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With much being made about the Orioles’ struggles on the mound and the 2013 season reaching the one-third mark following Thursday’s game, it’s time to take a look at each member of the current staff.
Instead of offering a traditional letter grade, each pitcher was given a color: green meaning there are no real concerns moving forward with that individual, yellow meaning there are reservations due to performance or injury factors, and red meaning the individual’s time on the 25-man roster looks to be in serious jeopardy. To add more detail to that assessment, each color is accompanied with an arrow explaining which they’re currently trending.
Pitchers marked with an asterisk are currently on the 15-day disabled list but were included since they are mainstays on the 25-man roster.
To hear a more detailed explanation as well as Drew Forrester’s evaluations during Friday’s edition The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, click HERE.
RHP Jason Hammel (7-2, 4.98 ERA): Yellow ↑
Skinny: The first six weeks of the season were quite forgettable for the Opening Day starter, but improved command with both the two-seam baseball and four-seamer have made Hammel look like the 2012 version of himself while earning two wins and pitching 14 2/3 innings over his last two starts prior to Saturday’s disastrous start completed after this was originally published.
RHP Chris Tillman (4-2, 4.26 ERA): Yellow ↑
Skinny: The 25-year-old has been one of the club’s more consistent starters, but he still leaves too many pitches up in the zone, evident by the 14 homers surrendered in only 11 starts this season. Tillman is at his best when he’s commanding his fastball while effectively mixing in cutters with the rest of his repertoire.
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 4.33 ERA): Yellow ↔
Skinny: The concerns over the blister on his right thumb that landed him on the DL appear to be behind him, but there are still durability questions with Gonzalez concerning his ability to pitch deep into games over the course of an entire season as well as the club’s habit of giving him extra days to rest or occasionally skipping him entirely. His Friday night start against Detroit wasn’t encouraging, which knocked him down just a notch from the assessment I offered during Friday’s show.
RHP Freddy Garcia (2-2, 3.57 ERA): Yellow ↔
Skinny: The 36-year-old is still capable of pitching effectively when he shows exceptional command as he did with the split-fingered fastball to pitch eight shutout innings against Washington earlier this week, but his dwindling velocity gives him a tiny margin for error, especially when pitching at Camden Yards.
RHP Kevin Gausman (0-2, 11.00 ERA): Red ↓
Skinny: No one should be down on the future of the 2012 first-round pick after only two starts, but he hasn’t shown the necessary command of his plus-fastball and changeup to compensate for his underwhelming slider. A repeat of his start against Washington on Sunday against the power-hitting Tigers could very well land Gausman back in the minor leagues for more seasoning.
*LHP Wei-Yin Chen (3-3, 3.04): Yellow ↑
Skinny: The 27-year-old was just hitting his stride before suffering the strained right oblique that landed him on the DL. If Chen comes back fully healthy, he clearly receives the green light, but oblique injuries are frequently followed by setbacks and are very slow to heal, evident by the lefty just now start to do some jogging in a pool while rehabbing in Sarasota.
*RHP Pedro Strop (0-2, 6.11 ERA): Red ↔
Skinny: The Orioles did what they needed to in identifying a lower back injury for the struggling reliever, but the length of his minor-league rehab assignment — which can last up to 30 days — will tell the story of where their confidence level is with Strop at this point.
LHP T.J. McFarland (0-0, 2.92 ERA): Yellow ↔
Skinny: The Rule 5 selection has done a commendable job in a long relief role, but the necessity to carry him on the 25-man roster does hinder the roster flexibility the organization likes to have. At the very least, the club should consider giving McFarland an opportunity as the fifth starter if there comes a point that they can no longer keep him around or at least think about giving him some higher-leverage relief opportunities, which we’ve started to see occasionally in the last few weeks.
RHP Steve Johnson (1-1, 7.71 ERA): Yellow ↑
Skinny: The 25-year-old didn’t fare well in his lone start of the year in Minnesota but has looked impressive in his last two relief appearances with Strop currently on the DL. Whether it’s serving as a starting pitcher or middle reliever, Johnson continues to make contributions as he did in his rookie season last year.
LHP Troy Patton (1-0, 5.01 ERA): Red ↔
Skinny: Overshadowed by Strop and the recent struggles of closer Jim Johnson, Patton has struggled immensely after filling an effective middle-relief role last season. Opponents are hitting .295 and he’s allowed 13 walks in 23 1/3 innings, leaving his roster spot in jeopardy down the line if he doesn’t improve and Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada looks best suited for the bullpen after completing his rehab assignment.
RHP Tommy Hunter (3-1, 1.80 ERA): Green ↔
Skinny: Since allowing three home runs over his first three appearances of the season, the 26-year-old has surrendered three earned runs in 26 1/3 innings to become one of the most valuable members of the Baltimore bullpen. The perfect example of why you don’t give up on a live arm who couldn’t make it as a starter, Hunter’s high-90s fastball and sharp breaking ball have been a handful for opposing hitters.
LHP Brian Matusz (1-0, 2.91 ERA): Green ↔
Skinny: The 2008 first-round selection has picked up right where he left off last season pitching in relief as he’s held opposing left-handed hitters to a miniscule .119 average. Though sometimes used as a specialist, Matusz has been almost as devastating against right-handed bats, holding them to a .161 mark.
RHP Darren O’Day (3-0, 1.85 ERA): Green ↔
Skinny: Even before the Orioles closer began struggling recently, I proclaimed O’Day to be the one pitcher on the entire staff I’d select if I needed an out with my life on the line. The submariner has held right-handed hitters to a .132 average and continues to be tremendous after being acquired on waivers two offseasons ago.
RHP Jim Johnson (2-5, 4.85 ERA): Green ↓
Skinny: The theories for his recent struggles have ranged from the effects of overuse to opponents finally figuring him out, but Johnson has been too good in his major league career to give up on him despite an ugly stretch of four blown saves in five opportunities. It’s all about finding the command of the sinker and the 2012 All-Star closer appears to be on his way to doing so based on his last couple appearances. Manager Buck Showalter’s confidence hasn’t wavered despite fans and media certainly having their doubts.