Tag Archive | "miguel gonzalez"

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Despite focus on offensive woes, rotation has sealed Orioles’ 2015 fate

Posted on 08 September 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles’ offseason departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis need to be rehashed about as much as Chris Tillman desires another start against the Toronto Blue Jays at this point.

We get it.

Even if you might have agreed with the decision not to sign either outfielder to a four-year contract, there’s no excusing an offseason plan that essentially consisted of writing checks to a long list of arbitration-eligible players and trading for a failed former first-round pick (outfielder Travis Snider) after one good half in 2014.

But even with the corner outfield woes that have lingered all year, the reeling Orioles entered Tuesday averaging 4.36 runs per contest, a mark nearly identical to last season’s 4.35 scored per game. It may not feel that way with the offense’s extreme peaks and valleys during a difficult 2015 season, but the numbers don’t lie.

Would the Orioles still be in contention for a playoff spot with Cruz and Markakis? Certainly.

But would Buck Showalter’s club be even with Toronto and the New York Yankees in the American League East race? Based on the way the starting rotation has performed, probably not.

That failure has ultimately sealed the Orioles’ fate as they entered Tuesday a season-worst seven games below .500 and 7 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot.

After ranking fifth in the AL with a 3.61 starter ERA in 2014 — the rotation was even better after the All-Star break with a 2.98 ERA — Orioles starters had a 4.59 ERA through their first 137 games, ranking 13th in the AL. Baltimore posted no worse than a 3.55 ERA in each of the final four months of 2014 while this year’s rotation has pitched to no better than a 3.84 mark in any single month.

You simply can’t expect to sustain success when your starters have been nearly an entire run worse per nine innings than they were a year ago. When you strip away the names and perceptions, the offensive numbers and bullpen ERA are very similar to 2014 while the starting rotation has woefully fallen short of last year’s pace.

Entering Tuesday, the Orioles had scored three or fewer runs in 46 percent of their games this season and held a 9-54 record under such circumstances. A year ago, Baltimore scored three or fewer 44.4 percent of the time and was 21-51 in those games.

Say what you will about the offensive struggles putting pressure on the pitcher, but it’s a two-way street when only one member of the starting rotation holds an ERA below 4.00. The offense has prompted much hair-pulling over significant stretches of 2015, but the times when Orioles starters have picked up the lineup have been few and far between.

Even if Dan Duquette anticipated the Orioles offense matching last year’s overall run production, he failed in leaving no margin for error for a rotation that exceeded expectations in 2014. That said, even the executive’s biggest detractors couldn’t have expected the starting pitching to be quite this poor.

Short of the Orioles making a marquee signing for an ace such as 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, few called for Duquette to make significant changes to the rotation this offseason after such a strong 2014. Less than a year later, the Orioles are left wondering who will even fit into the 2016 equation.

Tillman sports an ERA above 5.00 after three straight years of pitching to a 3.71 mark or better to establish himself as the club’s de facto ace.

After three straight years as a reliable starter, Miguel Gonzalez has been a disaster since late June and is currently on the disabled list.

Kevin Gausman was not only mishandled at the beginning of the season, but the 24-year-old hasn’t been able to build on a 2014 season in which he posted a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts.

A 15-game winner a year ago, Bud Norris didn’t even make it to August with a 7.06 ERA.

Ubaldo Jimenez has followed the narrative of most of his career with a strong first half (2.81 ERA) followed by a 6.88 ERA since the All-Star break, but there has been no attractive option to replace him like there was with Gausman last year.

Wei-Yin Chen is the only starter you can feel good about this season, but even he has allowed a club-leading 28 home runs. On top of that, the Taiwanese lefty is set to become a free agent at the end of the year and appears unlikely to return.

It’s easy to say the Orioles would be fine if they still had Cruz and Markakis — they’ve clearly been missed — but the story of last year’s 96-win club was more about a starting rotation that took off over the final four months of the season than offensive firepower. At a time when the Orioles needed to bear down this season, the starting rotation has instead saved its worst performance for August (5.23 ERA) and September (8.76 in the first six starts).

