Right-hander reliever Cole Sulser’s first season with the Orioles started off pretty well, but it didn’t end up that way. He went 1-5 with a 5.56 ERA and with 17 walks and 19 strikeouts over 22 2/3 innings.
The 30-year-old Sulser went 1-2 with five saves, a 3.46 ERA and a .116 (5-for-43) opponent’s batting average in his first 10 outings. But he finished 0-3 with an 8.38 ERA and a .316 (12-for-38) opponent’s batting average in his last nine outings.
In this entry from last month, Sulser said a freakish right foot injury hampered his mechanics and may have led to some struggles as the 2020 season went on.
But the pitcher showed some solid fastball and changeup spin rates, and lefty batters hit just .143 with a .464 OPS against him. Right-handers, though, mashed him to the tune of .282/.953.
Earlier this week, manager Brandon Hyde expressed continued confidence in Sulser.
“I think that Sulse has every opportunity to win a job,” stated Hyde. “I still believe in his stuff. I think that he’s got a nice fastball with a good split-change that really gives left-handers problems. I think the breaking ball is something that he really put a focus on this year to complement those other two pitches. To have something to go to against right-hander hitters, especially.
“But I threw Sulse into a tough spot early, just because we were searching for guys to get outs at the end of the game. He had a couple good outings early. I liked the way he threw against left-handers. I thought he did have some bad luck along the way. But he battled for those two months. I think it was a learning experience for him. We’ve talked a little bit about it. We talked about it at the end of the year last year. And I think he’s going to take that experience and have a good camp and give himself an opportunity to win a job here this season.”
Hearing from Zack’s brother: It has been a while since we saw the Double-A Bowie Baysox. When they last played a game, it was in the 2019 Eastern League Championship Series. After starting the ‘19 season with the worst record of any minor league club at 7-23, the team rebounded to win their division at 76-64 before falling in the ELCS.
That was manager Buck Britton’s first year as Bowie skipper and second year managing an Orioles affiliate. He led Single-A Delmarva to a 68-66 mark in 2018. The older brother of former O’s closer Zack Britton, Buck is going to return to Bowie to manage this year when the season begins in May.
Recently Britton was a guest on the “AA Show” on Baysox.com. He talked about the excitement that fans in Bowie enjoy in seeing young prospects on their way up to the majors.
“We’re so close to Baltimore that fans are going to be able to see these guys quick and see them grow as players,” he said. “Hopefully grow as impact players in the big leagues and win for us up there. With the direction that we’ve gone, there is a lot to be excited about in Birdland. We are just hoping these guys can stay healthy, and as development, that we can push these guys along and get them ready for the big leagues.
“It’s a tall task in the AL East. Orioles fans understand - you go up against titans that are not afraid to spend however much they have to. We are trying to do it - we grow from within and we acquire as much young talent as we can and we try to develop them. Try to hold onto these guys as long as we can and just have a pipeline. There are some exciting times coming. I know Orioles fans want to win and there is a lot of history here. But I think the staff in the big leagues has done a good job and the team plays hard, man. Once the talent matches how hard these guys play it’s going to be exciting times.”
Click here to watch the entire interview from the show with Britton.
Speaking of the farm: The Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds had a “State of the Shorebirds” event on their Facebook page yesterday. During that, Delmarva general manager Chris Bitters talked about fans attending Shorebirds games this season at Perdue Stadium.
“Currently in the state of Maryland, our capacity limit is 250 people. We’re very hopeful that everyone will keep doing their part and at some point we will be able to see the capacity restrictions increase to a point that we can operate on a little bigger scale. And tie that into when we can start rolling out promotions.”
Bitters said the team will communicate to its fans information as they get it, and they have worked on creating a socially distanced stadium configuration. He hopes capacity will be increased in the next month or two. He said he anticipates that fans will have to wear masks and that could continue throughout the year.
I started a series of checking in around Birdland with farm team general managers yesterday in this visit with Triple-A Norfolk’s Joe Gregory. In a few days I’ll check in with Double-A Bowie’s Brian Shallcross and later with both Single-A teams as well.