DETROIT - Being chosen as the International League’s Player of the Month for August will be the last honor bestowed upon pitcher Chandler Shepherd in 2019. However, the true highlight of his summer is coming Tuesday night.
Shepherd has been told that he’s starting against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, a first for him in the majors after two relief appearances with the Orioles.
“It’s special for me. I’m obviously super excited for the opportunity,” Shepherd said yesterday morning while standing at his locker inside the cramped visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park.
“As far as expectations, I didn’t really have any. It was just kind of like, whatever the club needed I was going to be ready for it. But I’m super excited for the opportunity Tuesday.”
Shepherd, 27, is one of the relievers unable to get regular game work within an expanded bullpen. He’s pitched only once since the Orioles recalled him, working three innings on Sept. 7.
“There’s plenty of opportunities between outings,” said Shepherd, who posted a 1.62 ERA last month with Triple-A Norfolk.
“I think that I’ve done a good job as far as staying sharp just by playing catch every day and getting on the mound, whether it’s every other day or whatever. Before games or whenever it is. I’ve been doing a good job with that.”
The move between roles won’t faze Shepherd. He made 19 starts and three relief appearances in the minors this season, his first eight games coming with Triple-A Pawtucket. Of his 172 career outings, 125 have come out of the bullpen.
“I think, me in the past, I’ve bounced back and forth from the rotation and back into the bullpen,” he said. “It’s helped me at this point, so it’s not something that’s new to me, going back and forth. So I think that’s helped a little bit.”
This could be the only start that Shepherd gets with the Orioles. Manager Brandon Hyde might not be thinking that far ahead with so many options.
If so, Shepherd has a chance to tighten his hold on a 40-man roster spot.
It’s OK to be thinking that far ahead. Numerous changes are coming to it.
“I think that everyone here is trying to make the best of it when we get on the mound,” Shepherd said. “Once we get out there, still try to focus on the same things that I usually do. I try not to get caught up in all that. I just want to go out and pitch. But yeah, definitely, it’s a good opportunity.”
Means has allowed nine earned runs in his last five starts over 32 innings for a 2.53 ERA. He held the Tigers to one run and three hits with seven strikeouts over six innings on May 29.
Tigers rookie left-hander Tyler Alexander, making his sixth start and 11th appearance today, has gone 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.357 WHIP in 38 1/3 innings. He hasn’t started since Aug. 7, making his last five appearances out of the bullpen.
Right-handed hitters are batting .322/.342/.557 against Alexander and left-handers are slashing .222/.255/.378.