Controversial ending a learning moment for O's

Manager Hyde stressing importance of tags; Phillips recalled to bolster bullpen; Hays to Triple-A

June 8th, 2019

HOUSTON -- The Orioles left the ballpark early Saturday morning knowing there wasn’t much they could do about the weird ending to their 4-3 loss to the Astros, with a controversial call at home plate and really no agency to sway the ruling their way.

By Saturday afternoon, they maintained their belief that Yuli Gurriel never touched home plate as the winning run, having collided with during Robinson Chirinos’ walk-off double. They conceded, though, that Sisco never tagged Gurriel, either. Taken in tandem with home-plate umpire John Tumpane’s safe call on the field, that little fact rendered Brandon Hyde’s managerial challenge useless.

Replay officials in New York could not find evidence the call should be overturned, because without a tag, a runner can’t be out. So the call stood, leaving the Orioles with another tough loss -- and another teaching moment.

“Sisco tagged Gurriel a couple hours ago; we still didn’t get the call,” Hyde joked. “Nah, the play stands. You just go on from there.”

But the Orioles didn’t turn the page without reviewing it in a constructive way. They spent Saturday afternoon emphasizing the importance of holding tags on runners, not just to catchers Sisco and Pedro Severino, but to their infielders as well. They also stressed the importance of maintaining tags after an umpire’s call has been made, particularly in do-or-die, late-inning situations like Friday’s. In the moment, Sisco’s first instinct was to corral then show the ball to Tumpane instead of tagging Gurriel. That proved costly.

Consider it another lesson in fundamentals for Hyde and his coaching staff, whose first year at the helm has been full of them. It also stands as the latest example of development happening at the big league level, which Hyde has long stressed as a theme of this season.

Roster move

After Friday's game, Baltimore optioned reliever Branden Kline, and in a corresponding move Saturday, recalled Evan Phillips from Triple-A Norfolk for the fourth time this season. Phillips provides the bullpen with a fresh arm and gets another opportunity to find consistency at the Major League level.

“Every time I come up, I don’t have any doubt in my confidence that I deserve to be here or am capable of sticking around. It's just a matter of doing it, proving to myself I can do it, that I can figure it out,” Phillips said. “If they can rely on you and trust you on a consistent basis, that’s what keeps you around.”

Consider lack of command the main culprit in preventing Phillips from sticking around thus far. Acquired from the Braves in last summer’s Kevin Gausman trade, Phillips has issued 11 walks in 12 appearances so far this season, and 21 in 21 career outings dating back to 2018. This year, that has translated to a 6.92 ERA in Baltimore.

Down in Norfolk, Phillips sliced his walk rate by more than three times. He owns a 0.84 ERA in seven games for the Tides.

“I’d like to see Evan aggressive in the strike zone, which he’s done at Triple-A,” Hyde said. “Now it’s just doing that with confidence here in the big leagues.”

The message is similar for Kline, whose 3.4 BB/9 rate doesn’t come close to Phillips’ 7.7 mark. Still, the Orioles hope the rookie right-hander can be more efficient, believing his stuff would play up as a result. Kline’s fastball hit 99 mph Friday night, and he’s struck out more than a batter per inning over 18 appearances this season. But he’s needed to throw at least 20 pitches in each of his past three outings, all of an inning or less. He’s also allowed at least one run in five straight, and has a 5.89 ERA overall.

Hays promoted

Before suffering a thumb injury in the final week of spring, Austin Hays appeared primed to begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk, putting the Orioles’ No. 5 prospect just one jump from the big leagues. It took a few extra months, but Hays is there now.

Hays was promoted to Norfolk on Saturday, the Tides announced, on the heels of a three-week stint at the lower levels that was a de facto rehab assignment. Now fully healed from the sprained right thumb he suffered in late March, Hays joins a Norfolk outfield mix rejiggered by the recent promotions of DJ Stewart and Anthony Santander. That leaves Hays, Cedric Mullins, Joey Rickard and Mason Williams in the mix at Norfolk, at least for the time being. Dwight Smith Jr. is eligible to return from the 7-day concussion list next weekend, which would force the Orioles to make another move.

Either way, it probably wouldn’t affect Hays, whom the Orioles consider an important part of their future. Though he got 20 games of MLB experience in 2017, Hays’ first game with Norfolk will be his first at the Triple-A level. The Orioles consider mastering it imperative for Hays’ long-term development.