Orioles observations on Dean Kremer as No. 2 starter, defensive versatility on display and more – The Mercury News



Two down, three to go.

A few hours after the Orioles announced veteran Kyle Gibson as their opening day starter, manager Brandon Hyde on Friday said Dean Kremer will start the club’s second game of the season, slotting the right-hander as the No. 2 starter to begin the year.

“Dean’s had a really good spring training,” Hyde said earlier this week. “Loved how he was throwing the ball before he left. He came into camp really ready to go.”

Kremer was perhaps the Orioles’ best starting pitcher in 2022, posting an 8-7 record and a 3.23 ERA in 125 1/3 innings. The breakout campaign was a stark contrast to his 2021 season, in which he had a 7.55 ERA in 53 2/3 innings.

“Really impressed with the progress he’s made the last couple years,” Hyde said. “The second half he had last year was a huge improvement. Love where he is right now.

“For him, it’s really been about confidence in the strike zone. For me, it’s four pitches, he’s developed all four of them a little bit better, he’s more aggressive in the strike zone. That was the key for him the second half last year.”

Kremer was one of three players on the Orioles’ 40-man roster to participate in the World Baseball Classic, with Venezuela’s Anthony Santander and the United States’ Cedric Mullins the others. Kremer started Israel’s WBC opener and pitched four scoreless innings. He said after his start Wednesday that he feels ready for the season.

“I feel like I’m built up enough to kind of eat some innings,” Kremer said.

Kremer will start the Orioles’ Grapefruit League finale Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals before facing the Boston Red Sox on April 1. In 14 innings this spring, Kremer has allowed eight hits and five runs (all on solo homers) while walking two and striking out nine.

The Orioles have yet to announce who their Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters will be to open the season. The club began camp with 12 candidates for five spots; now, it’s down to six pitchers for three spots. Kyle Bradish, Cole Irvin and Grayson Rodriguez have inside tracks to make the rotation, but Tyler Wells, Austin Voth and Spenser Watkins have experience opening games for the Orioles, combining to start 60 games in 2022.

Who’s on first?

Against the New York Yankees on Friday, the Orioles deployed several players to their secondary or tertiary positions to work on their versatility before spring training ends.

The batting order in the Orioles’ 7-6 win looked like one Hyde could write during the season: 1. Cedric Mullins, 2. Adley Rutschman, 3. Ryan Mountcastle, 4. Anthony Santander, 5. Gunnar Henderson, 6. Austin Hays, 7. Terrin Vavra, 8. Adam Frazier, 9. Jorge Mateo. But where some were playing defensively made up an alignment that will rarely be seen this season.

Frazier, a second baseman, was in right field with Vavra playing second, and Santander, a right fielder, was playing first base. Frazier, a seven-year veteran, has started just 28 games in right field in his career. Santander, one of several Orioles working to learn to play first base this spring to back up Ryan Mountcastle, has never played a big league game at first, with his only professional experience there coming in 2016 in High-A.

Later in the game, Mateo went from shortstop to play two innings in center field. Mateo last played center field in 2021 with the San Diego Padres.

“It’s another opportunity I have to be on the field,” Mateo said. “It’s been a long time, but I can do it. It’s not bad at all.”

“We’re going to move guys around a little bit these last few days,” Hyde said. “You just never know what’s going to happen when the season comes around. Mateo’s been out in the outfield before, not with us but with San Diego. [Frazier] in right field, and [Vavra] has been moving around all camp and done a great job. Just kind of continue to be as versatile as we can and not surprise guys if it does happen during the season.”

Injury updates

Hyde said reliever Mychal Givens’ sore left knee is “improving,” but he still isn’t sure if the veteran right-hander will be healthy enough for opening day.

“He’s improving, still a little bit questionable,” Hyde said. “But hoping he’s going to be able to break with us.”

Givens hasn’t pitched in a spring training game since March 16. Hyde said Givens doesn’t need to pitch in an exhibition to be deemed ready for the season, adding that pitching on a back field would suffice.

If Givens can’t break camp in the bullpen, that opens a spot for the large group of relievers, namely Mike Baumann, Andrew Politi and Joey Krehbiel. Baumann on Friday pitched a fourth straight scoreless inning since the team converted him from a starter into a short-relief role last week. Krehbiel, meanwhile, retired the side in order for his sixth scoreless appearance in a row.

Hyde also said right-handed reliever Dillon Tate is “right on schedule” to return in late April or early May. Tate, one of the Orioles’ best relievers in 2022, is sidelined with a forearm strain, but Hyde said he’s had “no setbacks” in his recovery.

Third baseman Ramón Urías was scratched from the lineup for the second straight game, but he said before Friday’s contest that he’s not concerned with the bruised right thumb he suffered while fielding grounders during batting practice Thursday.

“It was just a bad hop when I was taking ground balls,” Urías said. “I took it right on the thumb. Fortunately, it was just bruised. Today it feels better.”

Gibson, who was tagged for 11 hits and six runs in his final spring start, suffered a cut to his thumb while throwing a slider in the first inning, but he said it didn’t impact him and he will be ready for opening day.

Grapefruit League

Orioles at Pirates

Saturday, 6:05 p.m.

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

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