BOWIE, Md. – Most teams in pro baseball use a five-man rotation, sometimes six, but 10 is a bit much. However the Orioles like to sometimes essentially use two starting pitchers or bulk inning pitchers in one game and that has been on display often this year at Double-A Bowie.
And while the Baysox have not gotten off to a great start at 6-13, it has not been about shaky pitching. The opposite has been true. Bowie was rained out Sunday but ranks third in the Eastern League in team ERA at 3.43
But the Baysox lead the Eastern League in rotation ERA at 2.60 and also rank first among starter WHIP at 1.06 and batting average against by starting pitchers at .191.
And the Baysox have had nine different pitchers start games this year and nine times have had games where two pitchers threw three innings or more. There was another game or two where they just missed as a second pitcher went 2 2/3. And 10 pitchers on their staff have had at least one outing of three innings or more.
The "bulk innings" pitchers, my term not theirs, are getting their work in, developing their pitches and thriving on the stat sheet.
Bowie pitching coach Forrest Herrmann, in his second year in the organization, said this allows his staff to get their innings and reps, even if it may be hard to project who is starting over the course of a week or two.
“With an egoless group like we have, the workload is able to stay pretty consistent,” Herrmann told me in a recent interview at Prince George’s Stadium. “And we do a good job internally making sure we balance the on-field workload with the player development workload. While it may look a little bit creative or different if you are only looking at the box score, they have a really good feel for how it’s being mapped out. It’s not your traditional go every five days as we’ve seen in the past, but there is a pretty strong element of routine to it.
“It’s a great opportunity for these guys to develop pitches to left and right-handed hitters. Sometimes face the lineup three times. It is also a challenge for them to appear at different times and in different situations. The minor leagues is about learning and we try to challenge our guys with those roles and help them grow with those.”
Chayce McDermott, 24, is a right-hander off to a 1-1 start with a 1.65 ERA. He has a 1.16 WHIP and .167 batting average against.
“He’s throwing the ball great,” Herrmann said. “Working on some consistency with his delivery. Worked this offseason on a splitter and has been able to deploy that well against some lefties. Exciting start for him. Has a diverse pitch mix and is open to working on new things too.”
Drafted in round four by Houston in 2021, McDermott was part of the trade that sent Trey Mancini to Houston last Aug. 1 and that is how the O’s added him. He is ranked as the club’s No. 18 prospect via MLBPipeline.com and No. 23 by Baseball America. McDermott’s fastball often sits in the 93 to 95 mph range, but can touch the high 90s and he has a slider, curve/sweeper and changeup too.
He has a very strong career K rate of 14.01 in 141 career innings.
“His pitch quality, his stuff is high-end. It’s electric,” said Herrmann. “He has a lot of different ways to beat guys with different pitches. Has different attack plans. And really good stuff however he wants to go after a hitter.”
Righty Justin Armbruester, 24, is a pitcher with great size at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and quality stuff. The Orioles drafted him in round 12 of 2021 out of New Mexico. They saw something in that round to grab a pitcher they could mold and improve and he is 1-1 with a 1.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .206 average against for Bowie.
Ranked No. 20 by Baseball America, his fastball sits low to mid 90s and touches 96 and 97 mph and he gets a 60 grade for his slider and 55 for his fastball, cutter and control.
“He is a great example of growth mindset and development over really a short period of time for him. He took real strides with his slider last year and then he worked hard this offseason to add a curveball to help him versus different types of hitters. He is trying to build on the success he had last year. He does some things very, very well,” said Herrmann.
Cade Povich is a lefty the Orioles acquired late last year from Minnesota in the Jorge Lopez trade and he threw well in spring for the Orioles. He is ranked No. 12 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 13 by Baseball America.
Povich is 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA in four starts with Bowie, allowing five runs in four innings two starts ago, but then throwing five scoreless this past weekend. He has walked nine and fanned 27 over 17 innings for a 14.29 K rate.
Povich throws a low 90s fastball from a polished delivery that touches the mid 90s with a slider, curveball, sweeper and changeup. And by the way, yes O’s farm pitchers are now throwing sweepers and that process started last year.
Herrmann on Povich: “Continuing to build up innings. We got to see him on the stage of major league spring training where he showed off a pretty impressive mix of pitches in quality locations. A lot of it for him early on is continuing to build on that success, build on his routine and get him through the zone consistently with his full mix.”
The Baysox mix of bulk pitchers also includes the Orioles’ fifth round pick in 2021 out of Texas-Arlington in right-hander Carlos Tavera, a driven pitcher with a quality mix of pitches. He is ranked No. 28 by Baseball America.
This year he is 0-0 with a 6.30 ERA over 10 innings where he has walked eight and fanned 11. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that BA put a 60 grade on along with a quality slider and curveball that get 55 grades.
Herrmann on Tavera: “Carlos, we are building him up. He has done a great job this offseason working on his delivery. Getting him in a spot where he can be consistent with all pitch types. He has some great pitches and some great stuff to attack righties and lefties. Helping him deploy that consistently to the best of his ability.”
In addition to these four, right-hander Garrett Stallings is off to a decent start, and had a 2.40 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in three outings before allowing five runs his last time out. Other bulk innings pitchers for Bowie have included Connor Gillespie, Houston Roth, Antonio Velez and Peter Van Loon. Others such as Kade Strowd and Jensen Eliott have had at least one three-inning outing.
Herrmann said his pitchers carry a strong “growth mindset” a term heard often on the O’s farm.
“You have player development and you have run prevention. We’re trying to merge those two things and find that right mix for our guys. For each guy they have what they are working on. Maybe it’s with pitch quality, maybe it’s with pitch location and we’re able to see in a vacuum how did that go.
“But we’re also here to prevent runs and play the game, that’s the point of this whole thing. We are very much trying to make sure we don’t lose sight of that. So, it’s what does this player need, not only to win at the major league level, but to win tonight.”
In Bowie right now on the pitching side 10 games into five and it adds up to outstanding pitching thus far for the Baysox.
For O's what an April: Since the Orioles first game of this year was in March, they ended April with a record of 19-9, but technically went 18-9 in the month. It's the sixth-best April win percentage ever by the club.
.917 going 11-1 in 1966
.696 going 17-7 in 1969, 1997 and 2005
.684 going 13-6 in 1970
.667 going 18-9 in 2023
The O's did set an April record for total wins in the month. Overall they have won 15 of 19 games and are 10 games over .500 for the first time.
They take today off and begin a series at Kansas City on Tuesday night with six straight series wins secured for the first time since July 21-Aug. 13, 2014.