Hays is out of the lineup for the second consecutive night.
“His hamstring’s feeling a little bit better,” manager Brandon Hyde said in his Zoom call. “Hopefully he’ll be available off the bench tonight, but we’ll see.”
The bullpen is a real sore spot and Hyde is keeping the closer role flexible rather than committing to César Valdez, who’s allowed six runs and 12 hits in his last five appearances totaling 3 2/3 innings. He’s also been tagged with two blown saves to raise his total to four in 12 opportunities.
“It’s a difficult one, because we have so many guys who are having a tough few weeks,” Hyde said when asked who he’s likely to use in the ninth.
“Paul Fry right now is pitching the best out of anybody. He’s been our most consistent reliever, really, this past month. We had a ton of guys in April throw the ball really well and I was comfortable throwing a lot of guys in high-leverage spots.
“The ninth inning, for me, is a different inning than any other inning, and it’s challenging, so with guys who have never done it before, really, in our bullpen and we’re not really pitching extremely well right now, it’s going to be a mixed bag right now. If I don’t use Paul Fry in a big spot in the seventh or eighth, you could possibly see him in the ninth, but we’ve got to try to get there, also, so I’m going to do the best I can.”
Valdez has labored twice this month when working in back-to-back games. He was charged with two runs and three hits in one-third of an inning on May 11 at Citi Field, taking the loss, and last night was charged with three runs and three hits in one-third of an inning.
His ERA has risen from 1.23 on May 10 to 3.93, and he’s allowing 11.3 hits per nine innings this season.
“He felt good yesterday,” Hyde said. “I think he’s just had a tough couple weeks. He was so good in April, so good last couple weeks of the season last year. I just think you’re seeing the changeup just hang in the strike zone longer than normal. He was lights-out for us at the end and, really, at the beginning of this year, getting so many swings and misses and weak contact and weak ground balls.
“The changeup was really a strike-to-ball changeup where the bottom would drop out and finish below the zone, and now what you’re seeing, really, when he’s been hit here the last three or four outings has been the changeup’s just staying up in the zone a little too long and they’re able to get a barrel on it. So he’s aware of it, he knows, he’s frustrated, he talks about it, he’s trying to get back to what he was like in April, like a lot of our guys. And hopefully he gets back there soon.”
Left-hander Tanner Scott is experiencing more command issues, walking 17 batters in 18 1/3 innings and making it harder to consider him for closing.
“He just needs to pitch,” Hyde said.
“With Tanner, for me, he was so good in spring training and so good to start the year because he was just really letting it go and not worrying about mechanics, not worry about anything except trying to throw the ball by the guy. And so you saw a lot of 99-100s this spring and early part of the year, and now, like last night, his first pitch was 95 spiked. That just tells me he’s thinking too much, that he’s trying to place the ball, he’s trying to throw strikes instead of just being an athlete and getting after it and compete.
“He’s been really successful the last couple years when there’s traffic and I bring him in in a big spot to get a hitter out, I can’t tell you how many times he’s punched that guy out, and it’s really because it’s like a sprint. He’s got one job. He just there to punch the guy out. When he has more of a longer outing or I send him back out, that’s when I feel like that’s the next step for him, is to be able to have that same mentality throughout an inning, or go out, punch, sit and then come back out, start the next inning, have that same mentality. He just isn’t quite there yet, and that’s something we need to continue to work on.”
Dillon Tate (hamstring) could jump back into the bullpen after tonight’s injury rehab appearance with Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles will evaluate his performance and decide whether he needs to remain in the minors.
“D-Tate would really improve our right-on-right,” Hyde said. “If you look at our bullpen, we just don’t have a whole lot of strength with guys right-handed, pitchers who get right-handed hitters out, and we face a lot of right-handed lineups. And D-Tate has historically been a good right-on-right guy and that would definitely help us.”
Right-handers slash .210/.281/.323 against Tate and left-handers slash .200/.328/.400.