BOWIE - It was a week ago today, the last Friday of the regular season, and Double-A Bowie needed every win it could get to try and complete its playoff push. Young lefty Drew Rom took the mound against Altoona. And he threw five perfect innings with seven strikeouts. And on just 54 pitches.
He was, indeed, rolling and dealing.
It capped a strong finish to his regular season where Rom threw 14 scoreless innings over his last three starts for Bowie, allowing just five hits. He walked one and fanned 18 in those games.
Super finish to a strong year for a 21-year-old lefty the Orioles selected in round four of the 2018 draft out of Highlands (Ky.) High School.
Between high Single-A Aberdeen and Bowie, Rom pitched in 23 games, going a combined 11-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He led all O’s minor leaguers in wins. He produced a 2.17 walk rate, which was second among all O’s farm pitchers with 80 innings or more. His strikeout rate of 10.3 was seventh among that group.
“Kind of just going with a lot of my pitches throwing through the strike zone, rather than trying to make everyone chase, which is kind of my philosophy in Aberdeen,” Rom said this week at Prince George’s Stadium. “Down there (in high-A ball), they were more aggressive and they didn’t have as much of an approach as they do up here. These guys up here are more mature and they don’t chase as much. They make you come to them. That is the biggest thing. Learning how to pitch to guys up here with a more mature approach that kind of is the approach you will see in the big leagues.”
And throwing a high percentage of strikes.
“For me, that is probably the biggest thing here. I’m not going to blow the ball by people. I’ve been deemed a crafty lefty more times than I can read,” Rom said. “So, for me, that’s a huge thing, going at them with every single weapon I’ve got and making sure they don’t know what’s coming.”
Rom’s fastballs can range from 90 to 93 mph and maybe touch more on occasion.
After going 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA at Aberdeen, Rom has gone 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA in nine Double-A games, with nine walks and 47 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP in 40 innings.
When the Double-A Northeast Championship Series resumes tonight at Akron with Bowie trailing 0-2 in the best-of-five series, Rom will try to pitch Bowie to a win to keep the series alive.
“He’s been really good his last four or five times out,” said Baysox skipper Buck Britton. “I just think it’s comfort level first off getting to this level. But he’s left-handed and he throws from different arm angles and he is absolutely attacking hitters. He is not backing down from any challenge. And he’s got a lot of confidence going right now. Hopefully, in Akron, we get the same version we got the other night that was pretty special and perfect through five.”
Rom would be a strong candidate to be the O’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, but for Grayson Rodriguez, the only pitcher on the farm this season that clearly had a better year. Among those pitchers with a minimum of 80 innings, Rom ranks second to Rodriguez in ERA, leads the organization in innings and is third in WHIP.
On the farm this season, Rom has taken advantage of a short time when John Means was rehabbing in Aberdeen to try and gain some pointers from his fellow lefty.
“When he came down, he helped me with my changeup,” he said. “I’ve also talked to Zac Lowther and he has really helped. He did a great job of mentoring guys when he was down here (also on rehab) a little bit about teaching us how to pitch and how to be a big leaguer.”
Rom has a weapon he can use that not all pitchers have. The ability to throw from a couple of different arm slots. He can drop down to almost a sidearm delivery that can be very effective, especially against lefty batters.
“That honestly started back in 2020 instructs with me and (Orioles pitching coach and director of pitching) Chris Holt,” Rom said. “We were talking about it. In ‘19, I would always start from the side because it would loosen my arm. He said, ‘Why not try that in a game?’ I did it a little bit in high school, so I was comfortable doing it. It’s just another tool in the arsenal that will provide some deception and keep guys guessing.”
Assessing Hyde: Well, we now know for certain that Brandon Hyde is returning next year. This is not a surprise since executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has been very supportive publicly with his comments about Hyde. Elias emphasized numerous times that Hyde is not yet being judged on wins and losses.
But some fans have criticized Hyde. While that is fair, in my humble opinion, it is off base for two main reasons: His bosses are not yet judging him on his record, and we don’t truly know what kind of manager he would be with a roster that could contend. He may do some things, maybe many things, very differently.
Before Friday’s game, I asked Hyde if a manager and his style and strategic moves with a team might look very differently in handling a rebuilding team as compared to say a contending team.
“Well, I don’t go into the game in a minor league player development mode,” Hyde explained. “I go into the game trying to win the game. That being said, I think that you would see, especially August-September, this time of year, you’re going to be more aggressive with your bullpen usage (as a contender). Would Cole Sulser have been available in that extra-inning game? Probably (we would use him there three days in a row) if we’re in the race, for sure. But I’m not going to pitch anybody three days in a row, just because of where we are.
“I’m not going to push a guy into the lineup that I feel like might be playing in September if you are in a pennant race. We’re still playing to win when the game starts, but, these guys’ health is a huge priority for me at this point. And when you are going for it, at the end, things are kind of off the table and you’re trying to get there.”
The Orioles are still making plenty of decisions with the evaluation of players at the highest priority.
“Yeah. So I’m rotating guys around. We’re trying to see everybody,” Hyde said. “Yeah, maybe the lineup does (change because of that) a little bit on occasion. We want to see - we are evaluating. You know like piggybacking like (Mike) Baumann and those types of thing we’ve done, you are probably not doing that if you are trying to get there. Maybe I might use Baumann in a different situation. But we are trying to watch guys. So that is a difference.”
The O’s blanked Texas 3-0 last night as Lowther threw five scoreless innings for his first major league win. It was the Orioles’ fifth shutout and they have allowed just seven runs over the last four games. Their four starting pitchers have allowed one run over 18 innings in those four games.
Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays hit solo homers in the win. For Mountcastle, it was No. 31 and that gives him the major league lead for rookie homers. Hays homered for the 22nd time on the year and the eighth time in his last 18 games.
With his 31st dinger of the year, Ryan Mountcastle has broken the Orioles single-season rookie home run record.-- Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 24, 2021
The record was previously held by Ryan Mountcastle, who set the mark with his 30th homer on September 18, 2021. pic.twitter.com/qVkft28PWO