Armstrong’s strong spring and a deeper dive into Orioles bullpen

The magic of video is enabling the Orioles to stay connected while spread all over the country.

I’ve heard that reliever Shawn Armstrong was able to share a bullpen session with one of his teammates that included a fastball clocked at 97 mph.

Armstrong’s fastball averaged 93.9 mph last season, per BrooksBaseball.net. There is no data available on his home workouts.

An expansion of rosters from 26 to 29 players for the first month enables the Orioles to carry at least a few extra relievers to protect their starters, who will need to ramp back up in a second spring training. Whatever the math, Armstrong figures to be part of the mix.

He was sneaky good in camp, tossing six scoreless innings in his four exhibition appearances with only one hit allowed, two walks and five strikeouts. Opponents batted .053 against him.

Shawn-Armstrong-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgArmstrong was counted among the veterans who reported to the complex in January for the annual minicamp, after he reviewed a disappointing 2019 season two months earlier with pitching coach Doug Brocail and director of pitching Chris Holt. They changed how he set up on the rubber, which altered his delivery and allowed him to more effectively drive through the target.

The shape of his pitches also changed while the Orioles further exposed him to data that’s now made available in the organization.

Camp began with Armstrong viewed as one of the sure things in the bullpen and nothing happened to blow up that projection. Count him in the group that also includes Hunter Harvey, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier and Paul Fry - unless something unforeseeable occurs and then we’ll forget this entire conversation.

A bullpen curiosity for me is Hector Velázquez, who didn’t throw a single pitch for the Orioles after they claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox on March 8. Manager Brandon Hyde watched him throw a side session, but couldn’t get him into any games due to the shutdown.

Would a second spring training convince the Orioles to keep Velázquez rather than option him to Triple-A? Does he need to get into some games if they can be arranged?

We might be talking intrasquad unless teams reconvene in Florida and the Orioles are allowed to play some of their baseball neighbors. The Pirates, Braves and Rays are close.

No one in the industry knows how spring training 2.0 would unfold, though they seem to be asked on every conference call. Don’t know the location, length or format.

They get pressed more than a wrinkled shirt and still can’t provide an answer. It’s impossible to do at this date.

An elastic bullpen stretched beyond eight relievers for the first month makes it easier for Hyde to carry a third left-hander, though he might have done so anyway. Tanner Scott struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 spring innings and allowed only one earned run, but he also walked three. He didn’t surrender a run in his last four outings and struck out the side against the Yankees on March 8.

Scott’s fastball was clocked at 100-101 mph in his last appearance. Hyde said afterward that it was the best he’d seen Scott “in two spring trainings and last year.”

Way to go out on a high note.

The 50-man camp roster contains nine lefties, including starters John Means, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone. Bruce Zimmermann is expected to be reassigned in order to gain more experience at Triple-A and Rob Zastryzny allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings, with a .409 average against.

A small sample size that could have a big impact on him.

Southpaw Ty Blach, tagged for five runs and five hits with three walks in 2 1/3 innings against the Nationals in his final appearance, seems more likely to be shipped to Norfolk if he stays in the organization. The Orioles want to hold onto a few veterans as insurance in case of an injury to one of their starters, rather than rush a young prospect to the majors simply out of need. But they also have right-handers Chandler Shepherd and Thomas Eshelman as alternatives.

That leaves Bleier, Fry and Scott as left-handed bullpen options and the strong possibility that the trio is together if there’s an actual opening day.

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