Tyler Wells took the mound yesterday in the top of the first inning with baseball in hand and also possessing the lowest WHIP in the majors at 0.853.
There’s a lot of season left, but Wells held the Blue Jays to a pair of Danny Jansen solo home runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win at Camden Yards. He allowed five hits, walked one batter and left with his WHIP at 0.86.
The club record for lowest WHIP in a season, with a minimum of one inning per team game, is held by left-hander Dave McNally at 0.842 in 1968, according to STATS.
McNally was special, and his ’68 season was magnificent with a 22-10 record and 1.95 ERA in 35 starts. McNally recorded 18 complete games and five shutouts and finished fifth in Most Valuable Player voting in the American League.
A different time, indeed.
The Tiger’s Denny McLain was named MVP and won the Cy Young Award. His 31 wins might have helped to tip the scales - back when that stat mattered, of course.
Left-hander Mike Cuellar is third on the lowest-WHIP list among Orioles at 1.005 in 1969, the year that he went 23-11 with a 2.38 ERA, 18 complete games and five shutouts among 39 starts, shared the Cy Young Award with McLain and finished eighth in MVP voting.
The Red Sox's Pedro Martinez holds the record in the modern era with a 0.737 WHIP in 2000.
Wells is emerging as the staff ace after beginning his major league career as a Rule 5 reliever in 2021 and twice going on the injured list in 2022 following his conversion back to starter and the short leash placed on him.
No one ever questioned his stuff, size and makeup. He just had to return to the mound and stay there following his Tommy John surgery in 2019 and the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season due to the pandemic.
“He’s healthy, and I think the WHIP and the numbers tend to take care of themselves when pitchers execute at a high percentage of what they’re doing,” said pitching coach Chris Holt. “That’s what he’s been doing. Always working for as many first-pitch strikes as he possibly can, working to stay ahead, working to put guys away efficiently, which he’s made strides with this year. So, I think it speaks to his ability to attack with a plan and execute at a higher percentage. And being healthy is certainly a huge part of that.”
Wells had to fight for a place in the rotation in spring training, beating out top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez for the fifth spot. Look at him now, with his 6-2 record and 3.20 ERA to go with the low WHIP.
The right-hander has allowed 71 baserunners in 14 games, the fewest among qualified pitchers (minimum 70 innings).
Asked whether Wells is a top-of-the-rotation talent, Holt replied, “He is.”
“You look at our rotation, I think the expectation for every starting pitcher in our rotation is that they are the front end guy when it’s their day to pitch, and he’s no exception,” Holt continued. “He prides himself on leading the team on his start day and setting the tone. Holds his performances to a high standard and sets his bar high. So, when he’s working to execute his plan and goes out there with a purpose every time, it’s really encouraging. And he’s leading a really solid group of young guys who all feel like they’re the best guy on their start day.”
Adley Rutschman is leading American League catchers in votes for the All-Star Game. Félix Bautista recorded his 18th save yesterday by retiring all four batters faced, with two more strikeouts raising his total to 66 in 32 1/3 innings, and he’d probably need to fall through a crack in the earth to miss the Midsummer Classic.
The Orioles want Wells in Seattle during the break.
“We’ll see. He’s certainly in the conversation, it would seem,” Holt said.
“As far as his numbers and where he is in the mix, I think it warrants consideration. I think if you were to ask him, he just wants to go out and be a consistent performer. That’s all you can want.”
“I’m on the bandwagon of him trying to make the All-Star team,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “There are a few guys. (Austin) Hays. I said that the other day, nobody’s talking about Hays. Why is he so low (18th) in voting? Austin Hays, (Yennier) Cano. There are a bunch of guys that have had really good first halves and definitely deserve attention and recognition for what they’ve done. But Tyler definitely, no doubt about it.
“He’s had a great first half. He’s been really, really steady for us. Gives us a chance almost every time out and puts up great numbers, so I’d love to see him have a chance to go.”
* Reed Garrett is no different than any other player with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. He watches the Orioles on television when he’s able to, or he checks the box scores. And he knew from watching Tuesday’s game with his wife in their apartment that the Orioles used four relievers.
He didn’t know about Austin Voth’s elbow injury.
He didn’t know why his phone was ringing.
The Orioles wanted him in Baltimore the next day.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it caught me by surprise,” he said, “but it was definitely exciting for sure.”
Garrett hadn’t pitched in the majors since Oct. 4 with the Nationals, his first appearance in three months and only his seventh in the season. He signed a minor league deal in January, got into last night’s game in the ninth inning and stranded two runners.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “No matter if this is your first time in the big leagues or you’re back, there’s always that anticipation of getting in a game. I was happy to get in there and kind of get back out there. I had pitched Saturday, so I had a few days off, so it was nice to get back out there.”
Hyde was impressed with Garrett’s velocity and his stuff.
“That was 95-97,” he said. “Good slider. I thought that was a nice first outing for us.”
Garrett allowed seven runs in 7 2/3 innings in spring training. He’s 5-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 1.279 WHIP and three saves in 19 games with Norfolk, surrendering only two home runs and striking out 27 batters in 22 2/3 innings.
“I think it’s just a change in mindset really, to be honest,” he said. “Just going after guys and not trying to nitpick as much and trust my stuff in the zone. Go after hitters and let my stuff play to the best of its ability, rather than falling behind in counts. For me, the biggest thing is getting ahead and getting guys on the defensive while I’m on the attack.”
The Orioles dumped Garrett into a pennant race, the same treatment as others summoned from Norfolk. A terrific landing spot.
“The team’s been playing great,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve all been watching the games and stuff. This is a great group of guys. And welcoming. They’ve made me feel welcomed as soon as I got in the clubhouse. It’s awesome just to be around them, and definitely to win. We all want to do that.”
Garrett is the latest member of the Tides to point out the similarities between the two clubhouses. The level of fun.
“Oh man, yeah, it’s wild,” he said. “We celebrate each win. There’s a lot of guys who are playing really well, so it’s fun to have competition. As everybody always says, iron sharpens iron, so as you’re competing and guys are going out there and doing the best they can every night, it makes you want to do as well or better than them. Just friendly competition.”
The level of talent is more impressive.
“It’s crazy,” Garrett said. “(Colton) Cowser, (Jordan) Westburg, Joey Ortiz when he was there, Vav (Terrin Vavra) has been playing great. Grayson (Rodriguez), DL (Hall), those guys are pitching really well. Everybody down there is just trying to compete and be the best they can be.”
* Jorge Mateo has been scalding the ball lately with little to show for it, but he singled twice yesterday off Yusei Kikuchi and is 6-for-13 against him.
Mateo stole two bases in an inning for the fifth time in his career, raising his season total to 20.
Mateo is the ninth Oriole to swipe at least 20 bags in the team’s first 68 games and the first since Nate McLouth (23) in 2013.