CLEVELAND - The Orioles must make it through the last three games of this road trip and the six that await them at home before their first playoff exposure since 2016. They don’t know whether they’re beginning at Camden Yards in the Division Series or as the top wild card.
Those are the two possibilities.
I’ve got three more questions as the club focuses on the present but also considers how to construct a postseason roster.
What’s the plan for Tyler Wells?
Or, is there a plan for Tyler Wells beyond monitoring his progress in the minors?
The Orioles optioned Wells on July 30 after he struggled in three post-break starts, allowing 11 runs and walking nine batters in nine innings. He didn’t have his usual command or zip on his fastball.
Seemed like a reset but with more of a purpose. Rest him, send him to the pitching lab in Bel Air, reduce his workload at Double-A Bowie, bring him back as a reliever.
Wells made three starts with the Baysox and allowed three runs in 8 2/3 innings. Bumped to Triple-A Norfolk, he’s come out of the bullpen seven times and allowed six runs and seven hits with four walks over six innings.
Used most recently Wednesday night, Wells lasted two-thirds of an inning and was charged with one run and two hits. He threw 17 pitches, 10 for strikes.
Wells already totaled 113 2/3 innings this year before the option, 10 more than in 2022. His high was 119 1/3 in the minors in 2018. He kept insisting that he felt fine. The Orioles wondered if fatigue was messing with his command.
“He knows that we’re doing what we feel like is the right thing for him, and then for us,” manager Brandon Hyde said after Wells was sent down. “Because like I said, he’s a big part of our team and we need him to be right.”
Time is running out on the regular season with only nine games left. The bullpen could use a fresh arm, and Wells is on the 40-man roster. But no one is guaranteeing that those two dots will be connected.
The good news for Wells and his supporters is that Hyde noted yesterday how the stats are deceiving.
“The stuff is ticking up a little bit,” he said, “so I think he’s definitely an option for us down the stretch.”
What about today, with the bullpen used 26 times in the last five games?
Is Jack Flaherty more likely to make the postseason roster in relief?
Flaherty’s new role could benefit both parties.
Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez seem to be in line to start the first two playoff games.
Dean Kremer is expected to stay in the rotation, as well, which leaves Kyle Gibson and John Means potentially fighting for the fourth spot.
Flaherty bowed out of the competition by posting a 7.11 ERA in seven starts – 8.42 after his stellar debut in Toronto - but he’s got the stuff to be a weapon. He tossed two scoreless innings in his fifth career relief appearance and is capable of providing length.
Somebody has to do it.
“I think I can help them in any way, whatever role that is,” Flaherty said in Houston. “Whenever I get the chance to get the ball, looking forward to it.”
Flaherty is on board. Being a reliever could put him on the October roster.
Does Heston Kjerstad make the postseason roster?
He’s eligible, in case anyone wondered.
Keep in mind that it can be adjusted after each round. An opposing staff that’s heavy in right-handers or lefties may influence it.
Kjerstad makes sense against an opponent that leans more to the right.
The Orioles would sacrifice defense and speed by carrying Kjerstad over, say, Ryan McKenna, but the left-handed power might be viewed as worth it.
Also keep in mind that we don't know whether Ryan Mountcastle will be reinstated from the injured list. Hyde sounded optimistic a few days ago. And a division title comes with a first-round bye.