HOUSTON - Sending down reliever Branden Kline last night had less to do with performance than the need to have someone available out of the bullpen.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is sifting through his options today after using Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens last night. Kline surrendered the walk-off double to Robinson Chirinos, threw 23 pitches in two-thirds of an inning and headed out while the Orioles recalled Evan Phillips from Triple-A Norfolk.
“We needed a fresh arm,” Hyde said. “Nothing that BK did. I like BK. I love his arm. It was 97, 98, 99 last night with a good slider. We just needed somebody who would be able to pitch tonight.
“He’s a guy who has options that will be back up here. I think BK’s getting better as he goes. I think you’re seeing the velo spike up even more. He’s starting to pitch with a lot of confidence. He has long innings, so as he continues to develop he’s going to learn to put teams away and have innings that go 15 pitches or less instead of 23-30 pitch innings, which he’s been doing quite a bit. Pretty much eliminates him from going out the following inning or being available the next day, especially a guy who’s had a few years of (being) beaten up physically and had some arm stuff.
“As he gets better and as he improves and as he continues to pitch at the big league level, he’s going to have shorter innings and be able to have better command in the strike zone. But it’s nothing that we did. We just needed Evan here because we’re short tonight.”
Phillips received a call late last night as he was about to fall asleep informing him of the promotion, and he flew out of Columbus, Ohio early this morning. This is why it’s wise to keep the phone’s ringer turned on instead of putting it on vibrate or mute.
“Can’t do that anymore,” he said. “No sir.”
Today marks the fourth time that the Orioles recalled Phillips this season.
“I’ve been a part of transitions like that in the past and I think it’s my job to be ready, so I can’t get caught up in the travel or the up and down and the frustrations that go along with that. I just need to make good pitches here and get guys out,” he said.
Phillips didn’t know that he’d been called up four times. He’s not worrying about the count.
“I try not to keep track,” he said.
One of the bellhops at the hotel noticed the weight of Phillips’ bag. The reliever can’t travel light.
“I told him I pretty much travel with everything that I could possibly need,” Phillips said. “For instance, when we were in Colorado I packed long sleeves and a jacket just in case it was cold. I was in Gwinnett when it was 95 degrees. So I try to stay always ready just in case that call comes.”
Team flights require a nice sports coat, some dress shirts and a steamer. Phillips is prepared.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “Everything that I could need.”
Phillips has allowed only one run and four hits, with three walks and 11 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings with Norfolk, but he’s surrendered 10 runs and 14 hits with 11 walks and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings in the majors.
“I just expect more out of myself, and I think a lot of these guys would feel the same way if they were in my position,” he said. “I just have high expectations for myself as a pitcher, and I know I can do better and, hopefully, I’m ready to show it off here.
“One of my big frustrations last year was I’d go down there and I feel like I let my shoulders hang a little bit. I feel like I’m comfortable, so I think it could be a little bit of added pressure I’m putting on myself by being in front of a big crowd or being in a pressure situation, where it’s just me developing that pressure on myself. So I think going down there I really tried to focus on what that feels like to be comfortable and try to make that transition here instead of adding unnecessary pressure to myself.”
For Phillips to stick around longer, Hyde said the right-hander must improve his command and make quality pitches in the strike zone.
“I think that’s what he was doing earlier in the year, that’s what he did all through spring training,” Hyde said. “Bunch of nice appearances to start the year and then kind of fell into where he’s pitching behind in the count a lot, some leadoff walks, a lot of hitter’s counts. I’d like to see Evan be aggressive in the strike zone, which he’s done in Triple-A. And now it’s just doing that with confidence here in the big leagues.
“It’s just a lot different here. You’re facing quality major league lineups and you’re facing guys that are selective and will wait you out, especially if you’re a young guy and guys don’t know them as well. They’re going to make sure to sit on certain pitches on them and make you make a mistake. You have to establish early that you’re going to throw strikes and throw quality pitches in the zone.”
Hyde is moving on from last night’s 11-inning loss and the controversial play at the plate, in which it appeared that catcher Chance Sisco didn’t make the tag and Yuli Gurriel never touched the plate. But he’s able to joke about it.
“The play stands,” Hyde said. “Sisco tagged Gurriel a couple hours ago. We still didn’t get the call. No, the play stands and you just go from there.”
The Orioles have played four one-run games in a row, losing the last three.
“A lot of these guys get a lot out of the kind of games we’re playing in,” Hyde said. “It’s a great experience for a lot of these guys to play in these close games on the road. We’ve been playing in a lot of close games, really, all year long, and I love that about our guys. I think we compete, I think we’re competitive. Something we wanted to make sure happened. I think they’ve done a really good job.
“We just have a hard time getting over the hump and winning close games. I think down the road, when we continue to develop and continue through this process that we’re going through right now - we’re still early on in this process and starting something special - I think they’ll be better for it in the long run.”
Outfielder Austin Hays has moved up from Double-A Bowie to Norfolk.
For the Astros
Derek Fisher LF
Alex Bregman 3B
Michael Brantley DH
Yuli Gurriel 1B
Josh Reddick RF
Jake Marisnick CF
Tony Kemp 2B
Garrett Stubbs C
Jack Mayfield SS
Framber Valdez LHP
Update: Renato Núñez broke a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the sixth inning.
Update II: Anthony Santander robbed Gurriel of a three-run homer in the sixth with a leaping catch at the fence, but the sacrifice fly tied the game.
Update III: Jack Mayfield’s throwing error in the eighth while trying to turn a double play allowed Trey Mancini to score the go-ahead run.