O’s turn to top acquisition Jordan Lyles to battle Rays

Newcomer Jordan Lyles brings something to the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff that is lacking — experience.

The right-hander will make his first start in Baltimore’s orange and black when he faces the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon in the sandwich game of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Following Friday’s 2-1 Opening Day loss to the Rays, the Orioles will look to the Hartsville, S.C., native to get the club to .500 and add some consistency to a staff that was dreadful in 2021.

The Orioles definitely made their best pitch for Lyles in free agency.

Baltimore executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias inked Lyles to a one-year, $7 million contract right before the lockout began on Dec. 2. The deal became the largest ever by Elias for a free agent in his three years leading the front office.

Lyles couldn’t sign the contract until the lockout ended, but Elias worked quickly to secure the deal.

“There were a handful of teams after the World Series ended and free agency began, but Mike and Baltimore, they had the strongest interest,” said Lyles, who went 10-13 with a 5.15 ERA for the Texas Rangers in 2021. “Then the day of the lockout, Mike made some efforts to get a deal in place before we were going to go silent.”

While Lyles did spin a career-high 180 innings, he surrendered the most home runs (38) and earned runs (103) in the American League. Batters hit .278 against him.

Despite no record in four appearances — three starts — against the Rays, Lyles has had good success against them.

In 21 1/3 innings pitched, he has allowed eight runs on 19 hits — a 3.38 ERA. He has given up a pair of homers as the Rays hit .232.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said the combination of the shortened spring camp and the silent period with his players presented some problems but added that he was overall in favor of a briefer Grapefruit League.

With a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, Cash removed ace Shane McClanahan after 4 1/3 innings and 68 pitches, denying the left-hander of possibly being credited as the winning pitcher in his first Opening Day start.

“I may be in support of the shortening of spring, but allow us to communicate with the players and do our jobs, and maybe it works out,” Cash said after pinch hitter Francisco Mejia produced the game-winning RBI with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.

“There’s no denying that our starting pitchers are not built up to where they will maybe be by the end of the month.”

Cash should not have that problem with Saturday starter Drew Rasmussen, a converted reliever who found his niche last season by going 4-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 20 games, 10 of them starts.

Rasmussen, 26, went five innings in half of his 10 starts after he was inserted into the rotation permanently in mid-August.

Two of Rasmussen’s six appearances against Baltimore have been starts, and the right-hander (2-0, 1.08) has fired 16 2/3 total innings and allowed 12 hits while fanning a dozen.

On Aug. 17 in a home start against the Orioles, he pitched four scoreless innings of one-hit ball in the Rays’ 10-0 win.

–Field Level Media