As if the embarrassment of a club-record 19 straight road defeats weren’t enough as the Orioles returned to Camden Yards to begin a six-game homestand, a starting rotation already lacking palatable options has lost another.
Originally scheduled to start Friday’s series opener against Toronto, left-hander Bruce Zimmermann was instead placed on the 10-day injured list with left bicep tendinitis, a move retroactive to Tuesday. The club selected the contract of right-hander Thomas Eshelman to start in Zimmermann’s place against the Blue Jays while struggling catcher Chance Sisco was designated for assignment to make space on the 40-man roster.
With lefty ace John Means sidelined since early June, the rookie Zimmermann has been one of the few positives for the last-place Orioles in recent weeks, posting a 3.43 ERA over his last four starts and holding a 4.83 ERA in 59 2/3 innings this season. He last pitched against Tampa Bay on Sunday, allowing three earned runs and six hits over 5 2/3 frames in a 7-1 defeat.
Eshelman, 26, has made 22 appearances for Baltimore since the start of 2019, posting a 5.22 ERA in 70 2/3 innings. The right-hander had a 6.41 ERA in 19 2/3 innings at Triple-A Norfolk this season.
Once considered a top 100 prospect in all of baseball by multiple publications, Sisco had been optioned to Norfolk in late May after a poor start to the season. Serving as the No. 2 catcher behind Pedro Severino, the 26-year-old was batting just .154 with no home runs and a .431 on-base plus slugging percentage in 73 plate appearances this season. Regarded as a bat-first catcher throughout his career with concerns about his defense, the lefty-swinging Sisco owns a career .199 average and .658 OPS in 598 plate appearances across parts of five seasons with the Orioles, struggles that overshadowed the modest defensive improvements he had made in recent years.
A second-round pick in the 2013 amateur draft, Sisco was batting .205 with one homer and a .668 OPS in 52 plate appearances for the Tides since being demoted. The former prospect was in his final option year, and it’s no secret that current No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman is moving closer to a promotion to the Triple-A level after excelling at Double-A Bowie to begin the 2021 season. In other words, time was dwindling for Sisco to prove he belonged in the organization’s future plans, and there were few signs of meaningful improvement so far this season.