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Five questions for Orioles in final 10 games of regular season

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Five questions for Orioles in final 10 games of regular season

Posted on 18 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles may have already wrapped up their first American League East title in 17 years, but a number of questions are left to be answered as they play out the remainder of the regular season.

Here’s a look at what remains on manager Buck Showalter’s mind for his 92-60 Orioles as they enter the final 10 games before the postseason …

1. Is it more important to go for the No. 1 seed in the American League or to rest everyday players?

Even though a 43-31 road record suggests the Orioles shouldn’t be afraid of playing away games in October, it’s difficult to argue with wanting home-field advantage considering Showalter’s club is a remarkable 30-8 at Camden Yards since June 30 and hasn’t lost consecutive home games since June 28-29. Entering Friday, they trailed the Los Angeles Angels by 2 1/2 games for the best record in the major leagues, a deficit that is far from insurmountable with the Angels playing Seattle and Oakland three times each — all six games are on the road — in their final nine games.

But Showalter also knows players who are fresh — or are at least as fresh as possible in October — are even more important to the Orioles’ chances of playing deep into the postseason. The early indications are that we’ll see position players such as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz, and Steve Pearce sit on a rotational basis of one or two per game, but Showalter has also said resting pitchers will be the higher priority.

The club’s top relievers have already been rested periodically over the last couple weeks as we’ve seen the likes of Ryan Webb, Evan Meek, and Brian Matusz pitch in some high-leverage situations while Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller, and Zach Britton have gone unused in certain games when they’d usually be available. Showalter could also elect to give a spot start or two to Ubaldo Jimenez or Joe Saunders to align his rotation and give some extra rest to starters who have historically benefited from extra days like Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez.

Entering Friday, the Orioles owned an eight-game lead over current No. 3 seed Detroit, so there isn’t any real danger of losing their grasp on the second seed if the Angels hold a steady lead into next week.

2. “I Don’t Know’s on third?”

While many have focused on the lost power potential of Chris Davis when news broke of his 25-game suspension last week, his absence at third base — where he was doing a solid job filling in for the injured Manny Machado — created the bigger dilemma as we’ve seen the trio of Ryan Flaherty, Jimmy Paredes, and veteran Kelly Johnson share time at the hot corner since last week.

Flaherty is the best defensive option, but his .645 on-base plus slugging percentage creates another weak spot in a lineup that’s already carrying the inconsistent rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop and one of the catching duo of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley. Paredes and Johnson have provided some heroics with the bat in recent days, but neither provides a great deal of confidence defensively and they don’t have a track record — Johnson’s numbers in recent seasons are far inferior to the hitter he was four or five years ago — suggesting their offense will make a great impact in October, anyway.

It’s unlikely that Showalter will make a definitive choice for October, but his strong affinity for defense might make Flaherty the best bet of the three to receive extensive time — at least against right-handed starters — unless Paredes or Johnson continue to rake over the final 10 games going into the playoffs. Of course, there’s no guarantee that both Paredes and Johnson make the postseason roster.

3. Who will make up the four-man rotation for the playoffs?

Not counting Ubaldo Jimenez who appears all but certain to be left off the postseason roster, the Orioles really can’t go wrong with all five of their starters currently sporting an ERA of 3.62 or lower.

However, it would appear that Kevin Gausman is the starter left out considering he’s the least experienced of the group. Showalter’s decision to leave Chris Tillman out of the rotation in the 2012 postseason is a good indication that he’ll lean on experience, but the Orioles would be foolish not to put Gausman’s power arm in the bullpen to spell any starter showing signs of early trouble.

For the sake of ranking the remaining four from top to bottom, Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, and Norris would be a fair order based on how they’ve pitched in recent weeks.

4. Which 25 players will make up the Division Series roster?

The Orioles elected to keep 12 pitchers for the Division Series two years ago, which gave them an eight-man bullpen and plenty of flexibility to match up.

There shouldn’t be too much drama in the bullpen as Britton, Miller, O’Day, Gausman, Matusz, Brad Brach, and Tommy Hunter would fill the first seven spots with the final slot potentially going to long man T.J. McFarland or right-hander Ryan Webb. With three of the four rotation members right-handed, McFarland could be Showalter’s preference in the event of an early exit by a starter as he’d be a long reliever throwing from the opposite side to face a lineup designed for the right-handed starter.

Working under the assumption that Jones, Markakis, Cruz, Hardy, Pearce, Schoop, Joseph, Hundley, Flaherty, Delmon Young, and Alejandro De Aza are locks, Paredes, Johnson, and outfielders David Lough and Quintin Berry would be the realistic candidates fighting for two spots. It will be interesting to see if Showalter values having either Lough or Berry as a pinch-running option and late-inning defensive replacement, which would push either Paredes or Johnson off the roster with the other  guaranteed to make it as an option at third base.

The suspended Davis isn’t eligible to return until after the first eight games of the postseason, so his status isn’t a factor for the Division Series.

5. Will the Orioles be able to maintain their edge?

With so much discussion about Showalter needing to rest his everyday players, there’s a fine balance between providing a breather and accidentally turning off a competitive switch that isn’t guaranteed to come back on in October.

This could be a real concern for many clubs locking up a playoff spot in mid-September, but the mental toughness shown from the likes of Jones and Markakis all the way down to Paredes and De Aza makes you think the Orioles are incapable of losing their focus. Of course, the possibility of still being able to catch the Angels for the top seed provides extra incentive for players to remain engaged over the final 10 games.

Considering they’ve overcome season-ending losses to two All-Star players and haven’t even blinked since Davis’ suspension began last week, it would be difficult to fathom the Orioles finally having a mental letdown at this late stage. The Orioles may ultimately fall short in the playoffs, but it won’t be due to a lack of focus or going through the motions.

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Orioles’ ability to overcome adversity begins with starters

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Orioles’ ability to overcome adversity begins with starters

Posted on 14 September 2014 by Luke Jones

With Friday’s surprising news of Chris Davis being suspended 25 games for amphetamine use, the same question that’s been tossed the Orioles’ way all season was uttered once again.

How can they overcome this?

Despite an 88-60 record entering Sunday that had them days away from the American League East championship, the Orioles have faced anything but a problem-free campaign in 2014.

All-Star players Matt Wieters and Manny Machado have suffered season-ending injuries. Top free-agent acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez has not only failed to meet expectations, but has been banished to the last spot in the bullpen and is very likely to be left off the postseason roster. And even before Davis’ suspension that now bans him until at least the AL Championship Series — if the Orioles advance that far — the slugger was hitting only .196 a year after hitting a franchise-record and league-leading 53 home runs.

“The game usually gives you back kind of what you put into it,” said manager Buck Showalter after the Orioles’ doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees on Friday. “Everybody’s putting something into it.”

The narratives of resiliency and a different hero every night have frequently rung true, but they don’t paint the entire picture of how the Orioles have managed to all but run away with their first division title since 1997. We knew the Orioles would hit home runs and play exceptional defense entering the season, and those skills have certainly been there all year.

But the biggest question would be the pitching, particularly in the rotation. Even with the struggles of their $50 million addition in Jimenez, the starting pitching has not only silenced the doubts, but has been a strength since the first two months of the season. Through the end of May, the starting rotation had posted an underwhelming 4.49 ERA as the Orioles were 27-27. Since June 1, starters have pitched to an impeccable 3.20 mark, which would be tops in the AL if extrapolated over the entire season. The Orioles have gone 61-33 over that period of time, a .649 winning percentage.

Even with the unevenness of April and May included, Baltimore ranks sixth in the AL in starter ERA, which nearly any fan would have gladly taken at the start of the season. The current team ERA of 3.50 would be the Orioles’ lowest in a full season since 1979 when the AL champions posted a 3.26 ERA.

