have 13 quality starts and have gone 12-1 in those games.

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Mailbag leftovers for breakfast

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The mailbag record for most repeated topic was shattered this weekend.

Relinquishing the top spot is, “How did you get this job?” Followed closely by, “How do you keep this job?”

Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson are in the majors. Baseball’s back-to-back No. 1 prospects. Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez also arrived. Future No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday won’t make the jump from High-A, but it isn’t the most outrageous idea.

Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg are the new obsessions.

Why aren’t they here? When will they get here? What’s it going to take to get them here? How many fake reports does it take to get them here?

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Bradish quiets Angels in 3-1 win (updated)

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A scout who includes the Orioles among the teams he tracks regards Kyle Bradish as a starter capable of winning on a consistent basis in the majors. He grades Bradish highly and agrees to disagree with others in the profession who aren’t quite as sold. They’ve debated it. No two reports are exactly alike.

“He has something,” the scout said this week.

Bradish had more than the Angels could handle tonight.

Facing the team for the first time that drafted and traded him, Bradish allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings in a 3-1 victory over the Angels before an announced crowd of 15,702 at Camden Yards.

Austin Hays homered in the fifth to expand a lead, and the Orioles improved to 28-15 with a chance to win the series Thursday afternoon.

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The 'pen was good again in latest O's win, plus other notes

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The Orioles got back on the horse with a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels last night. Back-to-back losses didn't turn into the club's second three-game losing streak of 2023.

And while starter Dean Kremer provided a solid outing, allowing three runs over 5 2/3 on 95 pitches, the bullpen put forth another scoreless effort.

Right-hander Bryan Baker did allow an inherited runner to score, but Baker, Cionel Pérez and Yennier Cano did not allow a run over 3 1/3 innings. Baker has allowed just one earned run his last 19 2/3 innings. Perez retired all six batters he faced over the seventh and eighth innings on just 19 pitches. He has allowed one earned run his past 6 2/3. Cano pitched a 1-2-3 ninth on eight pitches and now has thrown 20 2/3 scoreless innings for the season.

Over the past five games, the O's 'pen has an ERA of 0.60. Over the last nine games, the 'pen ERA is 1.34. For the year the bullpen ERA is 2.94 to rank second in MLB.

Batting ninth, Ryan O'Hearn hit a solo homer in the second inning. And then Ryan Mountcastle pinch-hit for him and hit a two-run shot in the sixth that he blasted 433 feet.

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Kremer overcomes high-pitch first, O'Hearn and Mountcastle homer in Orioles' 7-3 win (updated)

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The swing and the sound provided everything that Dean Kremer needed to know about Mickey Moniak’s at-bat leading off the top of the first inning.

Kremer stood motionless with his arm extended, eyes fixed on home plate, and waited for a new baseball. The one Moniak hit landed 408 feet away in the right-center field bleachers.

The inning must have felt like it was moving in slow motion. Kremer threw 31 pitches, his stay extended when Taylor Ward’s two-out ground ball at 105 mph slammed off Gunnar Henderson’s chest and rolled toward shortstop.

The overall damage to Kremer was minimal, with just the one run scoring. But the game within the game became how quickly he could dispose of the Angels and avoid a short outing after rookie Grayson Rodriguez lasted only 3 1/3 last night.

Kremer earned two wins. He came within a ground ball single of completing the sixth, lessening the strain on the bullpen, and the Orioles defeated the Angels 7-3 before an announced crowd of 13,244 at Camden Yards.

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Yennier Cano: Spring training decision has helped produced big results

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It was seemingly just another weekday spring training game. For the Orioles it was Game No. 6 of their spring schedule on March 2 in Lakeland, Fla. at Joker Marchant Stadium, home of the Detroit Tigers. Right-hander Yennier Cano came on to pitch in the last of the seventh, but the inning would unravel on him fast.

He gave up a triple, a single, two steals and then a double. His line from that day showed 2/3 of an inning allowing four hits and four runs and one homer. After two spring outings, Cano's ERA was 21.60.

We didn’t know it then, but that was last time this season – spring training or regular season – to this point that Cano allowed a run. Yep, March 2.

He made a decision that day that has paid off big time.

Throwing then from two distinct arm slots, one more over the top and another from a lower slot, he decided one would be better. He would scrap using the more over the top arm slot.