Most of the attention has naturally remained on an inconsistent offense after such a failure of an offseason, but the starting rotation that picked up the Orioles a year ago has instead helped hammer the final nails into the coffin for 2015.

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Struggling Gonzalez undergoes MRI on shoulder, elbow

Posted on 01 September 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 11:30 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — Performing poorly for more than two months, Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday as he’s been experiencing discomfort in his right elbow and shoulder.

Manager Buck Showalter said after the 11-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays that the exam revealed only inflammation and no structural concerns, but the 31-year-old has already received a cortisone injection in his shoulder and is expected to at least miss a start or two. The right-handed hurler could pitch again later this month, according to Showalter.

“It was a positive report. They didn’t find any structural damage,” Showalter said. “We’re going to let that quiet down [and] see if we can get him ready to pitch again. It was as good news as you could expect.”

Gonzalez sported a 3.33 ERA when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain on June 11. Since returning in late June, the right-hander has pitched to a 6.49 ERA that’s elevated his season mark to a robust 4.85.

Signed to a minor-league contract prior to the 2012 season, Gonzalez posted an ERA of 3.78 or better in each of his first three seasons with the Orioles and has been a mainstay in the starting rotation for two postseason clubs over that time. The organization had hoped there was nothing structurally wrong with his elbow since he already underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009.

The Orioles no longer plan to place Gonzalez on the DL, which would have allowed them to recall another player who has not fulfilled his 10-day minimum in the minors such as the recently-demoted Henry Urrutia.

On Tuesday, right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson (oblique) threw a four-inning simulated game and fellow right-hander Mike Wright (calf) started for Norfolk, pitching six shutout innings in a win over Charlotte. Wright is considered a strong option to replace Gonzalez in the Baltimore starting rotation.

Showalter had been considering pushing right-hander Kevin Gausman’s start back to Friday in Toronto, but the 24-year-old will pitch the finale against the Rays as scheduled.

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Five questions pondering Arrieta, 2015 Ravens draft, Gonzalez

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or did Thursday bring a cruel juxtaposition with ex-Oriole Jake Arrieta earning his 15th win while T.J. McFarland was mopping up in a blowout loss? More than two years later, it’s painfully obvious that Dan Duquette’s decision to trade Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger was the wrong move. The long man spot in the bullpen occupied by the then-Rule 5 pick McFarland would have been the perfect role for Arrieta, who would flash brilliance with Baltimore but was clearly struggling to establish himself with a 5.46 ERA in 69 career games (63 starts) and was out of minor-league options in 2013. Having blossomed into one of the best pitchers in the National League, Arrieta may never have found that success with the Orioles, but seeing McFarland toil as no better than a fringe reliever two years later just reinforces the organization’s strange obsession with the Rule 5 draft and how it’s often hurt them while providing little return.

2. Is it just me or is the perceived difficulty of this year’s training camp preparing the Ravens for a brutal start to the regular season? More than a few players have talked about the challenge of this camp compared to past years even though John Harbaugh already owned a reputation for working his players hard. That reality and the trip to Philadelphia to practice with the Eagles for three days ahead of Saturday’s preseason game have to be considered the tuneup for the start of the regular season that features five of the first seven on the road and two long-term road trips out west in which the Ravens will cut down on travel time between games. Harbaugh loves the expression “iron sharpens iron” and his team will need to be tough early to avoid an uphill climb to the postseason in the second half. If the Ravens can start no worse than 4-3, they should be in good shape for the rest of the season that features three consecutive home games in November and three of the last four at M&T Bank Stadium.

3. Is it just me or does the Miguel Gonzalez situation need to be handled delicately if you’re Buck Showalter? Many disagreed with Showalter stating Friday that the right-hander remains the club’s “best option” for the rotation and there’s little defending a 6.48 ERA since his return from the disabled list in late June, but this is a different situation than the one with Bud Norris when Kevin Gausman was ready and waiting earlier this year. With Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright both sidelined with injuries, there isn’t an alternative beyond bringing up a non-prospect type like Chris Jones just for the sake of doing it. Even if the Orioles do remove Gonzalez from the rotation, it would be wrong to completely bury him for the long haul as he not only has a remaining minor-league option, but he is under club control for a couple more seasons. Unlike Norris who was a pending free agent and little more than an average starting pitcher before 2014, Gonzalez pitched at a strong level for three full years before the struggles of the last two months and that shouldn’t be forgotten when looking toward the future.

4. Is it just me or is the Ravens’ 2015 draft class standing on its head right now? With first-rounder Breshad Perriman injured and second-round tight end Maxx Williams still working to establish himself, you do wonder how quickly the Ravens’ top two choices from this year’s draft will be ready to contribute. However, a pair of late-round picks have earned attention this summer as fifth-round tight end Nick Boyle and sixth-round wideout Darren Waller continue to make plays in practices. Boyle has dropped passes at times, but the football continues to be thrown his way as he turned heads during the practices in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-6 Waller is ahead of where most thought he’d be in his development after playing in a triple-option attack at Georgia Tech. Neither player is going to start, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Waller and Boyle involved more in the passing game — particularly in the red zone — than most would have predicted for their rookie seasons.

5. Is it just me or is Marlon Brown a player who needs to be careful not to land himself on the bubble? While Waller has established himself as a viable option for the 53-man roster, the 6-foot-5 Brown has battled back and hamstring injuries this summer and hasn’t done much to stand out when he has been on the practice field. Even in the spring, I thought Brown needed to have a strong camp to be a roster lock and that simply hasn’t happened, making you wonder if his spot could be in some jeopardy with other young receivers such as Waller, Jeremy Butler, and DeAndre Carter jockeying for roles. The University of Georgia product did improve as 2014 progressed, but he finished his second NFL season with just 24 receptions and no touchdowns after a 49-catch, seven-touchdown rookie campaign. For now, I’d still bet on Brown making the team, but he needs to pick up his play over the next couple preseason games to put a slow start behind him.

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Sunday loss in Anaheim exposes real concerns for Orioles

Posted on 09 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Some of the Orioles’ biggest concerns were exposed in Sunday’s 5-4 extra-inning loss in Anaheim that prevented a second straight series win on the West Coast.

Much of the focus fell on the 11th inning and Los Angeles Angels outfielder David Murphy’s game-winning hit off lefty reliever Brian Matusz, but that was only part of the story.

First and foremost, a maddeningly-inconsistent offense managed just two runs over the final 10 innings at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Sunday afternoon. After jumping on Angels starter Jered Weaver for two in the opening frame, the Orioles bats disappeared over the next four innings as the soft-tossing right-hander matched a season high of seven strikeouts in his first start since June 20.

Scoring a single run over their final five frames probably would have been enough for the Orioles to come away with a series win, but the pressure was on the Baltimore bullpen to pitch six innings on Sunday before Murphy finally hit one over left fielder David Lough’s head to plate the winning run with two outs in the 11th.

That’s what brings us to a concern that isn’t helping manager Buck Showalter rest easy in mid-August. Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez has been an underrated part of the Orioles’ success dating back to the second half of 2012, but the right-hander hasn’t been the same since a stint on the 15-day disabled list in June and again struggled on Sunday, allowing four earned runs and seven hits while lasting just 4 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez had gotten off to arguably the best start of his career with a 3.33 ERA in his first 12 outings of 2015 — he completed seven or more innings in five of those starts — before a groin injury sent him to the DL. Since returning to the roster on June 25, Gonzalez has pitched to an alarming 6.22 ERA in 46 1/3 innings.

On Sunday, he displayed a better-than-normal fastball clocked at 94 mph — making you conclude his problems probably aren’t related to health — but his third inning couldn’t have been more frustrating. With runners at the corners and no outs, Gonzalez struck out All-Star sluggers Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and appeared on the verge of escaping unscathed when he got to an 0-2 count on Murphy. He then grooved a high fastball over the heart of the plate that Murphy sent into the right-field stands for a three-run shot and a 4-2 lead for the Angels.

It was the latest example of Gonzalez making a poor pitch while ahead in the count after earning a reputation for having good command over his first 3 1/2 seasons.

As important as Gonzalez has been over the last few seasons, the Orioles must be growing impatient with his woes over the last six weeks. The 31-year-old has now failed to complete at least six innings in seven of his nine starts since returning from the DL — raising his season ERA to a career-worst 4.45 — and he is putting more strain on a bullpen that doesn’t need it right now.

