The Orioles toyed with the idea of going with a six-man rotation, settled on the more traditional five and are downsizing to four.
It’s still April, only 16 games into the season.
The roster will undergo plenty of changes and various circumstances are going to force the adjustments, whether due to injuries, postponements or quirky off-days stuffed into one week.
Dean Kremer was optioned late Saturday night because he’s a fifth starter on a team that isn’t playing today or Thursday. Having to stay down for a minimum of 10 days rather than 15 created a logical step with Kremer, though perhaps misunderstood by some folks reacting only to the news that the rookie was demoted after holding the Rangers to one run in 4 2/3 innings and striking out six batters.
I exhausted much-needed energy yesterday trying to explain the reasoning behind sending Kremer to the alternate training site. One Twitter follower used it as an example of manager Brandon Hyde’s poor leadership, which is nonsense for multiple reasons.
(Has nothing to do with leadership and Hyde doesn’t have the final word on which players are optioned because he isn’t in the front office, just to name a few.)
Hyde saying that he wasn’t worried about the message sent by optioning a young pitcher this early also had nothing to do with a lack of leadership. Kremer would have sat around doing little besides bullpen sessions. Recalling Cole Sulser to provide an extra reliever made total sense - and he was on the taxi squad, which also made it terribly convenient.
Hyde explained it to Kremer. Kremer understood because he’s smart. He didn’t have to love it, but he saw the reasoning behind it and knows that he can rejoin the team in 10 days and hop right back into the rotation.
This was the Orioles’ signature move under executive Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. They should receive a check for $20 every time the roster is manipulated in such a manner.
Players often were sent down around the All-Star break because they’d be unavailable anyway after the season resumed, or to keep them on a regular schedule. One example is Miguel González, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk in July 2014 and made a start.
In the case of Wei-Yin Chen, it happened in June 2015 for different reasons and created drama.
Chen was optioned to Single-A Frederick in June 2015 to make room for outfielder/first baseman Chris Parmelee on the 25-man roster. It came as a surprise to many of us, and having the Keys involved really spiced up the proceedings.
Two tweets appeared on Chen’s account, the only ones in complete English sentences, expressing disappointment in the disruption of his routine. Showalter questioned whether they actually came from agent Scott Boras, who was furious at the Orioles and vented to the media.
The tweet read: “I am in excellent physical shape. I feel great and I am ready for my next start. I just pitched 8 innings of shutout baseball. I am disappointed my routine is being interrupted. I will continue to work hard and do my best to perform. Thank you for all the support!”
Yeah, sounds like something Chen would write.
Anyway, the timing really created the controversy. Chen threw eight scoreless innings the previous day against the Phillies and had a 2.89 ERA in 13 starts, but he became a victim of circumstances.
The Orioles wanted Chen to miss the Blue Jays, who had a lot of success against him, and they found a way to skip him. He would return June 26.
“He understands completely,” Showalter said. “He understands, especially when we’ve done it with him once or twice and we’ve done it with Miguel (González), we’ve done it with (Kevin) Gausman, we’ve done it with a number of guys. We’ve got a real good return from it. It’s hard. Because he’s pitching well and will again, but the whole idea is to have him pitch well again and again and again.”
Chen’s durability was a concern and the move also was intended to allow him to make a short start with Frederick, get some rest and increase the chances that he’d be available in September and October if they made the playoffs.
By comparison, what the Orioles are doing with Kremer is barely worth a headline.
It’s all about those off-days. Without them, he’d be in Miami this week and waiting for his next turn.
Though his last outing wasn’t on Chen’s level, it represented Kremer’s finest work in 2021.
“I thought he pitched very well (Saturday) night and I hope that he can build off that,” Hyde said. “I thought he threw some really good curveballs, I thought he pitched well against the left-handed hitters. Just like to see him continuing to get major league experience and continue to work on command because it’s not about his stuff, it’s about being able to work ahead in the count, not make mistakes in bad spots, things that you learn as you’re up here. So he’s just going to continue doing what he’s doing.
“He’s improving. (Saturday) night was a big step and he’s going to make a lot more starts for us the rest of the season.”
Orioles starters allowed only three runs in 16 2/3 innings in the Rangers series, with four walks and 23 strikeouts. In the last five games, they’ve surrendered six earned runs over 26 1/3 innings.
“We’re throwing the ball well,” Hyde said. “Happy with how we pitched coming into this series, I thought we threw the ball extremely well this series. I think our starters are doing a great job.”
One starter seems to be pushing the next, though they aren’t responsible for shoving Kremer to the Bowie site.
“We’re such a young team and I think that when everybody is doing well, you start to create that energy and start to build off that,” said John Means, the only pitcher in baseball with two scoreless starts covering seven or more innings.
“I think some guys are really finding out who they are and I think we’re pretty in-tune right now.”