Leftover thoughts on Wells and López in bullpen roles

While wondering how I possibly could have missed using a “sage advice” pun in Wednesday night’s game story ...

So much could get lost in the streak-breaking victory, including the importance of Chris Ellis completing three innings in a bullpen game and burning herbs in the clubhouse. Seems like a small detail - the Ellis part - but one-and-done could have left manager Brandon Hyde in a real bind.

Tyler Wells was denied a chance at his first major league save after the Orioles added a fifth run in the eighth inning to lead 10-6, but he deserved recognition for the way he plowed through the Angels.

Juan Lagares struck out on seven pitches, the last a slider. He fouled off a 98 mph fastball earlier in the at-bat and took a 97 mph heater outside the strike zone.

Jack Mayfield popped up his first pitch, clocked at 97 mph. David Fletcher took a 98 mph fastball for a strike and flied out on an 89 mph slider.

Game over. Streak deceased.

“I think Tyler Wells was throwing 98 (mph), nasty slider,” Hyde said.

Both accurate.

Thumbnail image for Wells-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgWells, who turned 27 yesterday, missed almost a month with tendinitis in his right wrist and the shutdown was an unexpected aid to his rookie season. The team is being careful with his innings as he makes the jump from Double-A and didn’t pitch the past two years following Tommy John surgery and cancellation of the minor league season.

He looks fresh. More so than the sage.

Wells hasn’t allowed a run or hit this month in four appearances covering 3 1/3 innings and he’s struck out four with only one walk. His scoreless streak has reached six games and his ERA has dropped from 4.10 to 3.64.

Let him close as a component of the evaluation period. And if it isn’t a save situation, give him the highest-leverage moments and find out whether he’s ready to handle the responsibility.

So far, his stuff and demeanor suggest he’s ready. He wants the ball in pressure spots. He’d love to close. So just do it.

I’ve always believed that Jorge López could be an imposing weapon in the late innings with his upper-90s four-seamer and his sinker. But they’d also play in a setup role or if López entered games in middle relief. Limiting how many times he goes through the order

Maybe it’s just an illusion, but I swear that every opponent has relievers firing high-90s fastballs in the fifth and sixth. They don’t eat innings, they blaze them.

Like Trey Mancini and Austin Wynns with sage.

Hyde has thought about it, of course. He’s also thought about the club’s desperate need for starters, which he’s forced to mention every time someone asks why López isn’t already a full-time reliever or ticketed for the role over the final month.

“I think that’s definitely an option,” Hyde said. “He’s got starter stuff, and so with lack of starting pitching out there in the game, you don’t want to give up on a guy who has starter stuff, and he has shown flashes of making good starts. It’s been a difficult year for him in a lot of ways, on the field and off the field, and so you take that in perspective also. But I do think he’s very interesting as a reliever as well because I think that he could be a late-inning, one- or two-inning guy or a long guy or whatever it may be, just because the fastball velo and the secondary stuff is good.

“That being said, he’s got four pitches, too, so I think we’re just going to explore all options with him. And the move to the ‘pen for him ... Listen, we need starters, but I do think he’s interesting out of the bullpen also.”

Hyde talked to López about the potential benefits of arriving at the ballpark on certain days unsure whether he’d pitch. Taking away the structure of rotation life.

“Like (Wednesday) night, he was available out of the ‘pen, I had him up in the eighth, didn’t know if he was going to go in the game,” Hyde said. “I gave him the situation. ‘This is the situation you’ll pitch.’ Didn’t use him and now he’s available again (yesterday). So I think that might be helpful.”

I’ll use Arthur Rhodes as an example, a pitcher who came up through the minors as a starter but found longevity in the majors as a late-inning reliever - particularly in a set-up role. Hyde used Joe Kelly, a starter in St. Louis and later in Boston who found his niche coming out of the bullpen, with an uptick in his stuff.

Hyde wants to know whether it also can happen with López, who made his second relief appearance yesterday and tossed two scoreless and hitless innings with four strikeouts. His fastball and sinker were in the 96-98 mph range, another significant improvement from his last start at Tropicana Field when he was in the low 80s.

His final pitch, resulting in a called third strike to conclude a 13-1 win, was 97.5 mph.

“It might be helpful coming to the park, ‘Hey, I might pitch today, I might not,’ ” Hyde said. “It’s more about also the sitting the four or five days in between starts that some guys like or don’t like.”

The Orioles like this newer version of López.

* Yesterday marked the first time that the Orioles scored 13 runs or more and hit one home run or fewer since Aug. 30, 2019 in Kansas City.

* Catcher Pedro Severino hit his ninth career home run yesterday on the first pitch, the most in any count. Angels reliever Jake Petricka served it up and has surrendered two grand slams in his career, the other against former Oriole Manny Machado on April 28, 2016 in Chicago.

* Mancini is 9-for-25 (.360) during a six-game hitting streak.

* If you like round numbers, Keegan Akin needs two more strikeouts for 100 in his career.

* Zac Lowther pitched four innings last night on his rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie and allowed two unearned runs and five hits in four innings. He walked one batter, struck out four and committed a throwing error.

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