Chance in ’pen to write new chapter
Hess planning to embrace his new role as O’s reliever
MINNEAPOLIS — When Orioles manager Brandon Hyde met with righthander David Hess on Friday and explained the team’s plan to temporarily move him to the bullpen, Hess’ response carried a waft of opportunity.
Although the Orioles will start lefthander John Means in place of Hess on Monday against the Chicago White Sox, Hess sees his potential use as a reliever as a chance to make an impact.
“Really at this point, whatever is best for the team is what I want to do,” Hess said. “I met with [Hyde], and he said with having six starters that was the best move for the club and for me right now. I think it was a good decision on his part.
“I think just going out there and trying to get quality innings, [I can] show I can be effective out of the ’pen just as much as [being] a starter. At the end of the day, however everything settles. Just being here and being able to contribute to the team is my primary focus.”
Hess, 25, could rejoin the rotation after a series of days off over the coming weeks, with Hyde preferring to avoid a six-man rotation when it could give his starters too much time off between outings. For now, Hess returns to a role he filled on opening day, when he pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the New York Yankees.
In that appearance, he averaged 94.3 mph on his four-seam fastball, his highest of any outing this season. The pitch’s average velocity has marginally decreased in each of Hess’ five starts, per Statcast data. A return to the bullpen could change that.
“I think when you have that kind of arm and you know it’s a short sprint, sometimes your stuff can tick up a little bit,” Hyde said. “I like David’s arm. I think David’s got a chance to be a really good big-league pitcher in whatever role he’s going to [have].”
Since pitching 6 1⁄3 no-hit innings in his first start this season, Hess has allowed eight home runs in 17 2⁄3 innings with an 8.66 ERA. Hyde reiterated Saturday that he still views Hess as a starter and expects him to make many appearances as such this season.
“It’s not just for a bump down,” Hess said. “[Hyde] made it very clear that was not the case, so I’m excited to see how it plays out because I do think that, stuff-wise, it’s a good matchup.”
Right-handers Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb will follow Means in the Chicago series. Hess expressed happiness for Means, who has posted a 1.74 ERA after being an unexpected member of the Orioles’ opening-day roster. The two came up through the Orioles minor-league system together; both were drafted by the club in 2014.
Both are also facing the challenge of learning how to pitch at the majorleague level. Hess views the move to the bullpen as an opportunity for another learning experience.
“I think the versatility aspect is something a lot of teams are looking for,” Hess said. “To be able to go out there and show that I’m capable of doing a couple different things I think is something there’s excitement from them about. And that’s something that was mentioned [Friday] as well: just the versatility that is brought to the table.
“It is part of the learning process and growing up a little bit through the league. So regardless of what it looks like, I’m excited just to contribute and help us win ballgames as best as possible.”
Around the horn
Hyde said left-hander Richard Bleier, who’s on the injured list with shoulder tendinitis, pitched an inning in extended spring training late this week. … Orioles outfield prospect Zach Jarrett, 24, the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, was promoted from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie on Saturday. The Orioles’ 2017 28th-round draft pick had a .306/.393/.444 stats line in 21 games with the Keys this season.