SARASOTA, Fla. — Now that Matt Harvey is officially on board, the Orioles’ starting rotation is coming into focus, but it may not be as cut and dried as previously perceived.
Harvey, who could opt out of his minor-league deal, got the word March 24 that he would be added to the roster, but that wasn’t the only significant development that day. Bruce Zimmermann, originally scheduled to follow Dean Kremer against the Red Sox that night, instead pitched four innings in a B-squad game at the club’s Twin Lakes minor-league complex.
It was Zimmermann’s second straight appearance in a B game, but it shouldn’t be interpreted as a demotion. It most likely is an indication that the left-hander has been penciled into the fourth slot in the rotation, the spot that has been generally conceded to Keegan Akin, another left-hander, who has struggled this spring, mainly with his control.
On March 25, Akin allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks in 2.2 innings.
It’s conceivable both Zimmermann and Akin could end up in the rotation, but that would be more likely to happen down the road rather than the opening weeks of the season. Kremer (twice) and Zimmermann have both faced the Red Sox this spring, and it is a common practice to try to “hide” starting pitchers from division opponents during the spring.
The Orioles may prefer to use two right-handers (Harvey and Kremer or vice versa) in the first three games in Fenway Park, where the Green Monster invites right-handed power. O’s manager Brandon Hyde would then have two the option of using two left-handers (Zimmermann and Means) at Yankee Stadium, where the short porch in right field favors left-handed hitters.
Kremer and Zimmermann are both scheduled to pitch in the O’s final preseason game March 29 against the Rays, another division opponent, but one they don’t face until the second month of the season.
It is expected that Hyde will have his rotation set by then, making the final appearances for Kremer and Zimmermann mere tune-ups. He’ll still need a fifth starter, and that could conceivably even be Akin, but his performance March 25 probably took care of that.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com