Job one for any catcher is working with his pitchers and handling his pitching staff. If they can throw in a few hits and help the offense, that’s a bonus.
Orioles catcher Austin Wynns sees it that way, too, and since his recall to the big leagues Monday has caught two games where the Orioles have pitched well. On Monday versus Minnesota, O’s pitchers allowed two earned runs over 10 innings with three walks and 14 strikeouts. On Wednesday night, they gave up three earned runs with three walks and nine strikeouts.
While he is looking for his first 2021 hit, Wynns seems to have injected some energy into a team that had it, but saw it get diminished during a long losing streak. When Wynns was with Triple-A Norfolk, he impressed Tides manager Gary Kendall even as his own team had some pitching issues. The pitcher still throws the ball and the catcher can only do so much. But Wynns was certainly holding up his end in Norfolk.
“Well, I tell you, he is a take charge guy first of all,” said Kendall. “To me, that is a huge thing when talking about a catcher, a guy that takes charge of the game. He has no problem running a pitching staff and he’ll let his opinions be heard. At Double-A and here also, when I’ve had Austin, that is what is most impressive - what he brings and his personality.
“He’s a relentless worker and a very tough kid. Catching is a grueling position, but he’s resilient day in and day out. You have no problem catching him several nights in a row. Even a day game after a night game. He posts. He has an efficient, short swing and can handle the bat a little bit. Can get a bunt down and move runners. He’s been really a joy. Kind of hope I never manage him again, you know?”
Right-hander Dean Kremer made his first Triple-A start of the year on Tuesday night for the Tides and Kendall said the performance he watched matched what also looked good in the boxscore. Kremer went four innings on two hits and two runs (one earned) with two walks and seven strikeouts on 62 pitches, 39 for strikes.
“Real good,” said Kendall. “You know, he faced nine lefty hitters - they had two switch-hitters and seven lefties. He spent some time working on the command of his secondary pitches. I don’t think he threw many cutters, but the curveballs, changeups and fastballs were good. He pitched ahead, he elevated when he had to with his fastball, he located and his curveball was real good. And his changeup was outstanding. Threw some really good swing and miss changeups. He really attacked the strike zone and looked good.”
In that same game on Tuesday, as Norfolk beat Durham 6-5, right-hander Hunter Harvey made his fourth rehab appearance for the Tides. On the Orioles’ 60-day injured list with a left oblique strain, Harvey got the win in that game. In 1 2/3 scoreless innings, he gave up two hits with no walks and two strikeouts. Harvey threw 18 of his 30 pitches for strikes. Harvey could be activated by the Orioles this weekend.
“He looked as good as he’s ever looked for me,” said Kendall. “His stuff and his fastball command got better and his secondary pitches got better each time out. His split, too. Hopefully, that is something he can take to the big leagues with him. I’ve had him as a starter and as a reliever, and that was about as good a stuff as he’s had.”
An encouraging report and Harvey will be a welcome addition to an O’s bullpen that hopefully gets back to pitching better. The ‘pen ERA was 2.81 at the end of April - fifth-best in the major leagues.
Right-hander Kyle Bradish has now made two starts for Norfolk, since his promotion from Double-A Bowie, where he pitched 13 2/3 scoreless and struck out 26. In two games for the Tides, he has an ERA of 3.24. Over 8 1/3 innings, he has allowed nine hits and three runs with four walks and nine strikeouts.
“He’s got real good life on his fastball with two breaking balls and both of them play with good rotation and finish,” Kendall said. “The outing at home against Charlotte (one run in five innings) was kind of a dominating outing. He got all his pitches over, he got ahead and he’s got plenty on his fastball. Real hard worker, too.”
The Tides got off a slow start this year as the club dealt with inconsistent pitching and injuries to key players like Jahmai Jones, Richie Martin, Yusniel Diaz, Rylan Bannon and Evan Phillips. Jones could return sometime next week.
Norfolk lost nine in a row at one point, losing four of those games by three runs or less. But since then the Tides are 6-2 going into last night’s game with Durham.
Kendall said two O’s 2017 draft picks have come to his club recently and provided a nice lift in outfielder Zach Jarrett and infielder/outfielder Willy Yahn. The Tides have been pitching better and this duo helped the team as well. Jarrett was selected in round 28 in 2017 and Yahn in round 25.
“We have some guys in Jarrett and Yahn, they are guys that have a tremendous self belief that they belong up here and they have provided us with an energy and a spark,” Kendall said. “Been fun to watch, so hopefully that can continue until we get healthier. It is just the way they play. It can be contagious. Not that we were missing energy, but after a few injuries, they have been big for us.”
Tides won last night: Norfolk beat Durham 12-4 in a game that ended in the top of the eighth last night. The game was initially listed as suspended after Durham pitcher Tyler Zombro was struck in the face by a line drive and had to be taken off on a stretcher and hospitalized. But the game later was listed as official and Norfolk lefty Alexander Wells pitched four scoreless innings of relief for the win.
The Tampa Bay Rays, Durham’s parent club, issued this statement late last night: “Tyler Zombro was transported to Duke University Hospital in Durham and is in stable condition. He is currently undergoing further treatment and observation.”
From the Tides: “Thursday night’s game between the Tides and Durham Bulls was called in the eighth inning after Bulls pitcher Tyler Zombro was tragically hit by a batted ball. Norfolk was leading 12-4 at the time of the injury and it is an official game.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Norfolk Tides organization are with Tyler, his family, friends and the Durham Bulls at this time.”
Jarrett and Yahn helped Norfolk again, as Jarrett went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Yahn went 1-2 with four runs scored. Chance Sisco was 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Double-A Bowie won its seventh in a row blanking Hartford 4-0 on a combined four-hitter from Ofelky Peralta, who went the first five innings and allowed three hits and Cody Sedlock, who went the last four, allowing one hit. Peralta improved to 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
High Single-A Aberdeen was rained out at home versus Hickory. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Saturday with the first game beginning at 4:05 p.m.
Low Single-A Delmarva lost 6-2 at Fredericksburg and that is Delmarva’s first loss this year in nine games against the FredNats.
After last night’s results, O’s farms clubs have two of the top three and three of the top six records in all of Minor League Baseball.
.808 - Nashville, Milwaukee (21-5)
.800 - Bowie, Orioles (20-5)
.731 - Delmarva, Orioles (19-7)
.720 - Somerset, New York Yankees (18-7), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Yankees (18-7)
.708 - Aberdeen, Orioles (17-7), Sugar Land, Houston (17-7)