15 May 2018

David Hess Was Fine, And That's A Good Thing

With a mysterious trip to the disabled list because of a "lower back strain," Chris Tillman has justifiably lost his spot in the Orioles' starting rotation. I don't know if the book can be closed on Tillman just yet, but it seems like he'll be out of the picture for a while.

For now, that means other pitchers in the O's farm system will get the chance to take Tillman's place. The first chance went to right-hander David Hess, and in his major league debut, the 24-year-old held his own. Pitching the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday (in front of his large cheering section), Hess allowed three runs in six innings before handing the ball of to Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens, who closed the door on the Rays. Hess, who allowed a three-run home run in the first inning, struck out three and walked none.

It wasn't a pitching line that will really wow anyone, but a performance like Hess's is something the Orioles need more of from their back-end rotation candidates. He threw strikes, mixed his pitches well, and allowed the O's defense to help him (even if it's not very good).

Mixing a 92-93 mph fastball mainly with a slider but also the occasional curveball and change-up, Hess was around the plate all game. He started nearly two-thirds of opposing hitters off with strikes, and when he was able to get a strikeout, it came on an offspeed pitch. This strikeout of Denard Span on a change-up was the best of them:
In his debut, Hess was good enough. The Orioles have had trouble in recent years getting No. 5-type starters to stick on the roster, and perhaps Hess will be someone who stays in the rotation for a while. It's easy to get carried away, but he showed that he deserves at least a few more starts. It would be a pleasant surprise for Hess to stick as a starter instead of needing to transition to a relief role.

At the end of the day on Saturday, Hess was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. But because he was summoned as the 26th man for the doubleheader, he does not have to stay down for the full 10 days. That means he could return very soon, and obviously the O's will need a starter in the next few days to fill Tillman's spot.

Despite yesterday's off day, the Orioles have pushed Kevin Gausman back a day to Thursday. Andrew Cashner will start tonight, but there's still a need for a starter for Wednesday's matinee against the Phillies. Miguel Castro is an option to start that game, and Yefry Ramirez, Tim Melville, or someone else from Norfolk or Double-A Bowie could be selected to start.

Hess will seemingly get the first crack at replacing Tillman, but scheduling quirks, injuries, and getting extra rest for starters mean there are chances for others. The O's depth of starting pitching that's close to the majors doesn't seem very good, but it's going to be tested anyway. That's how things work.

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