Orioles could be ready to expand bench

The improvements in the Orioles rotation during the last road trip and John Means’ ability to gut out five innings last night after a laborious first could open some doors for manager Brandon Hyde. Maybe shuffle the hand that he’s been dealt.

Hyde finds it much easier to rest certain relievers with fewer innings to cover. A burden finally is lifted from the bullpen, for however long it lasts.

Game management is simplified. Hyde will take it.

There’s also the possibility that the club finally can go back to a four-man bench, which has been of interest all along. An extra reserve has been deemed a luxury that the Orioles can’t afford without the rotation working deeper in games and certain relievers becoming more trustworthy and less inclined to need rescuing.

Hyde indicated yesterday that the idea of an expanded bench has been discussed and the timing seems to favor it.

Brandon-Hyde-Looks-Out-From-Dugout-White-Sidebar.jpg“You’re hopeful,” Hyde said. “I think that’s something we’re talking about a little bit because of the off-days coming up, too, before the break. With our schedule, we’ve got a few off-days in a short amount of time, so that’s definitely a possibility and that would be something that would obviously benefit us offensively.

“If our starters continue to give these types of innings, it’s definitely something we’ll look into.”

The Orioles are off June 24 and 27 and again July 4 prior to the All-Star break. The roster can undergo a makeover of sorts.

Dwight Smith Jr. is eligible to come off the seven-day concussion injured list on Friday. There’s one way to expand the bench after the Orioles recalled Anthony Santander as Smith’s replacement.

Santander had his fourth career three-hit game last night and is batting .389/.476/.667 in five games. The Oriole probably aren’t eager to send him back down.

DJ Stewart was placed on the 10-day injured list Thursday with a sprained right ankle. Mark Trumbo’s injury rehab assignment runs out in four days.

Trumbo had his surgically repaired knee checked Monday in Baltimore and he served as the designated hitter last night at Triple-A Norfolk.

“He’s progressing,” Hyde said. “He’s swinging the bat, but we’re still monitoring it closely. It’s a tough injury to come back from and we’re still monitoring how he’s recovering.

“The video I’ve seen he’s running well, a lot better than spring training. He’s starting to play positions a little bit, playing some outfield and first base. So we’re just kind of monitoring it and seeing how he’s recovering.”

The Orioles aren’t in a rush to promote outfielder Austin Hays. They cut him late in spring training in order to continue his development at a new level and the process was delayed due to a sprained thumb. He’s expected to receive an extensive amount of at-bats with the Tides.

Better performances out of the bullpen also fuel the idea of carrying a four-man bench. The collective ERA is below 3.00 over the past two weeks without the 12-11 debacle in Texas.

Mychal Givens is out of his funk with no runs or hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts, in his last four appearances over 4 1/3 innings. Shawn Armstrong hasn’t surrendered an earned run in 13 of his 15 appearances since leaving the Mariners. Miguel Castro strung together five scoreless outings in a row until a two-out walk and bloop double last night led to a run. Richard Bleier is beginning to look like his pre-surgery self with the old movement on his pitches.

“In the last seven games, six games were outstanding,” Hyde said. “We had that one hiccup in Arlington. Besides that, those six games, our bullpen has thrown the ball great and they’re kind of feeding off each other right now, pitching with a little bit, seems like more purpose.

“They’re throwing more strikes. They’re attacking hitters more. They’re able to get to two strikes and put guys away and it’s been great.”

* New pitcher Tom Eshelman joined Norfolk yesterday and reliever Branden Kline was transferred to Double-A Bowie.

blog comments powered by Disqus