The Baltimore Orioles optioned left-handed starter Cole Irvin to the minors on Thursday following his latest disappointing start, according to MASN's Roch Kubatko. Irvin's demotion was the most notable of several tweaks the Orioles made to their pitching staff: they also placed lefty Keegan Akin on the paternity list and recalled right-handers Spencer Watkins and Yannier Cano.
Irvin, 29, was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in January. He was one of the bigger offseason additions Baltimore made, having posted a 96 ERA+ and a 3.24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his previous 62 starts. Alas, Irvin hasn't performed up to par with the Orioles. Over three outings, he's amassed a 10.66 ERA and a 1.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's yet to complete five innings, but he's surrendered at least three runs in each of his starts -- including Thursday's, which, fittingly, came against his former squad from Oakland.
The Orioles have developed a reputation for improving pitchers by altering their pitch mixes or mechanics. Irvin has attempted a change of his own, parking his two-seam fastball and going all-in with his four-seamer. He's thrown the pitch nearly 50 percent of the time this season, though the results have not been promising. Indeed, he'll head to the minors with batters having posted a .304 average and a .652 slugging percentage against his four-seamer.
Irvin's demotion will, if nothing else, provide him with a chance to experiment and reset away from the spotlight that comes with pitching in the majors.
It's to be seen how the Orioles replace Irvin in the rotation. Watkins, who started 20 times for Baltimore last season, would be the path of least resistance. Alternatively, they could theoretically bring up lefty prospect DL Hall. He's struck out 12 batters in 7 1/3 Triple-A innings to date this season.
The Orioles entered Friday with a 7-6 record on the season. They'll play three games on the road this weekend against the Chicago White Sox.