When being compared to the other top clubs around baseball, the Orioles are often sold short for lacking a true ace, but that hasn’t stopped the starting rotation from becoming the strong heartbeat of a club nearly 30 games above .500 in mid-September. All five members of the current rotation sport an ERA of 3.74 or better, making Showalter’s job a difficult one when deciding which four will make the postseason rotation.

Not only has the quintet of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman pitched effectively, but the group has been durable with only Gonzalez and Norris spending brief time on the disabled list this season. After using a total of 12 or more starters in each of the previous three seasons under Showalter, the Orioles have sent just seven starters to the hill in 2014 with long reliever T.J. McFarland only receiving one spot start.

Four Oriole starters — Tillman, Chen, Norris, and Gonzalez — have made 24 or more starts. For perspective, only three made 24 or more starts in 2013 and just one did it in 2012 when the Orioles earned their first postseason trip in 15 years.

Upon learning of Davis’ suspension on Friday, the Orioles responded by promptly sweeping a twin bill over the Yankees in which they allowed one run in 20 total innings. The nightcap was particularly indicative of what the Orioles have become as they fielded what looked like a spring training lineup that included only four players from the Opening Day order and three who weren’t even on the 40-man roster at the start of the year. It was no problem for Bud Norris, who pitched seven shutout innings against the fading Yankees in a 5-0 victory.

“Good pitching solves a lot of problems, issues, whatever you might want to call it,” said Showalter as he reflected on the work his club did following the Davis announcement on Friday. “That’s usually where it starts.”

And it’s why the Orioles shouldn’t be counted out, even after this latest blow to the lineup.

 

 

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Struggling Jimenez finally heading to Orioles bullpen

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Struggling Jimenez finally heading to Orioles bullpen

Posted on 19 August 2014 by Luke Jones

Exactly six months after signing a four-year, $50 million contract to sure up the Orioles’ starting rotation in 2014, Ubaldo Jimenez is going to the bullpen.

Manager Buck Showalter announced Tuesday in Chicago that the struggling right-hander will now pitch in relief, paving the way for right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez to retake his spot in the starting rotation for the first-place Orioles. Jimenez returned from the disabled list on Aug. 9 after being sidelined with an ankle injury for more than a month, but the 30-year-old allowed nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings spanning two starts, continuing what’s been a disappointing first season in Baltimore.

The Orioles had hoped the injury layoff would afford Jimenez the opportunity to straighten out his mechanics as he leads the American League with 66 walks and is 4-9 with a 4.83 ERA in 20 starts. Instead, it became apparent that the veteran would not stick in a rotation that’s helped lift the Orioles to a 71-52 record and a 7 1/2 game lead in the AL East entering Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Gonzalez was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 9 despite going 6-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 19 starts and 20 appearances overall in 2014. The emergence of 23-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman in June was making in increasingly difficult for Showalter to try to manage six starting pitchers, a problem that was temporarily quelled when Jimenez went to the DL just before the All-Star break.

It’s unclear whether the Orioles will go with an extra arm in the bullpen or decide to option another reliever such as left-hander T.J. McFarland. Of course, rosters will expand on Sept. 1, which will make it easier to carry Jimenez on the roster as the Orioles seek their second postseason appearance in the last three years.

In spring training, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette envisioned Jimenez giving the Orioles a high-ceiling pitcher who wouldn’t be viewed as an ace but could pitch like a No. 1 starter for stretches of time like he had at other points in his career. Instead, Jimenez quickly settled in as the weak link in the rotation after signing the richest free-agent contract ever awarded to a pitcher in franchise history.

Of his 232 career appearances over nine seasons, the Dominican hurler has only pitched in relief once, his major league debut on Sept. 26, 2006.

Jimenez is under contract through the 2017 season.

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Orioles re-instate Jimenez, option Gonzalez to AAA Norfolk

Posted on 09 August 2014 by WNST Staff

Orioles Reinstate RHP Ubaldo Jimenez from the 15-Day DL; RHP Miguel Gonzalez Optioned to AAA Norfolk

The Orioles today announced that they have reinstated RHP UBALDO JIMENEZ from the 15-day disabled list and optioned RHP MIGUEL GONZALEZ to Triple-A Norfolk.

Jimenez, 30, was placed on the DL on July 8 with a sprained right ankle. He has gone 3-8 with a 4.52 ERA (99.2IP, 50ER) in 18 starts for the Orioles this season.

Gonzalez, 30, is 6-6 with a 3.80 ERA (113.2IP, 48ER) in 20 games (19 starts) for the Orioles this season.

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Orioles option Guilmet to make room for Gonzalez return

Posted on 23 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Orioles recall RHP Miguel Gonzalez from Triple-A Norfolk; RHP Preston Guilmet optioned to the Tides

The Orioles today announced that they have recalled RHP MIGUEL GONZALEZ from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned RHP PRESTON GUILMET to the Tides.

Gonzalez, 30, has gone 4-5 with a 4.04 ERA (89.0IP, 40ER) in 16 games (15 starts) for the Orioles.

Guilmet, 26, has posted a 5.23 ERA (10.1IP, 6ER) and 12 strikeouts in 10 appearances for the Orioles this season.

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Gonzalez joins Norris in being optioned to minors over All-Star break

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Gonzalez joins Norris in being optioned to minors over All-Star break

Posted on 12 July 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After matching his season high with eight strong innings in his start against the New York Yankees Friday, Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk a day later.

Joining fellow starter Bud Norris in being sent to the minors for a start during the All-Star break, Gonzalez will be eligible to return for his next major league start against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on July 22. He is slated to pitch for the Tides on Thursday before rejoining the Orioles on the West Coast.

Gonzalez is 4-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 89 innings this season and has completed eight innings in each of his last two starts after failing to do that in any of his first 13 starts.

The club recalled catcher Steve Clevenger from the Tides to take Gonzalez’s spot on the roster. He will provide another left-handed bat off the bench for the time being and was hitting .328 for Norfolk after hitting .243 with the Orioles earlier this season.

Norris was optioned to Double-A Bowie on Thursday to shake off some of the rust he showed in Wednesday’s start against Washington upon being activated from the 15-day disabled list. Manager Buck Showalter plans to send Norris to the hill against the Angels on July 21.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Showalter have enjoyed the benefit of having four starting pitchers with minor-league options to add an extra bullpen arm and a third catcher for a few games while preventing Norris and Gonzalez from having extended layoffs.

Though no official order has been set, the Orioles are all but guaranteed to give starts to Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Kevin Gausman against the Oakland Athletics when they begin a three-game set there next Friday to begin the second half of the season. Struggling starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez will officially be placed on the DL to make room for the returning Gausman to pitch against the Yankees on Sunday night.

The only possible drawback would be a short-term injury or illness to any of the scheduled starters in the Oakland series with Norris unable to come back until July 20 and Gonzalez ineligible until July 22 without someone else being placed on the DL. Of course, the Orioles could likely use lefty reliever T.J. McFarland as an emergency starter in a pinch.

 

 

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Orioles hoping for best, bracing for worst with Wieters’ follow-up appointment

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Orioles hoping for best, bracing for worst with Wieters’ follow-up appointment

Posted on 13 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Matt Wieters is scheduled to make his follow-up visit to Dr. James Andrews on Monday while the Orioles hope for the best and prepare for the worst regarding their injured catcher.

On the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness since May 11, Wieters hasn’t progressed as well as he’d hoped since beginning a throwing program two weeks ago and faces the prospects of needing season-ending surgery to correct the problem. The Orioles have laid out July 1 as the deadline for Wieters to go under the knife without missing any time at the start of the 2015 season with a normal rehabilitation scheduled.

Manager Buck Showalter wasn’t about to reveal his gut feeling about how Wieters’ appointment will go with the renowned orthopedic surgeon but didn’t paint a rosy picture about the two-time All-Star catcher’s status for the rest of the 2014 season.

