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O's to roll back struggling closer Givens

@JoeTrezz
May 27, 2019

BALTIMORE -- On the heels of a nightmare week defined by their inability to close out games, the Orioles are rolling Mychal Givens back. Manager Brandon Hyde said he plans to ease Givens back into high-leverage situations when the right-hander is available next, likely later this week against the Tigers.

BALTIMORE -- On the heels of a nightmare week defined by their inability to close out games, the Orioles are rolling Mychal Givens back.

Manager Brandon Hyde said he plans to ease Givens back into high-leverage situations when the right-hander is available next, likely later this week against the Tigers. Hyde cited the seventh inning and games Baltimore is trailing as potential situations to next use Givens, whom they hope can reclaim closing duties at some point in the near future.

“We need him, bad,” Hyde said. “We need the real Mychal Givens.”

The O's have reason to believe this recent version isn’t that. Far and away the club’s most accomplished reliever, Givens has blown two saves and sustained three losses in his past four appearances, working to a 24.00 ERA over that stretch. He's issued eight walks over his past three innings, including free passes to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs Sunday in Colorado and Thursday against New York, respectively. All told, Givens has issued multiple free passes in four of his 19 games this season, half his total from a year ago in 50 fewer games.

The right-hander owned a 2.75 ERA at this point last week. That number is now 5.56.

“I think it’s just a command and confidence issue right now,” Hyde said. “I think he’s forcing it a little bit. He wants to be the guy there at the end. It's one of those when you try to be the guy because you see how hard everybody else is working to win the game, maybe trying too hard. Right now, he’s had a tough five-day stretch. I’m going to try to get him back on track.”

Until then, the Orioles will attack the ninth like they have the middle innings for much of this season: with patchwork. The most likely candidate to see save situations is probably Shawn Armstrong, who has a 2.70 ERA over his first 10 appearances. Hyde has also leaned more on rookie right-hander Branden Kline in recent weeks, and Richard Bleier’s recent return from the injured list may free up fellow lefty Paul Fry for more late-inning work.

“You’ll see whoever,” Hyde said. “We’ll figure it out. We need to get [Givens] back on track.”

What’s more clear is how Givens’ struggles have thrown one of the most combustible relief units in baseball even more into flux.

“Up until just recently, I’ve said all along, I just wanted to get the ball to [Givens] late in the game, and take our chances,” Hyde said. “We just [need] to try to get him some confidence back, to where he needs it and wants it.”

Trumbo making progress

Mark Trumbo’s road to recovery allowed a pitstop in Baltimore on Monday. Now he’s hoping the visit was just a sign of things to come.

Yet to appear this season as he recovers from surgery to repair a chondral defect in his right knee, Trumbo is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie on Tuesday. Trumbo will play both first base and right field in addition to testing the knee hitting and on the bases during the assignment, which the Orioles expect to extend to at least mid-June.

A former All-Star home run champion as recently as 2016, Trumbo has been limited to a handful of exhibition appearances this season at the Orioles’ training complex in Sarasota, Fla. He played in six games this spring and began the season on the 60-day injured list.

“I do see enough improvement, especially the strength of the leg,” Trumbo said. “I’ve had enough time to narrow that gap... I think I have a much better chance than I did then.”

He’s spent the time since in Sarasota, strengthening and accumulating about 15 at-bats in extended spring training action. Trumbo last appeared in the Majors on August 19, 2018.

Trumbo, 33, is a career .250/302/.461 hitter with 218 home runs across parts of nine Major League seasons. He is in the final season of a three-year, $37.5 million contract.

“I think the aggressive baserunning is where some of the biggest hurdles are going to be,” Trumbo said. “It’s not totally out of mind. Day-to-day stuff isn’t a problem. But anything you have that is as serious as this, you’re mind is going to be on it quite a bit. I’m looking to forward to when it's not, and that will probably be the biggest indicator that I’m as back to full strength as I can be.”

Hyde remembers Buckner

Hyde began his postgame press conference Monday by offering condolences to the family of Bill Buckner, the former All-Star first baseman who spent part of his post-playing career as an instructor in the Cubs' organization. Buckner died Monday at age 69.

“I’m so sorry for Bill Buckner; just awful. I was the farm director when he was with the Cubs. Condolences go out him and his family. He was a great man. I have a lot of memories of Bill,” Hyde said. “I was field coordinator my first year there. At the time, the Cubs had an organizational policy where they wanted everybody to shave, including the coaches.

"I had to be the one to tell Bill Buckner to shave his mustache. That was one of the worst moments of my professional career: telling this legend he has to lose his identity. Fortunately, he took it really well and treated me really well. It’s a sad day.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.