An important part of the Orioles’ pitching fantasies involves the pounding of the door that leads to the major league staff.
A two-fisted beating. Maybe a swift kick or two to bust it off its hinges.
There wasn’t much more this summer than a light tapping.
Eighteen pitchers made starts for the Orioles in 2019. Luis Ortiz was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on June 14 to start against the Red Sox, replacing Andrew Cashner, and the club had to ignore his 7.01 ERA and 1.65 WHIP while executing the move.
He didn’t receive another chance in the majors.
Josh Rogers made five relief appearances before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He registered an 8.51 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 11 starts with the Tides, preventing him from becoming an option for the Orioles’ rotation.
The Orioles were trying to decide whether to keep David Hess in a starting role or transition him to a reliever. He’s focused now on trying to stay on the 40-man roster after going 1-10 with a 7.09 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 28 home runs allowed in 80 innings.
Fans pushing for left-hander Keegan Akin to get a chance had to put aside a 4.73 ERA and 1.51 WHIP accumulated over 25 games with Norfolk that at least in part could be blamed on the organization’s efforts to sharpen his secondary stuff and alter his approach to pitching.
Akin is viewed as a strong candidate to crack the rotation next season, whenever he finally gets the call. He could start out with the Tides as part of a unit that might finally make some real noise at the door.
A veteran from outside the organization could crash the party. A non-roster invitee to camp who increases the depth and gives manager Brandon Hyde another option if a need arises.
And a need always arises.
It’s probably safe to assume Akin and Dean Kremer begin the season with Norfolk, the Orioles hoping that both of them eventually wind up in Baltimore. Kremer hasn’t logged more than four games in the International League, but he was tremendous in the Arizona Fall League and remains one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the system.
Bruce Zimmermann made seven starts with Norfolk after receiving his promotion from Double-A Bowie. Alex Wells had a 2.95 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 24 starts with the Baysox and a 0.57 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 15 2/3 innings with the AFL’s Surprise Saguaros.
Sending him back to the Eastern League would be done only if Norfolk’s rotation is too crowded. And it wouldn’t seem fair.
Hess, Ortiz, Eshelman and Shepherd remain in the organization. Zac Lowther was 13-7 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 148 innings in 26 starts with Bowie.
Michael Baumann was 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 13 games (11 starts) with the Baysox and he allowed only two home runs in 70 innings. Because he began the season at Single-A Frederick, he might have to go back to Bowie and wait for a spot to open above him.
The Orioles selected Cole Sulser off waivers from the Rays on Oct. 1, but he transitioned to the bullpen in the minors following the 2014 season. He made three starts in the minors in 2016 and four this summer among his 49 appearances at Triple-A Durham.
All seven of his appearances with the Rays this season came as a reliever.
A 5.59 ERA this season placed the Orioles at the bottom of the major league rankings. They need a few pitchers to start banging on the door.