Orioles position reviews: All week, The Baltimore Banner’s sports staff will review how each position group performed in the 2023 season.
Kyle Bradish broke out. Grayson Rodriguez cemented himself as a major league starter. John Means made his long-awaited return to the rotation after Tommy John surgery. Kyle Gibson proved his value in eating innings. Dean Kremer made every start as scheduled.
All in all, the Orioles’ starting pitching staff outperformed expectations this year. That was, at least, until the postseason.
Means did not pitch in the playoffs due to elbow soreness, and Gibson was used only out of the bullpen. Bradish, Rodriguez and Kremer, though, combined to pitch only eight of the Orioles’ 27 playoff innings, giving up 13 runs on 20 hits. Whether the moment was too big — none had pitched in a postseason game — or they were simply overworked from exceeding career highs in innings is unknown. Either way, the starting pitching did not rise to the level needed to excel in October.
There was Jack Flaherty too. He was acquired at the deadline from the Cardinals to add starter depth but was moved to the bullpen after posting a 7.11 ERA in his first seven outings with the team. And Tyler Wells, an All-Star candidate in the first half. He suffered arm fatigue and was optioned to the minors for the second half. Wells returned at the end of the regular season as a reliever and played a crucial late-inning role.
Cole Irvin, traded from the Athletics last offseason, swapped between the rotation and the bullpen. He did his job, filling in as a starter as needed, but didn’t turn any heads.
2023 stat lines
Kyle Bradish: 30 starts, 168.2 IP, 2.83 ERA (third lowest in American League).
Dean Kremer: 32 starts, 172.2 IP, 4.12 ERA.
Grayson Rodriguez: 23 starts, 122 IP, 4.35 ERA.
Kyle Gibson: 33 starts. 192 IP, 4.73 ERA.
Cole Irvin: 12 starts (24 appearances), 77.1 IP, 4.42 ERA.
Jack Flaherty (with Baltimore): 7 starts (9 appearances), 34.2 IP, 6.75 ERA.
Tyler Wells: 20 starts (25 appearances), 118.2 IP, 3.64 ERA.
DL Hall came up through the minors as a starter and started this year in Norfolk’s rotation. But, after a midseason de-load in Florida to regain strength after an offseason back injury, Hall was used only as a reliever in the majors. He excelled in that role though — pitching to a 2.76 ERA after his recall at the end of August.
The Orioles probably aren’t going to sign a pitcher to a long-term deal, but they could grab someone like Gibson on a one-year deal or trade some of their infield depth to add another starter.
Bradish, Rodriguez, Kremer and Means (whose elbow is expected to be fine) are set to return next year. They may not need to add a true No. 1 — Bradish showed he has the potential to be their ace, and Rodriguez has the stuff to be a top-line starter — but they need more arms than just those four.
Wells, Irvin and Hall are also under team control next year, but whether they will be starters or in the bullpen remains to be seen. All will enter spring training in contention for a rotation spot, but likely at least two will end up in a relief role or perhaps in Triple-A.
Flaherty and Gibson are free agents and not expected to re-sign.
Prospects to watch
Chayce McDermott, the Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the year, ended last season in Triple-A and is expected to debut in 2024. Cade Povich, Seth Johnson and Justin Armbruester are also on the rise and could be used as depth pieces next season.
Additional position reviews: