Jorge Lopez underscores the grit and determination of the Orioles’ bullpen.

Lopez struggled to find a role in the starting rotation in 2021 after he was claimed off waivers from Kansas City in 2020. He became the de facto closer when Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott were traded just prior to the 2022 season.

Now, Lopez has established himself as one of the top relievers in the big leagues.

On June 19, Lopez earned his 11th save in a 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was also his sixth save when posting four or more outs, which is tied for the MLB lead with Scott Barlow (Kansas City) and David Bednar (Pittsburgh).

With a bullpen full of castoffs and unheralded pitchers, the Orioles are dominating opponents at the back end of ballgames. The Orioles’ bullpen is second in the majors with a 3.5 fWAR and tied for sixth with a 3.19 ERA in 2022 entering play June 21.

“I don’t take that as being my role because everybody can take that role and execute it,” said Lopez, who is tied with Mychal Givens (2019) for the most multi-inning saves by an Oriole since 2007. “I’m just thankful to have that opportunity and just be out there and give the win to the boys.”

In the victory against the Rays in the series finale, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was forced to use seven relievers in a bullpen game after starter Jordan Lyles came down with a stomach virus that morning. Four of those relievers were waiver claims (Austin Voth, Bryan Baker, Cionel Pérez and Lopez) two were late-round draft picks (Nick Vespi and Mike Baumann) and one was a minor-league free agent pickup (Felix Bautista).

“Where do I start?” Hyde said about the bullpen after the game. “Makeup, toughness, stuff, grit. Guys are just kind of falling in. They have really good stuff and they’re pitching with a ton of confidence on the plate. We haven’t had that.”

Voth was claimed by the Orioles off waivers from the Washington Nationals June 7 and made his first start of the season with Lyles sidelined. He threw 2.2 scoreless innings and recorded four strikeouts for the first time since April 25, 2021, against the Mets. Voth induced seven swings and misses, most in a game since he also got seven on June 1, 2021, against the Braves.

“I mean, just the amount of arms that we have, just have live arms, can throw hard and locate it well with one or two good offspeed pitches,” Voth said. “You don’t really see that too often. Just shows this organization is really good at bringing guys in and bringing out the strengths that they have.”

Last year, the Orioles went 20-56 against the AL East. This season, they are 15-19 and won back-to-back series against Tampa Bay for the first time since 2017.

The new-look Orioles are exciting and energetic in the midst of a rebuilding project that isn’t complete yet. But it is getting closer. The Orioles have more talented players in the pipeline waiting to make their MLB debut later this season.

“I think everyone in the company, ownership on down, is very pleased with the foundation, the processes that have been laid, the infrastructure that we have across our organization right now and it’s just about building and growing from here,” general manager Mike Elias said earlier this month. “We’ve got blue skies ahead of us.

“We’ve got a No. 1 farm system. We’ve got a young, talented major league team. We have payroll flexibility where we are past the pandemic and there are going to be more and more people coming into the ballpark.”

Photo Credit: Colin Murphy/PressBox

Todd Karpovich

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