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Wells leads latest strong pitching game and Henderson appreciates organization's support

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Most teams are losing series against the Orioles these days except for Atlanta, but everyone else they've played since April 10. Over a month into the season, the Orioles have won nine of their last 10 series after their latest win last night. 

They blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 for the team’s fourth shutout of 2023. Tyler Wells gave up just one hit – a second-inning single – in seven scoreless on 96 pitches. He improved to 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA and Pirates batters went 1-for-22 against him. Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista – the twin towers – finished off the shutout.

At 26-13, the Orioles are 13 games over .500 for the first time since the last day of the 2016 season. They also moved within three games of first-place Tampa Bay, the closest to the top spot in the American League East they have been since April 7.

Wells provided the staff its third game this year of seven innings and the 11th quality start. When the O’s get one, they are 10-1. Today they go for their third series sweep of the year after winning two of two games at Washington and three of three at home versus Detroit.

The team ERA is 4.07, which ranks ninth-best in the AL, but the staff is surely trending up.

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Wells is nearly unhittable and Orioles claim another series (updated)

Wells is nearly unhittable and Orioles claim another series (updated)

The party rages on with the Orioles.

All of the wins, the water games, the loud music and light shows in the clubhouse. Selling tickets at Camden Yards should be replaced by a cover charge.

They’re mashing, they’re splashing, they’re 13 games above .500 for the first time since the final game of the 2016 season.

Mike Elias wasn’t kidding when he said the rebuild was behind them.

Starter Tyler Wells was in a zone that didn’t include water, shutting out the Pirates on one hit in seven innings, Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson homered early, and the Orioles defeated the Pirates 2-0 before an announced crowd of 21,926.  

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Sometimes the unofficial save comes before the ninth inning

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When the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night 2-1 in a series-deciding game, righty reliever Yennier Cano was remarkable again. He got a drama-free save, getting three quick outs in the ninth on just eight pitches. He sure earned a save.

But sometimes an unofficial save can come before the ninth inning, and for me, Wednesday was one of those nights.

Lefty reliever Danny Coulombe, who had given up some runs in the Kansas City and Atlanta series, came on in the top of the eighth, just after Tampa Bay had cut a 2-0 deficit to 2-1. Coulombe got two huge, huge outs to keep the O’s ahead and set up Cano to do his thing in the ninth.

Coulombe, acquired by the club in late March from Minnesota for cash considerations, has done a real nice job this year for the Orioles. And he's doing that throwing his fastball, which averages only 91.3 mph, just 13 percent of the time.

He told me earlier this year how he is very confident in his ability to “spin” the ball, meaning that he can throw quality breaking pitches. And he sure can. Per Statcast, he uses his slider 54 percent of the time and his sweeper 17 percent. That's a very high percentage of breaking balls for Coulombe, who is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 16 games over 12 2/3 innings. He has walked three and fanned 18 with a 1.03 WHIP to go with a .208 batting average against and .575 OPS.

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Beating the Rays was big for O's, but how they did it may have been most significant

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The best news was, yes, the Orioles won a series against a Tampa Bay Rays team that brought a record of 28-7 (.800) into Baltimore on Monday night. The next best news was how they did it: with stunning pitching.

When the O’s began a series in Atlanta Friday, their rotation ERA was 5.65 for the season. But in the six games versus Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the rotation ERA was 2.41, and five times O’s starters allowed two earned runs or fewer.

Right-hander Dean Kremer pitched the first game of the Atlanta series and the last game of the Tampa Bay series and the O’s picked up huge wins in both games. His ERA was 6.67 when he took the mound at Truist Park. It is now 4.97 after he threw six scoreless innings, allowing just four singles in the 2-1 win over the Rays last night.

Just about at the time that some were speculating that his hold on a rotation spot could be shaky, he stepped up with two outstanding performances. He allowed a run in the first inning at Atlanta. Then he put up five scoreless innings after that. And tacked on six more last night.

“Two of the better offensive teams, and right at the right time," manager Brandon Hyde said after last night’s win. "We talked about how well he pitched in Atlanta, and then tonight, even better. He's figuring it out a little bit and learning how to pitch. Got a double play ball when he needed it, used the sinker effectively, he can step on a four-seamer from 96-97 and he does that well. He's got other pitches, as well. That's a tough lineup to navigate through and he did an outstanding job.”

