In a few days, the Orioles rotation will undergo a change. That is because struggling right-hander Jorge López is moving to the bullpen, in a role to be determined, as of tonight when the Orioles host Atlanta at Camden Yards.
López is 3-14 with a 6.35 ERA in 25 starts, covering 113 1/3 innings. On Aug 2 and Aug. 8, he threw two strong starts, allowing a combined three runs and five hits in 12 innings against the Yankees and Rays. But then he gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings versus Boston. And Thursday at Tropicana Field, he allowed four hits and four runs in just two innings as the Orioles lost to Tampa Bay.
López’s velocity was well off his normal standards as he threw 48 pitches. He got a first-inning visit from head athletic trainer Brian Ebel, but he assured the team he was fine physically.
The righty has made 31 starts over two seasons with the club, but his next appearance will be out of the bullpen.
“I just think he needs to try something different a little bit,” manager Brandon Hyde said this afternoon. “We’re not closing the door on him from being in the rotation, but I’d like to see what it looks like coming out of the bullpen. He’s going through a lot and I think this might take a little bit of pressure off of him, putting him in the bullpen here for a little while.
“I have no idea how I’m going to use him honestly, at this point. So I don’t know. I’m trying to do the best thing for the guy.”
As for who will take Lopez’s next turn in the rotation, that is not known yet either.
“I have no idea what we’re doing,” said Hyde. “I just talked to Lopie at length about it yesterday and we’re going to kind of figure it out. His start would be, if we stayed on turn, would be Wednesday. I’d like to do the best thing for Lopie is the bottom line. So what’s the best thing to do for Lopie right now and I think it’s to be in the bullpen for a little while and we’ll see what it looks like.
“I brought it up to him as an idea and when we talked through it, he’d like to explore it. He’s such a great guy. He was like, ‘I don’t want to hurt the team.’ I think he’s interested in seeing what it looks like also.”
In 36 career bullpen outings, but just three with the Orioles, López is 1-2 with a 5.24 ERA and 1.485 WHIP.
López went on the bereavement list earlier this summer while his young son, Mikael, underwent chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant. He came back quickly and made his start, but how could such a situation not weigh heavily on any person or player.
“Nobody wants to be in this spot. I promise that,” he said after Thursday’s game. “I’ve just got to keep my head up and just keep walking forward. That’s all I can do, man. Just be strong.”
Right-hander Chris Ellis joined the Orioles today and is available to pitch out of the bullpen tonight.
The team claimed him Friday off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. Ellis, 28, made his major league debut Tuesday night against the Orioles and earned the win with four scoreless innings in relief. He allowed three hits, walked one, struck out seven and then was designated for assignment to create room for lefty Ryan Yarbrough’s return from the COVID-19 list.
Ellis is a possibility to take López’s rotation spot, at least in the short term.
“He was a starter in Triple-A, so he’s a possibility,” said Hyde. “I’m going to have to bullpen it that day (Wednesday). I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’ll figure it out as we get closer. But beyond that day, I thought the right thing for Lopie was to mix it up for him a little bit.
“Excluding the last couple of starts, his fastball was 96 and 97 (mph) and secondary stuff. His stuff against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, some of the Yankees hitters were telling me the next day, ‘That’s some of the best stuff we’ve seen all year.’ “
Hyde said outfielder DJ Stewart remains day-to-day with a sore knee that is now a lot better and he’s available off the bench tonight. Hyde said he gave Stewart some time out of the lineup recently against lefty starters. He added Stewart would probably start tomorrow.
Anthony Santander returns to the lineup tonight, batting sixth in right field.
“It’s been disappointing for him,” Hyde said of Santander, who is still dealing with an ankle injury. “It’s been lingering all season and it’s not probably going to get right until he gets a significant amount of time off. I give him a lot of credit - and our medical team - for managing this throughout the season. It’s been tough, he has good days and bad days.”
Hyde said as of now, there is no talk of shutting Santander down before the year ends.