HOUSTON — The fluidity of a baseball season prevents manager Brandon Hyde from ever saying a move is permanent, but for the time being the Orioles’ major trade deadline acquisition is moving from the starting rotation into the bullpen.

Right-hander Jack Flaherty, whom general manager Mike Elias added from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for three prospects, was viewed as a pitcher who could bolster a young rotation come the postseason. Along with right-hander Kyle Gibson, he’s the lone hurler with any postseason experience.

“I just expect that he’s going to be a big help for us down the stretch,” Elias said at the time.

That could still be very much the case. It just may come in a different role than initially intended.

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Flaherty’s lackluster performances and the heavily taxed state of the bullpen have forced Hyde’s hand into shifting Flaherty to a relief role for the immediate future.

His next on-turn start would have been Thursday, yet the Orioles are skipping over Flaherty’s turn in a six-man rotation and made him available to pitch Tuesday against the Houston Astros, particularly because Baltimore used six relievers in consecutive games.

“I’m really interested to see what it looks like,” Hyde said Tuesday afternoon. “You’ve seen the fastball up to 97, you see the sharp curveball. So, let’s see what it looks like out of the ‘pen. Maybe he can be a piece for us. I don’t know. Maybe he can be our length guy, maybe he can be a right-on-right guy. We’re looking for that. We’re looking for right-on-right guys. So, I think it’s worth a shot to take a look.”

The first impression? Two scoreless innings.

Flaherty navigated traffic and picked up a beleaguered bullpen to seal Tuesday’s 9-5 win against the Astros. It was his first time coming out in relief in about a year, yet Flaherty said getting warm in the bullpen rather than on a starter’s normal routine wasn’t an issue.

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“I know what I need to get hot,” Flaherty said. “If that’s the role, the more times I do it, the more times I’ll figure out how to maintain some of that velo as the innings go on, kind of the way I do when I start.”

Flaherty opened his account for Baltimore with an impressive showing against the Toronto Blue Jays in early August, striking out eight batters and allowing one run in six innings.

In his six starts since then, Flaherty hasn’t completed six innings. In his three most recent outings, he hasn’t gotten through the fifth. The 27-year-old’s ERA with the Orioles is up to 7.11, and with left-hander John Means’ return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, there’s less of a case for Flaherty to continue in the rotation.

Means pitched five innings of one-run ball in Monday’s series opener against the Astros, reaching 86 pitches while fortifying a belief that he could make a difference as a member of a likely four-man postseason rotation. Right-handers Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer have also emerged as steady young arms. Bradish is scheduled to throw Wednesday and Rodriguez will move up a day to Thursday.

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“I’ve been in his situation where you get traded and you don’t throw as well as you want, and it’s frustrating,” said Gibson, who also moved to the bullpen last year during the Philadelphia Phillies’ playoff run. “I’ve been in that spot where just a couple good innings can do a lot for your confidence and can do a lot for you mentally.”

Flaherty has shown glimpses of success since his strong Orioles debut. Last week, Flaherty cruised through three innings against the Tampa Bay Rays before running into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. Flaherty said before Tuesday’s game that the adjustments required aren’t wholesale but revolve around his aggression early in the count.

“Find ways to get some quick outs,” Flaherty said. “That hasn’t really happened. Those punchouts, sometimes it’s four or five pitches and a couple eight-pitch at-bats here and there. Find a way to get quick action. Sometimes that quick action is going to be a hit, sometimes a quick action is going to be an out.”

In a bullpen role, monitoring his pitch count will be less of a focus, unless he’s called upon to cover multiple innings as he was Tuesday.

Still, it’s even more imperative as a reliever to establish a few dominant pitches early rather than leaning on all six of his pitches. For Flaherty, that meant riding his four-seam fastball, knuckle curve and slider. It could lead to greater success; opposing lineups have tended to hit Flaherty harder as the game goes on.

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Gibson pointed out how right-hander Zach Eflin moved into a relief role last year for the Phillies and immediately handled high-leverage innings.

“Really quickly a guy can turn into someone that you lean on in leverage situations because he’s got feel for two breaking balls, he can command his heater, and he can throw both a two-seam and a four-seam,” Gibson said. “If the velo plays up even more, consistently 95, 96, like, he’s a guy that you could be seeing in late-inning games when it’s a close game. Who really knows?”

When Baltimore traded for Flaherty, this wasn’t the outcome the front office had in mind. Flaherty had only ever pitched in relief four times in his career for a total of four innings. He was acquired with the hopes of supplying high-leverage innings as an experienced starter. Elias searched to add another relief pitcher, as well, but Flaherty was the only trade-deadline addition.

Now, he’ll help the bullpen for at least the immediate future. A return to the rotation is never out of the question, but Flaherty’s role for a playoff-bound team could be different than the one Elias envisioned and it could still work.

“I think I can help them in any way, whatever role that is,” Flaherty said. “Whenever I get the chance to get the ball, looking forward to it. And it was nice to go out there and fill some innings there.”

andy.kostka@thebaltimorebanner.com