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HomeSportsBaseballMLB News: Orioles shuffle bullpen, aim to clinch series with Diamondbacks

MLB News: Orioles shuffle bullpen, aim to clinch series with Diamondbacks

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Don’t be surprised if the Baltimore Orioles continue their different bullpen approach to closing out games, which they put on display on Friday.

They insist they’re well-equipped to make the short-term adjustments, and they’re likewise expecting sharp starting pitching to help out.

After winning Friday night’s series opener 4-2 against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, the Orioles will try to extend their winning streak to three games overall in Saturday’s rematch.

In Baltimore’s revamped bullpen, Craig Kimbrel, one of baseball’s long-established closers, has struggled recently, and he emerged in the seventh inning Friday to retire the only three batters he faced.

Three relievers followed him, with Yennier Cano notching his second save of the season by working around a leadoff double in the ninth inning.

“They told us all to go out there and be ready,” Cano said. “What I’ve tried to learn from last year is to approach it like any other inning.”

Kimbrel is 3-1 with eight saves, but two blown saves in late April followed by some additional ragged performances have caused concern.

“Whatever it is, I have to figure it out and be better, and I fully expect to,” Kimbrel said.

His perfect seventh inning was a good beginning.

“We’re going to continue supporting him and be here for him, and we have all the confidence he’s going to get back to what he has been doing,” Cano said.

The Orioles have left-hander John Means (1-0, 0.00 ERA) set to start on Saturday for just his second appearance of the season. Repeating what he did the first time would be ideal.

After Means struggled during a long rehabilitation from left elbow soreness this spring, he threw seven shutout innings on May 4 in Cincinnati. He struck out eight, didn’t walk anyone and needed only 85 pitches.

“It’s something about being up here that feels comfortable,” Means said. “Just going to ride with that.”

Injuries limited Means to six big-league games in 2022 and 2023 combined.

“This team is playing so well, you just want to join them, you want to feel that energy that they’re feeling,” Means said.

His only career outing against the Diamondbacks was a rough one, giving up three runs in 3 1/3 innings on six hits in July 2019 in Phoenix.

Arizona’s scheduled starter is right-hander Ryne Nelson (2-2, 5.23), who has won his past two decisions. That included Sunday’s five-inning stint, when he allowed four runs to the visiting San Diego Padres in his first appearance since spending a couple of weeks on the injured list. Nelson was dealing with a bruised elbow from a comebacker in a game against the San Francisco Giants on April 18.

That outing ended after he had thrown two scoreless innings.

“It’s never good when we’re scoring and you go out there and give up a couple of runs,” Nelson said. “So being able to throw up those zeroes was big.”

Nelson has pitched in the majors for parts of three seasons but has never met the Orioles.

Arizona’s Joc Pederson, who was hit on the right arm by a pitch while pinch-hitting in the eighth inning on Friday, was removed for a pinch runner. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said there was no injury involved for Pederson.

The teams met last September with the Orioles winning the final two games of a three-game series in Phoenix.

–Field Level Media

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