BALTIMORE — Routinely last summer, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde reserved some of his more lavish praise for right-hander Tyler Wells, who blossomed from a Rule 5 rookie into arguably the club’s most trusted late-inning reliever and was a bright spot during a trying season in Baltimore.
Developed as a starter, Wells took quickly to relieving and flourished in the role, earning save opportunities (and saves) by September. For a bullpen in dire need, Wells looked like a natural. And in the eyes of an organization searching for building blocks, Wells clearly stood out.
So it was notable when the Orioles reversed course this spring, deciding to prep Wells to start. MLB bullpens are replete with former starters. But big league rotations (while supplanted by swingmen) aren’t chock full with former relievers, especially ones who’ve thrived in back-end roles. The simplest solution is usually to keep them there.
What Wells and the Orioles are attempting is the more difficult solution, sensing greater potential long-term rewards. To work, the experiment will require showings like the first half of Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Yankees, when Wells shined before New York rallied against his former ‘pen mates.
Coming off a difficult season debut at Tampa Bay, Wells tossed four scoreless innings in his second career start, striking out three and walking two. Flashing four pitches — including a fastball that touched 96 mph — Wells worked in and out of traffic before finishing…