The Orioles on Monday addressed their pitching depth by re-signing right-hander Thomas Eshelman to a Minor League contract. The deal includes an invitation to Spring Training.
Eshelman, 26, pitched to a 4-3 record and a 5.22 ERA in a swingman role for Baltimore over the past two seasons, across eight starts and 14 relief appearances. Eshelman became a Minor League free agent after he was designated for assignment in December.
A former second-round Draft pick of the Astros in 2015, Eshelman debuted for the Orioles in '19 and appeared to take a step forward in ’20, going 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA in 12 appearances (four starts). Though he rarely pitched deep into games, Eshelman often provided serviceable innings in place of John Means (family-related leave of absence) and Wade LeBlanc (season-ending left elbow injury) and after the O's dealt Tommy Milone at the Trade Deadline. Eshelman also proved capable of entering in the middle of games and pitching multiple innings.
That kind of depth figures to be more important in 2021 than ever before, especially for a rebuilding team like the Orioles, who are planning to lean on several young and inexperienced starters. No Baltimore hurler pitched more than 52 1/3 innings in '20 due to the shortened season; none of the club’s big league ready pitching prospects -- including Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer -- threw more than 26 innings in game action. The organization will be careful not to risk injury by pushing them, particularly during a season few are expecting the Orioles to compete for a playoff spot.
All of which should give Eshelman a legitimate chance at reprising his role this spring, likely stretching out as a starter along with Jórge Lopez, Bruce Zimmermann, Rule 5 Draft pick Mac Sceroler and other depth options. More names are sure to be added to that mix when the O’s announce their full list of non-roster invites later this month.