Gonzalez has a minor-league option remaining, but the best candidate to take his place, right-hander Tyler Wilson, was reportedly scratched from his Sunday start for Triple-A Norfolk with an oblique issue. Showalter and the Orioles will likely lean on Gonzalez’s track record a little longer, but the right-hander must pitch better than what he’s shown throughout the summer.

Even after Gonzalez’s rough day, the Orioles were still right there in the bottom of the 11th, but the decision to activate Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia from the DL and the undermanned bullpen it’s created materialized in a crucial spot. With only Matusz, the seldom-used Garcia, and closer Zach Britton remaining in the bullpen — you could argue Showalter should have gone to his closer despite it being a tie game — Showalter elected to have his lefty specialist intentionally walk Trout and Pujols to load the bases with two outs for the lefty-hitting Murphy.

That strategy was the correct one with Matusz in the game — lefties were hitting .129 against him while righties had a .304 average entering Sunday — but it would have been nice to have had the option of going to a Tommy Hunter or a Mychal Givens against Pujols in that spot instead of loading the bases. The new void in the bullpen is magnified by the recent struggles of Chaz Roe, who gave up the leadoff double to Carlos Perez that became the winning run.

No, a series loss in Anaheim doesn’t cripple the Orioles, but it did expose some of their biggest concerns.

The Orioles could not have anticipated Gonzalez’s problems over the last several weeks, but going with a weaker bullpen is their own choice.

That combination — along with another inconsistent performance by the offense — hurt them in a winnable game on Sunday.

And sitting five games out of first in the American League East and three games behind the second wild-card spot, they can’t let too many more opportunities slip through their fingers.

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It’s time for Orioles to start looking toward future

Posted on 23 July 2015 by Luke Jones

The 2015 season isn’t over, but it’s time for the Orioles to look in the mirror and acknowledge what they’ve seen for almost four months.

A mediocre club.

No, Baltimore isn’t as bad as a 5-12 record in July would indicate, but we can’t be fooled again into thinking a run of 18 wins in 23 games last month is the real indication of who the 2015 club is when the Orioles have just one other winning streak of even three games outside that lone extended stretch of prosperity. They were bound to level off after their hot June in which they briefly climbed atop the American League East, but losing 14 of 19 is an unacceptable way for a streaking club to cool off — if not freeze entirely — if it wants to be taken seriously as a contender.

Trailing the New York Yankees by a season-worst seven games after being swept in the Bronx this week, the Orioles should not be in full-blown fire-sale mode with more than 60 games to go, but trying to be buyers with so few assets in their farm system would be irresponsible at this point. The truth is that with seven notable players set to become free agents this fall, the Orioles need to have more than just an eye toward the future with this year’s outlook not looking promising anymore.

For fans remembering the dark days of 14 consecutive losing seasons, this situation shouldn’t resemble the purge of 2000 that netted only Melvin Mora and what amounted to several bags of cheap fertilizer for the likes of B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick, Harold Baines, Charles Johnson, Will Clark, and Mike Timlin in a series of lousy trades. Baseball’s new qualifying offer system makes it clear that the Orioles shouldn’t trade Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, or Chris Davis for anything short of a return markedly exceeding the value of the draft pick they would receive for any of their departures as free agents.

In other words, this isn’t an endorsement to sell just because of frustration and a desire for change.

But executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should look to move pending free agents for returns that could help position the Orioles nicely as early as next year. With a core of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Zach Britton in place and secured beyond next season, the Orioles aren’t in a position where they need to completely rebuild, especially when remembering how much money will come off the payroll in the offseason.

Some forward thinking would help that cause, however, and the Orioles cannot have a repeat of the unimaginative and poor offseason that included problems beyond the obvious free-agent departures of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller last winter.

If a club is desperate for an All-Star reliever like Darren O’Day and is willing to part with major league talent or prospects close to being ready for the big leagues — remember what the Orioles gave up for Andrew Miller last July? — Duquette should pull the trigger, especially if he isn’t willing to re-sign him after the season.

