Left-hander Cole Irvin is back with the Orioles, as the team announced Tuesday that he’s been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk. Right-hander Logan Gillaspie has been optioned to Norfolk in a corresponding move.
Baltimore’s decision to option Irvin to Norfolk came as something of a surprise earlier this season. The Orioles’ acquisition of Irvin was one of just two moves made to fortify the starting rotation over the winter (along with the Kyle Gibson signing), and the team parted with an infield prospect of some note (Darell Hernaiz) in order to acquire him. There’s no getting around how rough Irvin’s start to the season was — 15 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings through three starts — but his track record and the manner in which the O’s acquired him led many to presume he’d have a longer leash to get back on track.
To Irvin’s credit, he’s largely done that in Norfolk. The lefty took the ball five times for the Tides and pitched 31 innings with a sharp 3.19 ERA. His 13.4% strikeout rate is still a red flag, but Irvin also only walked 3.1% of his opponents in Triple-A.
Strikeouts have never been a big part of Irvin’s game anyhow. He’s spent the past two seasons anchoring the Athletics’ rotation in Oakland, making 62 starts with a 4.11 ERA, 16.8% strikeout rate and 5.2% walk rate. Irvin, who’s averaged 90.9 mph on his fastball in his career, has succeeded more with precision and command than by overpowering his opponents.
The role Irvin will occupy with the O’s this time around hasn’t been formally laid out. Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun tweets that he could provide some length out of the bullpen for the time being, although one would imagine that a return to the starting staff could be in order if Irvin pitches well in a long relief capacity. Baltimore starters have combined for a 5.08 ERA this season, although Irvin’s own struggles weigh into that number. Over the past month, the O’s have used Gibson, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez in the rotation, and that quintet has combined for a more palatable 4.28 mark. Rodriguez (6.51 ERA), Gibson (5.08) and Bradish (4.88) have all posted lackluster bottom-line results in that time.
From a service time vantage point, Irvin’s demotion isn’t likely to change his trajectory. He entered the season with two years, 120 days of big league service time, meaning he needed only 52 days in the Majors to reach three years of service and become arbitration-eligible following the current season. It’s highly likely he’ll hit that mark this year even with a month-long stay in Norfolk. That’ll keep him on pace to become a free agent following the the 2026 season. This is Irvin’s final minor league option year, so the team can technically shuttle him between Norfolk and the Majors throughout the season if they like, but if Irvin can round back into his 2021-22 form he’ll have a clear role on the big league staff.