The Baltimore Orioles are placing right-handed pitchers Tyler Wells and Mac Sceroler on their Opening Day roster, rewarding the two young hurlers after their promising spring training performances. Now, they will look to maintain roles in the majors while providing the club with long-relief options.
Sceroler and Wells were chosen by the Orioles in the major-league phase of December’s Rule 5 Draft, joining the organization from the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins, respectively. Both pitchers had long layoffs prior to spring training, as Wells last pitched in competitive game action in 2018 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2019. Sceroler, meanwhile, did not pitch last year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season. Despite that, neither showed signs of rust in camp, stringing together several solid outings before Orioles manager Brandon Hyde revealed on Monday that they had made the Opening Day roster.
Wells was the most impressive of the two in spring training, fanning 12 batters in nine innings of work while allowing just one run. In his outings, Wells has shown good velocity—apparently hitting 95 mph on a fastball that struck out the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton earlier this month—and handled an increasing workload as spring training has progressed. After throwing an inning a piece in his first two outings, Wells has worked multiple innings in three subsequent appearances, including three frames of relief work on March 26.
Prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery, Wells had had success as a starter in the Twins’ farm system, topping out with a stint at Double-A in 2018. For now, though, the Orioles should not worry about trying to groom for a rotation role, as Wells will need to be handled with caution given that this is his first season back from Tommy John surgery. The way that the club could go about this is to ensure that he maintains a workload that could include relief appearances of multiple innings with a few days’ rest in between.
At first glance, Sceroler’s spring training stats do not immediately impress. However, his 6.43 ERA was largely the byproduct of a horrendous outing against Toronto (five earned runs allowed in 1/3 of an inning pitched) on March 5. Following that appearance, Sceroler threw 5 2/3 straight scoreless innings over three appearances, including 2 2/3 scoreless frames on March 25.
Like Wells, Sceroler is a former minor-league starter (he has yet to pitch above High-A) that could become a long-relief option in the majors. He did a good job of limiting walks during his time in the minors—posting a 2.8 BB.9 rate over 239 career innings—and his four-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, slider, and splitter) is something the Orioles have cited as a positive attribute. While Sceroler did issue six walks this spring, four of those came over his first two appearances, suggesting that his command improved as spring training progressed.
Certainly, there were factors beyond their control that could have cleared roster spots for Sceroler and Wells. Some pitchers who seemed ticketed for the Opening Day roster early in camp either did not make it because they struggled (Keegan Akin) or were affected by injury. (Reliever Hunter Harvey was placed on the 60-day IL, while Felix Hernandez likely would’ve made the starting rotation had it not been for an elbow issue late in camp.) Still, with their performances, Wells and Sceroler earned their place on the roster, but will now have to work to further prove themselves in the Orioles bullpen.
Because they are Rule 5 picks, the Orioles will need to keep Wells and Sceroler on their roster all year or offer them back to their original clubs. Whether either pitcher can stick in the majors all year remains to be seen. As the season progresses towards the summer months, the Orioles could have more options in the form of starters who will likely begin year at Triple-A Norfolk—where a promising rotation could be headlined by Zac Lother, Alexander Wells, and Michael Baumann—and a handful of relievers that could get a look in the majors this season. In addition, the Orioles will hope that Harvey makes a healthy return sometime in the coming months, and that Akin returns to the majors at some point.
When considering those circumstances and the question of how the return to a 162-game season could affect pitchers, it is apparent that the Orioles can expect their pitching situation to remain fluid this year. Wells and Sceroler will have to remain viable relief options as that situation evolves, but there are some things they can do to ensure they remain in Baltimore for all of 2021. For Wells, this is going to mean showing that he is healthy and effective in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. He shows plenty of upside but will also have the added challenge of trying to adjust to major-league hitters. Sceroler, meanwhile, will have to build on the improvements he made at the end of spring training and emerge as an effective long-inning relief option.
By making it onto the major-league roster, Sceroler and Wells have given themselves the opportunity to hold down a spot on the Orioles roster this season. They will have to pitch well to do so, but their performance this spring leaves hope for the type of production they could provide in 2021.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues. Co-Host of The Verge: https://anchor.fm/the-verge