For Orioles RHP Tyler Wells, Transition To Starting Rotation A Learning Process

The transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation has been a learning process for Tyler Wells.

Wells has been able to pitch into the fifth inning in two of his starts this season. He also had some struggles, lasting only 1.2 innings in his first start against the Tampa Bay Rays April 10 and 2.1 innings against the Oakland Athletics April 21.

However, Wells has shown manager Brandon Hyde enough potential to be called upon every five days as a starter. Wells will continue to get opportunities, especially given the Orioles’ shorthanded rotation that already lost ace John Means to Tommy John surgery.

That means taking it slow with Wells this year after he totaled 57 innings last year and didn’t pitch competitively in 2019 or 2020. The 27-year-old was pulled after five innings and 62 pitches against the Minnesota Twins May 2.

“We need Tyler to pitch for us for this year, and so that’s the challenge, honestly,” Hyde said. “I don’t want to take him out, but it’s a challenge right now.”

At 6-foot-8, Wells can be an imposing pitcher on the mound and has a fastball that reaches about 95 mph. Wells was selected by the Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft from Minnesota in December 2020. He made his big league debut on April 4, 2021, at Boston and allowed one hit in one inning.

Wells eventually became one of the club’s best relievers and earned his first career save on Sept. 4 against the New York Yankees, retiring Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo in order. Wells finished the season with four saves — third most on the team, and his 18 games finished were tied for second most with Cole Sulser.

Opponents did not hit above .200 against him in 14 games after July 19. His .192 opponents’ average is the second lowest by a rookie in club history, trailing only Gregg Olson (.188 OBA in 1989).

As a result, the Orioles saw his potential as a member of the rotation. Wells had perhaps his best start against the Twins May 2. He allowed one run and four hits in five innings. He also struck out four batters with no walks in the Orioles’ 2-1 loss. The performance brought his season ERA down to 4.50.

“It felt really good, I felt really crisp,” Wells said. “I felt like I was pitching out there. Even if I tried to make a better pitch, I was still missing in the spots that I wanted to miss in and it just worked out well for me.”

It was an encouraging performance and one the right-hander can build on. Wells’ goal is to get as deep into the game as possible in each start, which is also beneficial to the club and its young bullpen. Wells is showing solid command and has not allowed a walk in his last three starts.

“I don’t like walking people. I don’t like giving freebies away,” Wells said. “There is a time and place to pitch around guys given the situation or given their streaks or whatever it may end up being, but I’m not going to back down. I’m not going to let guys just get on base for free and not be competitive.”

Since allowing four runs in his first start, Wells has not given up any more than two runs in his next four outings (16.1 innings).

Wells is under club control through 2026, so the Orioles have more time to nurture his development. The Orioles are trying to limit him to 75 pitches per outing during the early part of the season. Wells underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019, so the team wants to ensure he stays healthy long term.

However, it’s a challenge for Wells when he gets pulled out of a game.

“I’m going out there and going as long as I can until they tell me to stop,” Wells said. “I mean, that’s kind of how I’m trying to take it these last two starts. Whenever they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to loosen the reins a little bit,’ especially whenever our bullpen has kind of been taxed, I’m happy to be able to go that deep.”

Mancini Back in Lineup

Trey Mancini was back in the Orioles’ lineup on May 3 against the Twins after missing the previous three games with bruised ribs.

He served as the designated hitter and went 2-for-4 in a 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Mancini is batting .238 with a homer and nine RBIs on the season.

“He wants to be in there, he’s going to give it every effort, like the gamer he is, to try to be in there,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game.

Mancini’s future in Baltimore is uncertain. He could be a valuable player at the trade deadline, and the rebuilding Orioles would likely be willing to deal him for prospects. Mancini is in his final year of club control and might wind up with a contending team during the second half of the season.

Mancini will not let the trade talk become a distraction.

“I know how it goes,” Mancini said earlier this year. “I know that I am a pending free agent after this year. I know the trade talks are going to come with that but it’s nothing that I think about or affects what I do every day.”

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Todd Karpovich

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