The Orioles are not exactly featuring an abundance of bullpen left-handers. Even on a spring roster with 73 players that includes 37 pitchers. They do return Paul Fry and Tanner Scott from the left side in the ‘pen. Who, if anyone, joins them this year is to be determined.
Fernando Abad, who signed a minor league deal, may have a good shot. Zach Muckenhirn from the O’s farm is another ‘pen lefty. Josh Rogers has returned after two surgeries and Bruce Zimmermann made one bullpen appearance last year.
But Fry and Scott are pretty important to a bullpen that made big improvement from the 162-game season of 2019, when it had a 5.79 ERA, to the 60-game season of 2020, when the relief corps’ ERA was 3.90. They went from last in the American League to seventh.
Fry had the best stats of his three years as an Oriole, going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. In 22 innings he walked nine and fanned 29. His strikeout rate, which was 8.6 his first two seasons with Baltimore, improved to 11.9 in 2020.
“Consistency within the zone,” he cited as a main reason for the improved K rate. “Strike one, it all starts there. I was attacking guys and using my slider as my weapon and not trying to place it into the zone or anything like that. When I’m consistent throwing strikes with my fastball, my slider plays off that and I can get guys to chase. So, the more they are on their toes and on their heels, the better for me. Especially with my slider.”
Scott went 0-0 with a 1.31 ERA in the truncated season, which was an improvement from 5.40 in 2018 and 4.78 in 2019. And his 4.4 walk rate was a turn for the better too.
I asked Fry about Scott’s growth over the years.
“Well, Tanner is my best friend,” Fry said of his fellow bullpen lefty. “We talk every day and we are catch partners. So, I’ll take credit for some of it. Just kidding. But with him, it’s all confidence and mentality. His stuff is electric and he can get anybody out. Again, same as with me, it was consistency in the zone, through the zone. Using his stuff to get to his slider that is absolutely wipeout. We talk about it every day, and when we’re in the bullpen, about who we might face and stuff. We just kind of bounce ideas off each other and we grow with each other.”
About the first week: Today is the fifth day of O’s spring training. Here is a look at a few interesting stories and topics from the first four.
In this entry, the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, right-hander Félix Hernández, reminded a reporter that he is still 34 and not yet 35. He also said pursuit of the Hall of Fame is one of his primary motivators at this point in his career. The Orioles would be fine with him getting closer on their watch.
“I think I have a shot to go in the Hall of Fame, but I have a few numbers that I have to keep up, like wins and strikeouts, so if I get to those goals, I think I’m going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Hernández said. “I have the numbers because I’ve got the innings, I’ve got the strikeouts, but my goal is to get to 3,000 (strikeouts) and 200 wins.”
There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of the Orioles and several other teams using a six-man rotation to limit season innings totals after the 2020 season of just 60 games. Pitching coach Chris Holt discussed that and more here.
He is still young himself, but as lefty John Means looks around the clubhouse, there are plenty of young pitchers for him to mentor and help in any way he can. In this entry he said he is very ready to do that and take on more leadership this season.