It would appear that this is the time for the Orioles to take off the kid gloves, toss the training wheels and throw Keegan Akin into the fire that accompanies the role of starting pitcher in the major leagues.

If not now, when?

Manager Brandon Hyde has followed the company line perfectly, picking and choosing his spots with the 27-year-old left-hander. In return, Akin has exceeded all rational expectations.

Now, it would seem, is the time to find out if the “starter’s stuff” he has displayed in 2022 is the real deal — or if he is to be relegated to the anonymous role of career relief pitcher.

Those with long memories will recall that the Orioles of a different era went through a similar situation with Arthur Rhodes, who failed as a starter and closer before settling into a long career best described as left-hander’s limbo.

The age-old (and worn-out) adage is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which is the approach the Orioles have taken with Akin this year. With decidedly mixed results going into this year, it’s an approach that can’t be faulted and the results have been spectacular. In 24.2 innings across 10 games, Akin has pitched to a 1.46 ERA, allowed only 14 hits, walked five and struck out 20.

But there is a flip side to this equation. Despite distinct statistical improvement this year, the Orioles’ starting rotation is broken, as it was last year, the year before and has been for most of the last decade.

The Orioles were trying to piece it together while holding tryouts for the fifth spot in the rotation when the season started. Then they lost staff ace John Means, rotated a few candidates through and added Kyle Bradish, who has given a degree of stability.

In the meantime, Hyde is severely handicapped with every starter in the rotation not named Jordan Lyles on a strict pitch count and every fifth day is forced to say “bullpen game” rather than name a starting pitcher. Especially given the circumstances, there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason to keep Akin in his present role.

The Orioles, like just about every other team in MLB, are driven by analytics. As such, to this point, they have been reluctant to tinker with Akin’s role. But a deeper dive into the analytics reveals numbers within the numbers that can’t be ignored.

Of Akin’s 10 appearances this year, the Orioles have been behind (and eventually lost) eight times. His role, for the most part, has been to control the damage, and he’s done it superbly.

But here’s the statistic that matters most — he has entered only two games with a lead and has a win and “hold,” as the Orioles won both. Somewhere along the line wins and losses have to come into play. Those two games, back to back earlier this month, are the only two games Akin has appeared in as a reliever that resulted in wins.

The 10 straight games Akin has worked in relief make up the longest streak he’s had in the same role in his MLB career. That’s one game longer than the nine straight games he started at the end of last year.

The Orioles, who finished the 2021 season with a 52-110 record, were 4-5 in those nine games, which may or may not be incidental. The evidence strongly suggests it’s time to take another look.

Jim Henneman can be reached at

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox