The Orioles will at least temporarily be moving Jack Flaherty from the rotation to the bullpen, manager Brandon Hyde told MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and other reporters. “It’s a move for today right now,” Hyde stressed, but the skipper is “really interested” in seeing how Flaherty operates as a reliever, “whether it could be a length guy, maybe it could be a right-on-right guy. We’re looking for that. We’re looking for right-on-right guys. I think it’s worth a shot to take a look.”
Baltimore been operating with a six-man rotation since John Means returned from the injured list last week, both as a way to ease Means back into action after his lengthy absence due to Tommy John surgery, and to give all of their starters some extra rest down the stretch. The O’s are in a stretch of 17 games in 17 days without an offday until September 25, so the addition of Means gave everyone some respite during this busy portion of the schedule. Of course, with the Orioles now bound for the postseason, the club also wants as many fresh arms as possible for what it hopes will be a deep playoff run.
Aside from just rotation usage, Flaherty’s role change is inevitably down to performance. The right-hander has a 7.11 ERA over seven starts and 31 2/3 innings since he was acquired from the Cardinals at the trade deadline, falling well short of expectations after a solid performance over the first four months of the season. On the plus side, Flaherty hasn’t been much of a detriment to a rotation that seems to be getting better as the year as progressed — even without much help from Flaherty or the struggling Kyle Gibson, Baltimore starters have combined for a 4.00 ERA since August 1, the ninth-best mark in baseball in that span.
Heading into October, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, and Dean Kremer look like clear favorites to start postseason games. Means is still a wild card due to his lack of innings, but the former All-Star has looked pretty sharp in his two starts to date. With all this in mind, Flaherty might have been ticketed for a bullpen role in the playoff anyway, so this new move gives him some chance to adjust to the new role.
In the bigger picture, Flaherty’s upcoming free agent case hasn’t been helped by his struggles with the O’s, and his market might take a further hit with a lack of starts altogether for the rest of the season. However, Hyde said that Flaherty is open to working as a reliever, since “he’s a total team guy. [I’m] really, really impressed with his professionalism. Truly, he really just wants to help this team win somehow, and if he can do it in that way, we’ll see.”