A contender willing to put together an impressive package for Chen, Wieters, or Davis should be heard and negotiated with. If you can somehow move what remains of the salaries of Bud Norris or Tommy Hunter, you do it without giving the compensation much thought.

The Orioles shouldn’t feel an intense need to dump all of these players, but trading at least a couple could provide some nice pieces for the near future and may not even completely destroy whatever chance the current team still has to make a run at a wild card. If Buck Showalter’s club is going to rebound from a 46-48 start, the substantial improvement is going to come from within more than anything Duquette might be able to add as a buyer at this point.

Maybe adding a couple young players to the mix is what the Orioles need.

Why not take a look at what 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez has to offer? He really couldn’t be much worse that what the Orioles have received from the corner outfield spots so far this season.

If you sell high on Chen, reward 22-year-old pitcher Zach Davies with an audition in the rotation after his strong season at Triple-A Norfolk. Or do the same for Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright.

Over the last couple months, we’ve continued to remember last season as justification for why this year’s Orioles could still turn it around.

But after a disastrous July got even worse in three days of frustration at Yankee Stadium, it might be time to make a few moves to brighten the future instead of continuing to look back at a past further dimming in the rear-view mirror.

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Orioles continue rolling despite June rotation struggles

Posted on 25 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have played their best baseball of the season over the last three weeks.

Having won 15 of their last 20, Baltimore returns home Friday with a 38-34 record, one game better than the club was through 72 games last year. After a nightmarish May, the Orioles lineup has averaged 5.9 runs per game and outscored opponents by a 118-69 margin in the last 20 games.

The bullpen continues to excel with a 2.08 ERA in 164 2/3 innings dating back to April 29, but Thursday’s 8-6 win over Boston offered a tiny glimpse into what has to be a lingering concern in manager Buck Showalter’s mind despite his club’s recent success.

Returning from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, Miguel Gonzalez lasted just five innings and allowed four earned runs and eight hits while laboring to hold the comfortable 6-1 lead he was presented in the fourth inning. It would have been unfair to expect too much from the right-hander in his first start for the Orioles since June 9, but it was the 14th time in the last 20 games in which a starting pitcher has failed to complete six innings. The Orioles have received only one start of seven or more innings over that time, which was Wei-Yin Chen’s eight shutout innings against Philadelphia on June 15.

Showalter told reporters following Thursday’s game that he needed to rest Darren O’Day, Chaz Roe, and Brad Brach, leaving him to use T.J. McFarland and Tommy Hunter to bridge the gap to Zach Britton. It worked out for the Orioles as they won their sixth consecutive series, but not before the left-handed closer was working in his fourth game in six days to pick up his 21st save of the season.

The bullpen continues to be terrific, but the starting rotation must get deeper into games if Showalter wants to keep his relievers fresh for the second half. In 23 June games, starters have posted a 4.58 ERA and are averaging just 5.22 innings per outing while the bullpen has posted a miniscule 1.80 ERA.

In 2014, the starting rotation pitched to a mediocre 4.49 ERA in April and May before taking off in June with a 3.47 mark and posting an exceptional 2.98 ERA in the second half of the season.

Gonzalez, Chen, and Ubaldo Jimenez have performed well enough this season to feel confident in the trio moving forward, but Chris Tillman is having the worst season of his career thus far and Bud Norris still can’t avoid the big inning as we witnessed again in Wednesday’s loss to the Red Sox. Every time either of the two struggles, there is a growing temptation to turn to Kevin Gausman, who pitched to a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts last season and is the most talented hurler in the organization.

For now, the Orioles continue to benefit from a swinging-door spot in the bullpen that’s been filled by the likes of McFarland, Tyler Wilson, Oliver Drake, and Mychal Givens at various points to give their most reliable arms a breather when possible. But such a luxury would disappear if they’re forced to move either Norris or Tillman to a long relief role since neither pitcher has a minor-league option.

The results of the last three weeks remind us of last year when the Orioles took off in the second half of the season to win their first American League East championship in 17 years. Their offense has come alive, the defense has been excellent, and the bullpen has dominated for two months now.

If the starting rotation can step up like it did right around this time a year ago — at least closer to that  2014 level — the Orioles will not only take off, but they’ll become the clear favorite in the AL East.

