Is Hess really changing roles?

One decision had been made on David Hess. He was going back down to Triple-A Norfolk as the latest poster child for the Orioles’ quest to reset.

But what would Hess be doing after returning to the International League?

David-Hess-Dejected-White-Sidebar.jpgThe Orioles could have slotted him into the Tides’ rotation or continued with their plan to again make him a reliever, the path taken over the weekend until one appearance on Sunday turned into his last with the club.

Manager Brandon Hyde told the media last night in Oakland that Hess will pitch in a relief role with the Tides.

This is significant, if not permanent. We don’t know that part.

Hess has been a reliever only four times out of 36 games in the majors and six out of 99 in the minors. It isn’t a minor matter.

Hess replaced Mychal Givens in the 10th inning Sunday with runners on second and third, no outs and the Red Sox ahead 4-3. A fly ball was followed by a walk that loaded the bases, a pop-up and two-run singles by Mookie Betts and Christian Vázquez.

A rally in the bottom half that included home runs by Stevie Wilkerson and Trey Mancini fell short, Hess was called into Hyde’s office and another roster move was made on a club that’s in a constant state of motion while going nowhere in 2019.

Hess threw 19 pitches in the game, so availability for last night didn’t seem to be the motivating factor behind his demotion.

This is about development again, as well as trying to plug holes on the pitching staff. The Orioles decided that another stint in the bullpen could bring out the best in Hess. Sharpen the command on his pitches and put him in a better position to succeed.

They aren’t backing down from it.

Hess was given a pretty long rope with the Orioles, making 13 starts among his 15 appearances, leading the majors with nine losses and ranking second in home runs allowed with 20. The Orioles wanted to give Hess a chance to establish himself, but it also was a concession to the lack of appealing alternatives.

Dan Straily already was moved to the bullpen. Gabriel Ynoa already was put in the rotation. Alex Cobb is done for the year after undergoing hip surgery last week. Luis Ortiz had an ERA above 7.00 and Josh Rogers above 8.00 with Norfolk, and the Orioles didn’t want to rush Keegan Akin to the majors.

Norfolk isn’t loading its rotation with top prospects, the group including Tyler Herb, Chandler Shepherd, Luis Ysla and newly acquired Tom Eshelman. Matt Wotherspoon was needed last week. Making room for Hess wouldn’t be a huge challenge. But what’s best for him, and tor the Orioles, in the long term?

They should decide whether Hess can be a starter for them or more useful as a reliever and stick with it. Tanner Scott and Jimmy Yacabonis are full-time relievers now. All 14 of Chris Lee’s appearances with Norfolk have come out of the bullpen. A plan is needed with Hess, which seemed to be developing with news over the weekend that he’d come out of the rotation.

It certainly appears to be happening now.

Meanwhile, the Orioles seem more inclined to go with an opener Wednesday afternoon, but again, they won’t really know until determining which relievers are available.

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