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Pregame notes on lineup, Stowers, Cano and more

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Orioles manager Brandon Hyde made out tonight’s lineup assuming that right-hander Yonny Chirinos will get the bulk of the innings after left-hander Jalen Beeks, who’s serving as the opener.

Beeks has appeared in 13 games, 11 in relief, and totaled 16 innings.

Ryan O’Hearn is in the lineup as the left-handed designated hitter.

“With Beeks, not sure how long he’s going to go,” Hyde said, “but I expect him to go an inning or two, maybe three.”

Beeks hasn’t gone more than 1 1/3 innings in his last eight appearances.

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This, that and the other

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Yennier Cano received two days off after working two innings Thursday afternoon in Kansas City. He wasn’t available last night after retiring all six batters he faced Sunday in Atlanta.

The temptation to use him anyway must be strong, simply because he’s become one of the top relievers in baseball.

Just how good?

The examples are numerous and widely publicized. Here is another, according to STATS:

Cano has faced 49 batters and allowed two hits, walked none and nailed one batter, for a .103 opponents’ OPS, second lowest through 12 appearances since 2014.

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Orioles aren't catching breaks with Rays in town

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The hard part of the schedule just got a little harder.

Goodbye Braves, with your best record in the National League. Hello Rays, with your best record in baseball at 28-7 and obscene plus-115 run differential.

Maybe a lot harder.

The division is out of control. Boston used to be in last place with a record above .500. They won eight in a row before yesterday’s loss in Philadelphia and moved into third place, until the Blue Jays passed them by blowing out the Pirates.

The Yankees are in the cellar but a game above .500. Four of the five teams have 20 wins or more.

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Taking more inventory before Orioles open series in Kansas City

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The Orioles moved past their off-day and are resuming their three-city road trip tonight in Kansas City. The last stop is in Atlanta.

They haven’t moved past the “soft” part of their schedule. The Royals are 7-22, the second-worst record in the majors. They’re in last place in the American League Central, with a minus-64 run differential in 29 games and a 1-12 record at home.

Can’t let down against anyone, but the Royals are scuffling with 13 losses in their last 16 games.

The teams met seven times last summer, with the Orioles going 4-3. They split a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

The Orioles are 128-128 all-time against the Royals in Kansas City, with their last three-game sweep in 2007.

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Holmes on Orioles relievers: "It doesn’t surprise me, what they’re doing"

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The regression that’s so common with major league bullpens from one year to the next, deserving of an attached warning label each spring, hasn’t impacted the Orioles. Relievers in the first month are immune to it. Can’t touch them.

Being an exception really defies logic when factoring the loss of veterans Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens to injuries. Zero appearances in 2023 beyond Tate’s one inning Wednesday with High-A Aberdeen.

Givens is expected to pitch Saturday at Double-A Bowie, where Tate is set to join him. Meanwhile, the Orioles have a 2.78 bullpen ERA that ranks third in the majors. They were ninth in 2022 at 3.49.

They’ve done some shuffling, with Yennier Cano recalled April 14 and Logan Gillaspie optioned five days later, but they haven’t folded.

Cano ran his streak of retired batters to begin the season to 24 yesterday, tying the club record, in a 6-2 win over the Red Sox. He nailed Justin Turner on the elbow but hasn’t allowed a run or hit or walked a batter.

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Orioles waiting to wonder how they make room for returning relievers

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Dillon Tate made it back on a mound last night beyond the tedious bullpen sessions and simulated action. He was allowed to face hitters on an opposing team in a game that counted, beginning his injury rehab assignment with High-A Aberdeen and allowing one run and two hits with two strikeouts in the fifth inning.

The Orioles will give Tate four or five more appearances, having him pitch on back-to-back days, and decide whether he can be activated from the injured list.

That’s the easy part.

Making room for Tate and Mychal Givens, who is supposed to begin his own rehab assignment later this week, might become a hassle.

Other teams won’t feel sorry for them, but the bullpen’s ERA dropped to 2.88 last night, the third lowest in the majors. Manager Brandon Hyde is pushing many of the right buttons based on the results, and it’s easier to do when guys are getting outs and the rotation isn’t forcing early appearances and excess baton passing.

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