Will the Rule 5 pitchers get a long look? (plus other notes)

In terms of the date on the calendar, the Orioles’ two Rule 5 pick pitchers currently on the team made it farther than the two pitchers the club took a look at last spring. Then, right-hander Michael Rucker was returned to the Cubs and right-hander Brandon Bailey to the Astros on March 6.

Yesterday, March 10, the current Rule 5 pitchers made their third outings and combined for three scoreless innings. In their previous appearances, right-hander Mac Sceroler allowed five runs in 1/3 of an inning versus Toronto and righty Tyler Wells allowed one run in one inning.

While Sceroler has not yet even pitched at Double-A, Wells does have 32 2/3 innings at that level under his belt. But that was in the 2018 season. He missed the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of that year.

That one rough outing left Sceroler with an ERA of 19.29 after yesterday. But Wells has a 2.25 ERA, allowing just one run in four spring innings.

Will they get a long look and stick around for most of camp to provide the O’s maximum evaluation time? I asked manager Brandon Hyde.

“I think we’re going to see as we go,” the skipper said. “I’m not going to jump to any conclusions at this point with our roster. It’s two arms that we liked going into the draft, the Rule 5 draft. And like right now. Both guys have really good stuff. They performed today, so I think we’re going to continue to take a look.”

Galvis had a big day: The Orioles broke a four-game losing streak with Wednesday’s win over Toronto. After going 1-for-6 to start the spring, shortstop Freddy Galvis went 3-for-3 against the Blue Jays with three singles and he drove in a run. So he’s now hitting .444 at 4-for-9.

In a sense, he is among the fortunate few in O’s camp who can feel pretty secure about their roster spot and not have to worry too much about the stat sheet.

“Right now it’s just get my body ready for the season,” he said. “Because last year was a short season and now we’re going to play 162. So, the main thing right now is get (the) body going and try to be healthy for the whole thing.”

The Orioles are 3-6-1 and Galvis was asked his opinion about how the team has been playing.

“I think we’re playing OK. We have to play better,” he said. “As a team we have to do everything to win the game and put together our offense, defense and pitching. At the same time, we have a lot of young guys. As a team we have to work very hard to get there. We’ve been doing OK, but we have to do better.”

Elias-ST-with-Hyde-and-Ebel-Sidebar.jpgElias speaks: O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias spoke with O’s reporters via a Zoom interview before the game with Toronto. He confirmed the Orioles will hold their alternate camp at Double-A Bowie once again.

But he is also very much looking forward to the return of minor league games. The season is set to start May 4 for all, from Low-A Delmarva through Triple-A Norfolk.

“I think it’s a start,” said Elias. “We’ve got to start getting back to normal in terms of just the development and instruction that was missed last year. Yes, we were able to replicate a good bit of that at our alternate site and instructional league, but only for some of the players and only in some ways. For some guys, it may have been, in their particular situation, more beneficial that they had that concentrated swing work or swing-decision work or whatever away from the pressures of competition and the travel.

But, overall for the whole population of players, it’s a big negative impact for us to not have minor league baseball (in 2020) across the levels. Because I think that certain players need failure, different types of failure. They need game experience, they need to face unpredictable different competition on different nights. They need to get used to the professional game. Whatever it may be. We’ve all just been accustomed to what minor league baseball provides.

“And it shows us who are the big leaguers and who aren’t. There is a filtration component to it as well, and an evaluative component. And we’re missing that data. We’re missing on our own guys but also on other team’s prospects. You know, trade targets, future signees, what have you. The whole industry is starved for that. And minor league baseball is also part of the business of baseball from a fan and entertainment standpoint. And all that has been missing. Us in particular, we have a great setup across Maryland and we want to use it again. So, we’ll just be happy that it’s getting off the ground and 2021 is not going to be the same as 2019 but it’s going to be better than 2020.”

All front offices are trying to decide how to handle pitcher season innings totals for this season coming off a 60-game big league season and one with no games on the farm. I asked Elias how many innings, generally speaking, pitchers threw at Bowie last summer.

“I don’t want to use the term official innings, but innings where we made them as official as we possibly could it was, for most of those players, in the 40 to 50 range at Bowie,” he replied. “But then there was a great bit of work that we also tabulated and charted when they were home between spring training and the Bowie experience starting in July. So, it would depend pitcher-by-pitcher and it would depend how much you want to count home innings against your high school teammates or against a net, whatever you were doing versus kind of firing on all cylinders at our alternate site.

“This is part of the big unknown. No one quite knows how to weigh those versus the other. But we kept track of all of it. Chris Holt and Darren Holmes and our pitching experts, they are making the best case-by-case judgments that we can. But it’s a challenge.”

On another pitching topic, I asked Elias his take on the mid-80s velocity we saw on Saturday from right-hander Félix Hernández as he walked two and allowed two runs in two innings versus the Tigers. Does he expect to see more velocity? Can Hernández pitch effectively at his current levels?

“He hasn’t pitched in a year, and if it does or if it doesn’t a ton, I still think that, as I said when we signed him, this is a pitcher with an incredible amount of skill and savvy,” Elias said. “He’s transitioned into a different phase of his career. I think we were seeing that last spring before the shutdown and I thought he pitched well the other night. He looked good. He was in command of the game. Kind of the mound presence, just set a tone, threw strikes.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him use his pitchability, his experience, but obviously as he builds arm strength that can only help, too. It’s been terrific having him so far and I’m really looking forward to his next few outings and seeing where we’re at with him down the stretch, because I think having an effective Félix Hernández on our team would be great from a number of angles, but we’ve got competition and we’ve got time left where things can happen and we’ll see where this goes.”

Hernández, the 2010 American League Cy Young winner, makes his second start for the Orioles this afternoon against the Pirates in Bradenton.

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