Taking the Orioles rotation for another spin

The revisiting of the Orioles rotation could have worn a path deeper than the actual pitching staff.

Chris Ellis and Keegan Akin are confirmed to close out the series at Yankee Stadium, and Matt Harvey would stay on turn if he pitches Monday afternoon against the Royals at Camden Yards. John Means won’t be ready before Wednesday after starting last night and allowing two runs in five innings.

What the Orioles do for the remaining weeks of the season is one of the more interesting topics to track.

Alexander Wells remains with the club for long relief but is a candidate for Tuesday’s assignment. If he’s the choice, does he receive more starts for the Orioles to resume their evaluation of him?

Manager Brandon Hyde declined last night to announce who gets the ball, whether because it hasn’t been finalized or he’d just prefer to wait.

Dean Kremer started last night at Triple-A Norfolk, tossed five scoreless innings and would be working on short rest if recalled, but he’s expected to return this month. He figures to get back in the rotation so the Orioles can check his progress and, they hope, see a more confident pitcher with better command - which would give them more confidence to perhaps make an early projection of him as a 2022 starter.

Thumbnail image for Lowther-Throws-White-Debut-Sidebar.jpgLeft-hander Zac Lowther is back with the Tides and he’s been discussed as a call-up this month, as the Orioles shuffle players to keep their expanded roster at 28. And they’d prefer sticking with candidates on the 40-man roster instead of making corresponding moves.

Do the Orioles try to pack Wells, Kremer and Lowther into the rotation with Means, who isn’t going anywhere? Maybe they piggyback like they’ve done at the upper level of the minors.

This idea appeals to me more and more as I kick around ideas, but I’m sure there are valid counterarguments.

Harvey, Akin and Ellis would leave them with seven starters, and I’m not sure they’d be willing to go with six.

We haven’t mentioned Mike Baumann, who’s apparently under discussion to join the fraternity of players who have made their major league debuts this year. The total is frozen at 14, tied with the Rangers for the major league lead and one below the club record set in 2018.

Fifty-five different players have been used, with reliever Zack Burdi waiting to become the 56th and draw the Orioles within two of that record, set in 2019.

I actually don’t believe that Burdi knows the updated total. He hasn’t checked the tote board.

Hyde said this week that he didn’t know whether Baumann was under consideration. He’s the ninth-rated prospect in the system, per Baseball America, and the 10th according to MLBPipeline.com. And he’s on a roll.

Baumann allowed four runs last month in 22 innings and struck out 22 batters. He’d probably be in the majors now, or would have debuted earlier this summer, if he didn’t have the forearm/elbow discomfort.

There isn’t much of a reason to speculate about Bruce Zimmermann in the rotation unless the club suddenly indicates that his sprained right ankle has healed and he’s throwing off a mound and ready to make a late appearance or two. It hasn’t been dismissed, but we aren’t there.

Hyde left open the possibility of Jorge López re-entering the rotation rather than staying in the bullpen, but there also isn’t much reason to speculate about that as long as his results are so much better in relief.

López and the club needed this switch. As I’ve said, I’d spend this time figuring out the best ways to use him after the starter leaves. Bulk relief, high-leverage situations later in the game, maybe to close.

Tyler Wells seems to be first in line for the ninth inning. He entered in the eighth last night in a tie game and retired all five batters with three strikeouts - Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo and Luke Voit.

Means has totaled 119 1/3 innings this summer to make a significant jump from the 43 2/3 during a truncated 2020 season.

“I’m doing pretty good for the circumstances, for sure,” Means said. “It’s definitely felt like a grind to get through these last couple months, but I had that five or six weeks off in the middle of the year, so that helped. I feel good.”

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