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Orioles’ Pitching Injury Woes

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Coming into the 2024 season, the Baltimore Orioles looked to have one of the best pitching staffs in the American League. A rotation headlined by off-season acquisition Corbin Burnes and a young star in Grayson Rodriguez; a bullpen featuring future Hall of Famer Craig Kimbrel as the closer; it seemed like a dream. But as often happens in sports, not everything went according to plan. Injuries to starters and underperformance in the bullpen have plagued the Orioles this season, but that has not stopped them from being one of the best teams in all of baseball.What has gone wrong for the Orioles and will any help be coming soon?

Injuries have been a problem for the Orioles before the 2024 season even began. In August 2023, All-Star closer Felix Bautista went on the IL with a right UCL injury, which eventually led to him getting Tommy John surgery in October 2023. Bautista, the 2023 American League Relief Pitcher of the Year, had a 1.48 ERA, 16.23 K/9, and 2.8 fWAR in 61 innings in 2023 and would have been a huge asset for the team in 2024, but he is not projected to return until Spring Training in 2025. LHP John Means missed the 2023 postseason and the start of the 2024 season with elbow soreness. He made his season debut on May 4th against the Cincinnati Reds and pitched well for three starts posting a 2.61 ERA, but in his start against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 22nd, he departed after just 3 innings. His fastball averaged 88.6 mph, which was down from 91.8 mph in his first start of the season. He was placed on the IL the following day with a left forearm strain, which manager Brandon Hyde said was in Means’ elbow area and that there is no timetable for his return. RHP Dean Kremer was placed on the IL with a right triceps strain the day after Means was placed on the IL, however, according to the team, his injury should not keep him sidelined for very long. In total, five Orioles starters have spent time on the IL, with the others being RHPs Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, and Tyler Wells, with Rodriguez and Bradish already having returned to the team.

The Orioles have held their own starting-pitching-wise, as LHP Cole Irvin (9 games, 7 starts) and RHP Albert Suarez (11 games, 4 starts) providing some quality innings in the absence of the injured players. The bullpen, on the other hand, has been somewhat of a mess, and not because of injuries (other than Bautista). Craig Kimbrel, who was signed over the offseason to take over the closer role in Bautista’s absence, was removed from said role for nearly a month until recently taking it over again on May 19th. RHP Yennier Cano, who was an All-Star in 2023, has struggled this season outside of low leverage situations (all 8 runs allowed in medium or high leverage), and has a -0.4 fWAR in 2024. RHP Jacob Webb and LHPs Danny Coulombe and Keegan Akin have all been effective in relief, but outside of those three and Craig Kimbrel (at times), the Orioles relief pitching has been suspect.

The Orioles will be getting Dean Kremer and Tyler Wells back in the near future and just picked up RHP Thyago Vieira in a trade with the Brewers for bullpen depth, but they will likely have to look to the trade block for pitching improvements. Some options for the bullpen are Cardinals’ RHP Ryan Helsley, White Sox RHP Michael Kopech, Astros RHP Ryan Pressly, and if he’s available for the right price, Athletics’ RHP Mason Miller. On the starting pitching side, options include White Sox RHP Erick Fedde, Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo, and Angels’ LHP Tyler Anderson. The Orioles have a deep farm system, so they should be able to meet almost any price to acquire some pitching at the trade deadline. With some good luck in the injury department and some trades, the Orioles could end up with the most fearsome pitching staff in the AL and cement themselves as serious threats to win the World Series.

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