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Orioles activate Gonzalez from DL, option Givens to Bowie

Posted on 25 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles welcomed back one of their most dependable pieces of the starting rotation Thursday by activating right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez from the 15-day disabled list.

Making the start in the series finale against Boston, Gonzalez hadn’t pitched for Baltimore since injuring his right groin in a June 9 start against the Red Sox. The 31-year-old made one rehab start for Double-A Bowie, allowing two runs on four hits over five innings of work on Saturday.

In his first 12 starts of the season, Gonzalez was 5-4 with a 3.33 ERA in 73 innings of work.

To make room for Gonzalez on the active roster, the Orioles optioned right-handed relief pitcher Mychal Givens back to Bowie. The 25-year-old made his major league debut on Wednesday night, striking out one in a scoreless inning of work in a 5-1 loss at Fenway Park.

Givens became the 999th player to appear in a game for the Orioles since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954.

With lefty Wei-Yin Chen scheduled to be recalled to make the series-opening start against the Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards, the Orioles will need to make another roster move on Friday. Seven outfielders remain on the current 25-man roster, so Baltimore could be forced to part ways with a player who doesn’t have any minor-league options.

Center fielder Adam Jones was out of the lineup for the seventh time in nine games on Thursday and could land on the DL if his right shoulder doesn’t improve quickly, a scenario that would temporarily ease the roster crunch but leave the Orioles without their best player until early July.

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Orioles recall McFarland; Jones sits again on Wednesday

Posted on 24 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles tinkered with their bullpen yet again prior to Wednesday’s game in Boston by recalling left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland and optioning right-hander Oliver Drake to Triple-A Norfolk.

After spending the required 10 days with the Tides upon being sent down on June 14, McFarland brings more length to a bullpen that’s worked hard in recent weeks. Drake was recalled from Norfolk on Sunday but did not appear in a game in his latest stint with the Orioles.

McFarland sports a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings for the Orioles this season, but that mark is deceiving as the 26-year-old southpaw has allowed 12 hits and issued eight walks, numbers that have earned him a 4.71 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark. The former Rule 5 pick settled into a long relief role last season while posting a 2.76 ERA in 58 2/3 innings of work, but his control issues have been problematic in 2015.

The Orioles will need to make another roster move on Thursday with starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez scheduled to return from the disabled list to start against the Red Sox. Right-handed pitcher Mychal Givens is expected to be sent back to the minors to make room, returning Baltimore to its normal seven-man bullpen.

As anticipated, center fielder Adam Jones was out of the lineup for the sixth time in eight games on Wednesday with David Lough once again replacing him in center field.

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Regardless of where, Gausman needs to pitch every fifth day

Posted on 20 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Darren O’Day’s escape act and clutch hitting from Caleb Joseph and Manny Machado provided the Orioles their biggest win of the season on Saturday, but a familiar question was being asked after the game.

What’s next for 24-year-old pitcher Kevin Gausman?

Activated from the 15-day disabled list to make his first start of the season, Gausman was far from Walter Johnson against Toronto, but it was good seeing the right-hander on the hill once again. Struggling to command his pitches through five innings, Gausman was fortunate that several balls squared up by Blue Jays batters were hit right at his fielders, but his ability to keep the Orioles in the game eventually led to their first win at Rogers Centre in five tries this season.

Despite throwing first-pitch strikes to only 11 of the 21 hitters he faced and inducing only seven swinging strikes, Gausman allowed two earned runs and four hits while walking one and striking out one while facing the top run-producing offense in the majors.

With Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez both expected to return this coming week, it appears Gausman will again be squeezed out of the starting rotation for the time being. Many have clamored for Bud Norris to be sent to the bullpen, but it’s unlikely to happen right now with the right-hander posting a solid 3.78 ERA in his three starts since returning from the DL. Chris Tillman has been the other starter in question with a 5.58 ERA entering Sunday, but his track record over the previous three seasons likely gives the Opening Day starter a little longer leash.

