In the span of a week, the Orioles’ plans for a six-man rotation to get them through a treacherous stretch with one off day in the month of June went awry. John Means’ elbow injury and Dean Kremer’s right triceps strain saw to that.

It remains true that the Orioles’ pitching depth is defined by its quality as opposed to quantity, though now that depth is all in use with Albert Suárez and Cole Irvin in the rotation. Given the schedule and, honestly, just how this season has gone so far injury-wise, it would be shocking if they didn’t have to dig deeper into the organization for a starter in the next month.

Enter Cade Povich and Chayce McDermott, the club’s two top pitching prospects. Statistically, they’re looking like a pair of pitchers who are worthy of a major league mound. Whether they’re “ready” by the Orioles’ definition is another thing entirely.

Should the need arise, though, they have a pair of worthy options at Norfolk.

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The left-handed Povich has been the better of the two this year, attacking the strike zone with a high-quality five-pitch mix and striking out 11.9 batters per nine with a 2.35 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.

“He’s just done a really good job of trusting his stuff, getting back through the zone, and letting his weapons work and not chasing things,” Norfolk pitching coach Justin Ramsey told me earlier this month.

McDermott, a 25-year-old righty, struggled with walks in April but has been overpowering in May. He’s struck out 37 in 21 2/3 innings with a 1.02 WHIP this month to give him a 3.77 ERA with 67 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP in 43 innings.

Both spent the end of 2023 with the Tides and are nearing 100 innings at Triple-A. We have a pretty good sense of how long the Orioles like to keep hitters in Triple-A (or at least did before Jackson Holliday blew up the playbook), but it’s harder to tell for pitchers. Grayson Rodriguez pitched 69 2/3 innings at Norfolk in 2022, a season that was impacted by a shoulder injury, and after a difficult major league debut in 2023, he went back for eight more starts (41 1/3 innings) the following year. DL Hall pitched 70 Triple-A innings in 2022 before his major league debut.

Given that most pitching prospects before Hall and Rodriguez had their developmental timelines impacted by the pandemic, the best comparison feels like Kyle Bradish, who had 101 2/3 innings at Triple-A before he earned his major league debut on April 29, 2022.

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We’ll never know exactly what makes the Orioles deem a pitcher ready or not. To say we are about to find out, or at least could find out soon, is to deny the very real possibility that some perfectly average, completely unremarkable veteran pitcher ends up on the scrap heap at exactly the moment the Orioles need a starting pitcher and renders any discussion on a debut for Povich and McDermott moot.

I’ve seen that happen far too often to write it off now, and truthfully, it would be better if it doesn’t come to that. This Orioles season has too much promise to be undermined by pitching injuries, and the amount thus far only makes it feel like the team is not out of the woods yet.

That said, I’ve long held that this current iteration of the Orioles’ pitching development program is going to produce major league talent at an impressive rate, and soon. There will be no greater way to show that than to help fill holes in an incredibly talented rotation and make it look like they’re not missing a beat.

Povich and McDermott, with their sets of elite weapons and ability to get swinging strikes inside the zone, embody so much of what they want their pitchers to do. Let’s see if the opportunity to demonstrate that arrives any time soon.

Ballpark chatter

“Most of the guys were [expletive] flat today. Unacceptable.”

– White Sox manager Pedro Grifol after Sunday’s loss to the Orioles, clinching a four-game series sweep

– White Sox manager Pedro Grifol after Sunday’s loss to the Orioles, clinching a four-game series sweep

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We are getting farther and farther away from anyone caring about the bad old days with the Orioles, a point when my services will no longer be required, but all I thought watching this weekend’s series in Chicago was I’ve seen all of this before: the blown leads, bullpen woes, the inability to support a good start.

And it also made me think about how Brandon Hyde never did this, at least publicly. He may have lit into the team in private, which is his right, but no matter how many opportunities the 2019, 2020, or 2021 Orioles gave him to air the club out to the media, he didn’t take it. He knew it would do more harm than good and bring attention no one wanted to a team that was struggling. Hyde and Grifol were both in the candidate pool for the Orioles job back in 2018. Add this to the large bucket of evidence that the Orioles got it right.

📫 Have a question? Write to me here.

The Talent Pipeline

Within the next few days, Connor Norby will walk to the plate for the 900th time at the Triple-A level. Entering Tuesday, he has 892 plate appearances with the Tides, with a combined .870 OPS and 34 home runs over parts of three seasons. In 2024, he’s been better than years past, with nine home runs and a .902 OPS in 45 games, all while spending more time in the outfield than at his natural second base.

I couldn’t tell you when Norby’s chance with the Orioles is going to come. The only Orioles prospect with more Triple-A plate appearances since the pandemic was Kyle Stowers, who appears to be settling into a more regular role with the Orioles despite some ups and downs along the way. That’s basically the example Norby has to follow: keep hitting until your chance arrives, then make sure you take it when it does.

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That’s the combined ERA of Bradish and Means this season, a pair of pitchers who from the first day in spring training, when their injuries/setbacks were publicized, took on outsized importance for this Orioles team. They’ve pitched 47 2/3 innings combined, with a 0.97 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine. Taken together, that’s essentially one top-half of the rotation starter from two players.

The recurrence of Means’ elbow soreness is ominous, and part of why my initial reaction to executive vice president Mike Elias’ beginning-of-spring update was one of abundant caution. There are good outcomes with elbow injuries, just not often. If you told me one of them would be, essentially, their effective and healthy self all year at that point. I’d have taken it. Bradish will have to carry that burden forward, but he looks at this point like he can.

For further reading

😡 At Fangraphs, Michael Baumann laid it all out there on his “lovely, mild-mannered, ‘Suits’-loving, pineapple-curious distant cousin” Mike Baumann being designated for assignment by the Orioles. There’s a lot going on there, as you can see, but beneath the layers of anger at said transaction there’s some interesting analysis of the pitcher Baumann has become — and could be for the Mariners going forward.

🐶 I am a cat person, not a dog person, but there’s no getting around how sad the story of the 83 dogs (and one kitty) rescued by BARCS is. Andy Kostka’s story on how Cole Irvin and his wife, Kristen Beat, are trying to help is a good one.

🧤 This story from Danielle Allentuck provided some important clarity to me. I knew Ryan Mountcastle still used Chris Davis’ glove, but thought it was still the original one from the spring of 2019. I didn’t know he still enlisted Davis to break in new gloves for him. Is there a better retirement task than breaking in baseball gloves? I honestly can’t wait.