The Orioles resume their season tonight after yesterday’s break and reset following a 14-1 loss to the Mets, now faced with a stretch of playing 20 days or nights in a row.
Seriously, who’s responsible for a schedule that keeps lumping off-days together and then withholding them as if the commissioner’s office is hoarding?
The latest off-day had to be savored, and it allowed the bullpen to recover after Matt Harvey worked just three innings Wednesday night. Manager Brandon Hyde said afterward that Dillon Tate and César Valdez would be available tonight against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Adam Plutko might need a little more time before he’s an option to cover multiple innings after throwing 34 pitches behind Harvey. Mac Sceroler also logged two innings, threw 40 pitches and surrendered six runs, including three homers.
No one said this Rule 5 gig was going to be easy, especially after a long layoff and rehab process to work the inflammation out of his right shoulder.
The bigger concern is a rotation that lost ace John Means and can’t get much length. The starters have totaled 282 2/3 innings, which ranked 28th in the majors last night. Means accounted for 71 of them.
Harvey hasn’t completed five innings in his last seven starts, or six innings in his last eight, an asterisk applied to his lone appearance as an opener. His seven losses last night were tied for the most in the American League, and no starter in the majors allowed more earned runs than Harvey’s 45.
The 9.64 ERA and 2.014 WHIP in May and 12.00 ERA and 2.000 WHIP in June aren’t turning Harvey into a trade chip at the deadline. He was 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.303 WHIP in five starts in April, with only two home runs allowed.
The two moments from Wednesday night’s postgame Zoom that resonated the loudest were Harvey’s brutally honest assessment of his work and Hyde’s declaration that the veteran right-hander was staying in the rotation.
Fans may not care, but I find it refreshing that Harvey doesn’t sugarcoat his results or try to convince everyone that he had good stuff and was simply the victim of bad luck. There were multiple Orioles starters in past years whose quotes had me rechecking my scoresheet.
Harvey sneaked past the seven-second delay on MASN while blasting himself.
The closest he came to a compliment was his assessment that his mechanics were sound, which hadn’t been the case in previous struggles. The velocity was good, too.
“It was location,” Harvey said. And he was just getting warmed up.
“It’s been a couple of years now of being really horse(crap), and it’s frustrating,” he said.
“I appreciate the Orioles fans that were here, and unfortunately, I pitched like (crap) and have to be better in front of my home crowd, and I guess I just have to work harder.”
Harvey could have expressed joy or relief or whatever that Hyde was giving him another start. Instead, he was realistic again while addressing how the leash could be getting shorter with each failed outing. Whether it’s a rotation or a roster spot.
“I know I’ve definitely pitched pretty bad the last five, six starts, whatever it’s been,” he said. “My job is to prepare and try to get better. and whatever they decide, they decide. I’ve obviously been released before, or DFA’d or whatnot, so I’ve been through the whole situation.”
Harvey really impressed, and stunned, during his postgame remarks following his failed return to Citi Field - admitting mistakes, wishing he handled situations better, pretty much apologizing to Mets fans. A side of him that hadn’t been exposed to New York writers or anyone else.
He stepped up again Wednesday night. I respect that. But how much more time does he get to do it on the mound rather than a Zoom call?
For anyone suggesting that Hyde needs to start giving the kids a chance, I’ll direct you to Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Bruce Zimmermann and Zac Lowther. He’s still figuring out exactly what he has in Jorge López. He needs a veteran presence more than ever with Means out.
Tyler Wells is becoming an intriguing possibility. A Rule 5 pick. Someone who is first gaining consideration for high-leverage opportunities in the bullpen. That’s the proper order.
Harvey may not last in the rotation or on the team through September, but the Orioles remain committed to him, judging by Hyde’s lack of hesitation when asked whether the right-hander keeps getting starts.
“There’s no talk of taking him out of the rotation,” Hyde said, “so we’re going to give him the ball when it’s his turn and hopefully he can turn this thing around.”
OK, it wasn’t a long-term commitment. But Harvey is starting in Cleveland.
The Orioles confirmed Akin as tonight’s starter against the Rays, with the hosts sending left-hander Ryan Yarbrough to the mound. The next two spots are TBA for the weekend, but Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash told the media that his club was facing another lefty, which likely puts Zimmermann in the series finale on Sunday.
Zimmermann would be working on normal rest after facing the Mets on Tuesday and allowing two runs and two hits in five innings with seven strikeouts. Zimmermann has fanned 14 in his last two outings and has surrendered five runs in his last three, spanning 15 1/3 innings.
The only other lefty who comes to mind is Lowther, rider of the Triple-A shuttle, but he’d need to replace an injured player in order to return this quickly. The Orioles optioned him last Sunday and he’s scheduled to start tonight for the Tides. So, it appears to be Zimmermann unless Cash was misled.
López could start Saturday on extra rest. We’ll see.