In their first series in St. Louis since 2003, the Orioles won two of three games to the Cardinals. Here are The Baltimore Sun’s three takeaways from the series.
Bradish puts K in Kyle
In the opener of the series, right-hander Kyle Bradish put together one of the most impressive early-career starts by not only an Oriole, but also any major league starter.
Baltimore’s No. 8 prospect per Baseball America, Bradish struck out 11 Cardinals over seven innings Tuesday. In doing so, he became:
the first Orioles rookie in a decade to reach double-digit strikeouts (Wei-Yin Chen, 2012).
the second Baltimore pitcher to have an 11-strikeout game within his first three career appearances (Jimmy Haynes, 1995).
the second pitcher in major league history to strike out 11 hitters while walking none in one of his first three appearances (Stephen Strasburg, 2010).
In the minor leagues last year, Bradish, 25, was at his best when attacking the strike zone, and he did that Tuesday better than almost any other Orioles starter in the past eight seasons. He generated 14 swings and misses to go with 23 called strikes; his 41.1% called strike plus whiff percentage was the second highest for any Orioles starter (minimum 50 pitches) since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The only higher outing was a 2017 start by Dylan Bundy, for whom Bradish was traded in December 2019 and with whom he matched up in his second start.
In that outing, he ran into trouble in the fourth inning and wasn’t given the chance to bounce back from it with another frame. Tuesday, he allowed singles in each of the first two innings then erased them on double plays. He didn’t allow an additional base runner until the sixth, when a double and inside-the-park home run opened the frame. Bradish then struck out the side, adding two more punchouts in the seventh. His fastball topped out at 98 mph in the start, making him only the fourth Orioles starter since 2017 to reach that mark.
Bradish is Baltimore’s third-ranked pitching prospect behind Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, both of whom are in Triple-A and could join him in the Orioles’ rotation sometime this season. Bradish’s next start figures to come Monday at home against the New York Yankees; it’s possible top prospect Adley Rutschman will be behind the plate to catch him.
Tuesday’s start shows how bright Bradish’s future can be. The weeks to come could spread that light to the Orioles.
Machado trade product Bannon arrives
Even with the news that Triple-A right-hander Kyle Brnovich underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery earlier this week, Bradish’s early success makes the Orioles’ four-pitcher return from the Los Angeles Angels for Bundy look strong.
Alternatively, there remain questions about the players they got from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado, with only three of the five still in the organization. Perhaps those will be answered further in the coming weeks, especially after infielder Rylan Bannon was called up to make his debut in Thursday’s finale.
Bannon, 26, had a disastrous 2021 season with Norfolk but was promoted off a strong stretch for the Tides. With Ryan Mountcastle (left wrist soreness) and Ramón Urías (abdominal discomfort) dealing with ailments, the Orioles needed some infield reinforcements, and Bannon, who can play second and third and was already on the 40-man roster, was the choice. He started at third base Thursday, making a dazzling play in his first defensive chance to rob Nolan Arenado before becoming the first Oriole since 2010 to get a hit on the first pitch he saw in the majors.
Like Bannon, outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the centerpiece of the Machado deal, struggled with Norfolk last season but has had more success in a second go at Triple-A, entering Thursday with a .968 OPS around missing three weeks with a left hamstring injury. Right-hander Dean Kremer, who pitched in the majors the past two seasons, is progressing from a left oblique strain suffered a month ago while warming up for what would have been his season debut.
Before Bannon joined the team in St. Louis, pitchers Bruce Zimmermann and Dillon Tate were the only products of Baltimore’s bevy of trades in July 2018 on the Orioles’ roster. The potential to make that sell-off worthwhile still exists.
Reyes, not Rodriguez
In the wake of last weekend’s rainy weather in Baltimore and the Orioles’ subsequent doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, there was an opening in the Orioles’ rotation. It happened to align with Rodriguez’s scheduled start date for Norfolk.
Rodriguez, though, wasn’t the right-hander Baltimore decided to call up to the majors for the first time. In addition to Bannon, the Orioles promoted Denyi Reyes, optioning relievers Paul Fry and Travis Lakins Sr. while transferring Chris Ellis to the 60-day injured list to open a 40-man roster spot. Reyes, 25, signed a minor league deal with Baltimore this offseason and was known for his command coming up the Boston Red Sox system.
He wasn’t needed in Thursday’s bullpen game, one in which Bryan Baker, Keegan Akin, Dillon Tate, Cionel Pérez, Joey Krehbiel and Félix Bautista combined for nine strong innings in a series-clinching 3-2 victory. That group and regular closer Jorge López — who missed the series while on the bereavement list — have collectively posted a 2.20 ERA this season.
In López’s absence, Bautista picked up two saves, setting franchise records for the pitch-tracking era (since 2008) for fastest pitch at 101.9 mph. His nine pitches of 100 mph or harder Thursday not only were Baltimore’s most for a game during that time, but also would have been their most by a player for a season. Bautista’s 16 such pitches this year are more than double the prior record (Kevin Gausman’s seven in 2015).
Thursday’s result aside, with the option to give Rodriguez his first major league start, the Orioles signaled they believe he has work to do in Triple-A. Paired with Rutschman for a second straight start, Rodriguez, 22, struck out eight in five one-run innings. He threw 80 pitches, two fewer than the season high he tossed in his prior start.
Rutschman, meanwhile, homered in the seventh, his first long ball of the season as he works his way back from a right tricep strain.
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
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