What shouldn’t happen with Gausman is a return to the Orioles bullpen where he developed shoulder tendinitis after receiving sporadic work to begin the season. The idea of a shortened-up Gausman is fine at the end of the season like we witnessed last October, but it’s shortsighted with more than three months to go in the regular season and two question marks in the current rotation.

It wouldn’t be the worst idea to have Gausman on call at Norfolk with Tillman and Norris being put on notice in the meantime. And the best thing they could do from a health standpoint would be to allow the 2012 first-round pick to remain in a starting routine.

To be clear, Gausman isn’t a finished product as anyone who has watched him closely agrees he needs to improve his secondary stuff. His split-changeup is a devastating pitch when he commands it — he couldn’t against the Blue Jays on Saturday — but he must continue to work on his curveball, a pitch he began throwing this spring for the first time since college.

The good news is his curve looked better against Toronto than his slider ever did in his first two seasons, but the breaking pitch remains a work in progress. And it’s something he should harness as a starter with the Tides if he isn’t taking the ball every fifth day for Buck Showalter.

As talented as Gausman is, the Orioles certainly haven’t made things easy on him as he’s ping-ponged between Triple A and the majors since May 2013. Even Saturday’s start in which he threw 91 pitches came on short rest and after he had only thrown a maximum of 61 pitches in any of his three rehab outings earlier this month.

You’d like to see what the kid could do if he’s simply left alone to pitch every five days, but we know how Dan Duquette and Showalter look for every possible edge in micromanaging the 25-man roster.

Though far from his best day, it was good seeing Gausman in a starting role on Saturday.

It needs to stay that way, even if that means his latest trip down to Norfolk.


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What’s next for Kevin Gausman?

Posted on 12 June 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman is moving closer to his return from the disabled list, but what that exactly means remains to be seen.

Manager Buck Showalter revealed Friday that the 24-year-old right-hander will pitch two innings for Single-A Frederick on Tuesday after he allowed two home runs and four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings at Double-A Bowie on Thursday. Though desiring better results, Gausman said he feels healthy and threw all of his pitches, including the curveball he began throwing at the end of spring training.

“That’s the biggest thing. Physically, I felt good,” Gausman said prior to Friday’s series opener with the New York Yankees. “Today, I woke up [with] my normal soreness and not anything worse than what I was expecting. It was kind of tough in the heat yesterday, but I got my electrolytes in me last night.”

Considering the goal has been to move Gausman back into a starting role since he was placed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis last month, his next outing only being scheduled to go two innings sends mixed signals.

The Orioles are hoping to use rookie Mike Wright in place of the injured Miguel Gonzalez for Sunday’s start, but that slot’s next turn would fall on Friday in Toronto. It’s possible that Gausman could take a “work day” against live hitters at Frederick before entering the Baltimore rotation next weekend.

Placed on the DL with a right groin strain on Thursday, Gonzalez isn’t eligible to be activated until June 25 at the earliest.

Gausman only threw 61 pitches in his last rehab start, so it’s unclear how far the Orioles would be willing to extend him if he were to take the hill next weekend against the Blue Jays. Of course, it’s always possible that the Orioles could be rethinking what to do with the talented pitcher and might consider returning him to the bullpen despite the fact that the young pitcher attributed sporadic relief work as a factor that could have led to his shoulder issue earlier this season.

Showalter wasn’t tipping his hand when asked about the rationale for Gausman only being slated to pitch two innings in his next rehab start.

“I think that will reveal itself as we go forward,” Showalter said. “He’s ready to go in any capacity we need him to go.”

In 20 starts last season, Gausman went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 113 1/3 innings before excelling in a bullpen role in the postseason. He was 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings out of the bullpen before being placed on the DL on May 8.

NOTES: Second baseman Jonathan Schoop (right knee) will travel from Sarasota to Baltimore on Sunday and work out with the Orioles four days next week. When the club travels to Toronto, the 23-year-old is expected to join Double-A Bowie, but it remains uncertain that he would immediately begin his rehab assignment at that time. … Left-handed reliever Wesley Wright (left trapezius) pitched one inning in an extended spring game on Friday and is primed to begin a minor-league rehab assignment. … Since April 29, the Orioles bullpen ranks fourth in the majors and third in the American League with a 2.34 ERA over 115 1/3 innings.

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