When the Orioles’ minor league seasons begin next month, we could see rosters filled with starting pitchers and starting pitcher candidates.
Piggyback pitching is coming to the O’s farm this year. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with anyone lugging around someone else on their back.
We’ve seen it before, where a pitcher will piggyback in a minor league game. It essentially means splitting up the game between two starting pitcher candidates, one that starts the game and one that picks up in the middle innings and perhaps finishes to the end.
This topic came up yesterday when O’s director of player development Matt Blood was a guest on my postgame radio show, “Extra Innings,” on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore.
I asked Blood if we would see six-man rotations on the farm this season as an extension somewhat of teams playing all six-game series in the minor leagues this season, which starts May 4 in full-season ball.
No, we will not see six-man rotations, but instead these piggyback situations, which could be used by all clubs at all levels. We should expect to see a lot of this.
“You’ll see basically two starters per game,” Blood said on The Fan. “Like a guy will start, throw four-ish innings, and then a guy will come in after him and do the same. So I guess what I’m saying is we have more than six starters on each team. So it won’t be set up on a six-man rotation.”
Will we see this every night on the farm at all levels?
“It will be more often than not. If it’s not a piggyback situation, that will be more rare than when it is a piggyback situation,” Blood said.
The goal is to get innings for many rotation candidates. Rather than a five-man rotation, we could see teams using eight or 10 pitchers as rotation candidates in this system.
“It helps us build up starters, which is what we want to do,” Blood said. “We want to get as many opportunities to develop starters. And a starter doesn’t necessarily have to start the game, but it means that you can go multiple innings - three, four or five innings. And we want to build up guys that can do that.”
It could also help the O’s limit season innings totals for some pitchers, if they choose to, after a 2020 season where there were no minor league games.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out on the farm this season.
O’s minor league spring training is well underway in Sarasota after the big league club headed north for opening day. Blood said there are about 36 players right now working to make the low Single-A Delmarva roster. That group is working out at Twin Lakes Park.
Another group of close to 80 players is working out at Ed Smith Stadium. From this group will come the high Single-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie rosters.
Right now, what will be the bulk of the Triple-A Norfolk team is working out at the Orioles alternate site at Bowie. Will the alternate site then basically shut down as minor league opening day draws close?
“I believe that is the plan at the moment,” said Blood. “They are basically going to transfer down into Norfolk and get the season going, I believe, at about the same time as the rest of the minor league clubs are supposed to start on May 4. And we are very much anticipating an on-time start. That is the plan as of now.”
The minor league rosters are not set yet. That will be happen much closer to opening day. We covered a lot of ground in our interview and I’ll have more notes and quotes from Blood later this week in this space.
At the big league level: I guess the Orioles got the attention of the Red Sox last weekend in Boston. They held them to five runs and 15 hits and beat them in all three games.
Since then, Boston swept three from Tampa Bay by a combined 26-9 score and three from the Orioles by a combined 27-15 score. They averaged 1.67 runs per game against the Orioles in Boston and have averaged 8.83 runs per game during an American League-best, six-game winning streak.
They produced their first three-game sweep at Oriole Park since June 14-16, 2019. Since the start of the 2018 season, the Orioles are 6-19 at home versus Boston.
The 2021 Red Sox are the first team to open a season with a losing streak of three or more games and immediately follow it with a win streak of six-or-more games since the 2005 New York Mets. That club started 0-5, then won six in a row.
The Orioles certainly have a few things to try and clean up after the weekend. Right-hander Jorge López struggled again after he looked sharp in the opening innings. Will the O’s consider his rotation spot shaky this early into the season?
The defense produced a few good moments, but also the botched rundown that cost it a key run Saturday and made two errors on one play in the same inning Sunday.
Maybe Trey Mancini is getting his bat going after a three-run homer and four-RBI day. He also homered Saturday and this was his 11th time homering in back-to-back games in his career and first since Sept. 16-17, 2019. He picked up his second multi-RBI game this season, his eighth career game with four or more RBIs and first since Sept. 17, 2019 against Toronto.