Knowing Dean Kremer won’t pitch again this season, the Orioles optioned him to their alternate training site on Thursday in lieu of bullpen depth, recalling right-hander David Hess in a corresponding move. Hess, who spent much of 2019 in the O’s rotation, will serve as an additional longman in their 'pen for the final four games of the season.
Still, it could be a consequential assignment for Hess, whose final Minor League option will expire at season’s end. The O's are expected to undergo a substantial 40-man roster turnover this winter, with at least four Top 20 Prospects to protect from the Rule 5 Draft, key players Trey Mancini and Richie Martin returning from the 60-day injured list and Kohl Stewart from the COVID IL.
The Orioles currently have three open spots on their 40-man roster but could require at least four more at some point, and Hess could potentially be on the bubble if there is a squeeze.
(Baltimore also has veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc returning from the 60-day injured list but is expected to allow him to elect free agency.)
“You go with the body of work and you’re also looking for them to improve on things you’ve talked about over the course of the year,” O's manager Brandon Hyde said, speaking in general about impending roster decisions. “This isn’t an ideal evaluation year, because it’s only a two-month season, and we’re going to do the best we can.”
Promoted to fill a rotation hole in May 2018, Hess went 4-20 with a 5.79 ERA in 33 starts over the next two seasons. He lost his rotation spot in August 2019, then spent most of this summer at the O’s alternate training site in Bowie, Md. The 27-year-old owns a 5.86 ERA in 47 career appearances across parts of three seasons.
Kremer was hit hard in his final start of 2020 on Wednesday, allowing seven runs over 2 2/3 innings during a loss to the Red Sox. The Orioles hope it’s just a blip considering how the first three MLB starts went for their No. 10 prospect: Kremer went 1-0 with a 1.69 in those outings. The righty is expected to be part of the '21 rotation.
From the trainer’s room
The O's completed their three-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday without slugger Renato Núñez, who was sidelined with a sore right knee. He is considered day-to-day.
It has been a streaky but quietly productive year for Núñez, with the second-year designated hitter batting .251 with 12 homers and a 117 OPS+. He’s also sprinkled in more time defensively at third and first with Chris Davis relegated to a reserve role and oft-injured, starting 32 of 51 games in the field.
The 26-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter after hitting 43 homers across 202 games over the past two seasons.