This could get complicated.
Kevin Gausman, long thought to be a cornerstone of the future of the Orioles’ pitching staff takes the mound tonight against the first place Toronto Blue Jays. After earning his first Major League win as a starter just five days ago against the Oakland A’s, Gausman has a chance to put Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter in a tough spot.
Should Gausman pitch well tonight–let alone earn a victory against Mark Buehrle (10-2) and the Jays (39-28)–logic says he should remain a member of the Orioles starting rotation. But the true question is, who is the odd man out?
Miguel Gonzales looks to return from the 15-Day DL shortly, creating a surplus of starters.
Initially, when Johan Santana was in the conversation, prior to tearing his Achilles, Showalter had kicked around the idea of an unorthodox six-man rotation; but after listening to WNST’s Luke Jones on yesterday’s Happy Hours show with Nestor, it doesn’t seem Showalter is leaning that way at this point.
When getting down to brass tacks, you’d have to think Gonzalez, who had started to finally find his groove before heading for a short trip to the DL, is a lock to return to the rotation. In that same notion, if he has back-to-back solid outings against the two best clubs in the American League, it’s hard to imagine moving Gausman to the bullpen or sending him back to Norfolk.
Bud Norris is coming off of a combined shutout, as is Wei-Yin Chen who just recorded his seventh victory. They’re both safe. Meaning, the true option, which is best for the ball club, is to move Ubaldo Jimenez to a long relief role.
Generally, when a pitcher struggles the way Jimenez has, it’s mechanical or possibly due to injury. At seven losses and a ballooning ERA that’s now over the five-mark, it’s time to make some sort of change.
A change that isn’t a demotion, so to speak, but something that will allow Jimenez to spend time working out the kinks during bullpen sessions and contributing in non-critical game roles.
The other option is to find and injury and stick Jimenez on the DL; but that’s a short-sighted move, simply because like-it-or-not, he’s property of Baltimore for the next four years. The time to figure out his issues are now, rather than shelf him and hope something magically changes.
Circling back, it’s impossible to take Gausman–who for all intents and purposes, has good enough stuff to finish the season as the ace of the staff–back to the minor leagues.
If he pitches well tonight, this should be it. No more up-and-down, no more relief and spot start roles. If Gausman looks anything like he did five days ago, he’s a mainstay that can be seen every fifth day in Baltimore. Sure, it’s not really the best idea to send a $60 million pitcher to the pen, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for the club.
It’s complicated, but that’s a good thing.
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