Expanded roster still stretching Orioles thin

Grant manager Brandon Hyde one baseball wish and he could go in pretty much any direction, no GPS capable of leading him to an exact spot. Give him a bunch, however, and he’s demanding more length out of an expanded roster.

The bump from 26 to 28 players just doesn’t cut it.

He’d rub the shine off the genie lamp for a deeper bench and pitching staff.

“I wish we had a 35-man roster in September this year,” he said yesterday morning, sitting in the dugout for his media session and confirming that Ramón Urías would be out of a lineup that still hadn’t been posted.

The Orioles didn’t have an extra infielder with Urías still bothered by soreness in his upper right leg. Hyde said later that Trey Mancini was a definite no due to “general soreness” that included the first baseman’s foot.

The only roster move sent reliever Dusten Knight back down to Triple-A Norfolk to create a spot for left-hander Zac Lowther, who started and held the Royals to one run in six innings.

Lowther has completed six innings 27 times across four minor league seasons, most recently on Sept. 1, 2019 in his final start with Double-A Bowie. But I digress ...

Jahmai Jones batted with two outs in the ninth inning and the tying run on first base, Hyde’s options limited with no Mancini and no real infield replacement available if the game went into extras. Jones ran the count full and struck out.

Jorge López faced one batter yesterday, rolled his right ankle and forced Hyde to dig deeper into a bullpen that he wanted to rest.

Former manager Buck Showalter detested the expansion of rosters to as many as 40 players and how it completely changed the strategy. Hyde would settle for a little less.

He’s taking the “over” when set at 28.

The rotation was unsettled yesterday morning beyond the decision to start Lowther. Hyde wanted to wait until Matt Harvey and John Means threw to decide the order, and just how much rest to give them.

Harvey’s turn fell yesterday, with a fifth starter not needed until tonight, but Hyde did some flip-flopping. And the media was told following the game that rookie Alexander Wells would make his fourth start and seventh appearance.

Who knew that juggling was a needed skill for a major league manager?

Hyde must feel like he’s always walking a tightrope. Someone might want to display an act of kindness and give him a safety net.

“It’s the end of the year, and coming off last year we’re being really careful with John,” Hyde explained. “Matt has thrown a ton of innings this year, more than I expected and probably he expected. He’s posted almost every fifth day, so he’s been wonderful for us. But right now, we’re just trying to keep them healthy as much as we can and finish the season.”

The last two starters in the Royals series remain TBA but likely will be Harvey and Means, with Chris Ellis going Friday night against the Blue Jays with an extra day of rest.

Thumbnail image for Akin-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgThe Orioles have a makeup doubleheader on Saturday and could start Keegan Akin, also with extra rest, and Lowther on his normal turn.

Or they could do something else, because the rotation is more fluid than the Atlantic.

I asked Hyde whether the Orioles could go with six starters, before the Wells announcement that does technically give them that many.

“Honestly, our pitching right now is a day-to-day, series-to-series thing,” he said. “We have some options, but nothing’s set in stone.”

Paper will suffice. Means, Harvey, Ellis, Akin, Lowther and Wells are on it. Oh, so many rookies.

López’s ankle injury, the severity of it known later today, could lead to another change in the bullpen. It already caused an issue yesterday because he faced only one batter and wrecked Hyde’s plan to protect a one-run lead.

Tyler Wells was warming in the eighth in case the Orioles took the lead. They did not, and Zack Burdi became the 56th player used this summer.

Hyde is committed to rationing Wells’ innings as a safety measure.

“I just love the composure and the presence he has, and the confidence,” Hyde said. “It’s amazing the confidence that the guy has for hardly being in the big leagues at all and not pitching ever in Triple-A and coming off injury. I’m just trying to keep him healthy, also, to finish the season.”

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