“It’s another one of those where I know a little more than I’m going to talk about,” Showalter said. “I don’t want to say something that’s not honest. He’s still got a chance. I think we’re all curious to see what Dr. Andrews is going to say. We’ve got it set up both ways. He’ll [either] be returning to us and get right back into his program or we can proceed with the other option, which I have trouble saying out loud. There’s only really two options here.”

In Wieters’ absence, the Orioles have used the trio of Nick Hundley, Caleb Joseph, and Steve Clevenger behind the plate. Acquired from the San Diego Padres on May 24, Hundley initially looked like he’d be the starting catcher for the foreseeable future, but Joseph made his fourth start in the club’s last five games on Friday night.

Clevenger has hit .455 in 44 at-bats since being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, but his less-than-stellar defense was a deciding factor behind his demotion.

Showalter was amused when asked by a reporter if he was satisfied with his current options behind the plate should Wieters’ appointment bring bad news from Gulf Breeze, Fla. on Monday.

“What am I supposed to say, no?” Showalter said. “‘By God, Dan [Duquette] better go get an All-Star catcher right away just like Matt.’ I am [comfortable]. I think they’ve done a good job all things considered. We’ve tried real hard to create some depth here catching.

“We’ve got some things to pick from. That’s really been a challenge for us in the last few years. We always said, ‘What if Matt [gets hurt]? What are we going to do?’ Well, here we are. I hope that we get some good news on Monday, but you better prepare like you’re not.”

Machado appeal date not imminent

Showalter and the Orioles know the date that third baseman Manny Machado’s appeal will be heard on a five-game suspension stemming from the bat-throwing incident against the Oakland Athletics, but the organization is not commenting.

The manager only said that it isn’t imminent and that the 21-year-old will be available for the remainder of the weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Many have speculated that Machado’s appeal could be heard when the Orioles arrive in the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees next weekend, but that’s not a guarantee.

The club will need to add a backup infielder to the mix when Machado’s suspension begins with the assumption that Ryan Flaherty will handle third-base duties. This means Showalter will only have 11 pitchers at his disposal with Machado still counting against the 25-man roster while he serves his penalty.

“It’s not like you can pick the date and take the suspension,” Showalter said. “‘OK, he’s suspended and we’ll take it in September.’ You can’t do that. That’s not the way it’s designed. Once they render a decision, it’s right away. If you look at the precedent for situations like this, we feel like and Manny feels like [five games is a] little strong.”

Rotation still not set for Tampa Bay series

Lefty Wei-Yin Chen will pitch the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, but Showalter wasn’t prepared to name his starters for Games 2 and 3 on Friday afternoon.

“I think after [Friday night], I’ll be able to give you [scheduled starters for] Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Showalter. “No, probably [Saturday].”

Many are clamoring for both Kevin Gausman and Miguel Gonzalez — who is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Sunday — to remain in the rotation while questioning the status of Ubaldo Jimenez, who entered his Friday start with a 5.01 ERA in 13 outings this season. Of course, the $50 million investment the Orioles made in him this offseason provides a longer leash, but a club aiming to win now may want to consider a temporary shift to the bullpen or a trip to the disabled list for the struggling right-hander if his fortunes don’t improve quickly.

Tough day for knuckleballers

Norfolk knuckleball pitcher Eddie Gamboa was suspended for 50 games on Friday for testing positive for exogenous testosterone. His suspension begins immediately after he began the season 4-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 14 games (12 starts).

“I know some people are going to make comments about a knuckleball guy and the connection with whatever,” Showalter said. “They’re missing the point on why. Obviously, I know a lot more about why and looking into it. He was on the radar here, so it’s unfortunate.”

Another converted knuckleball pitcher in the organization received bad news on Friday as UMBC product Zach Clark was released.

 

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Orioles place Gonzalez on DL, summon Gausman to start on Saturday

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Orioles place Gonzalez on DL, summon Gausman to start on Saturday

Posted on 06 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After making it through the first two months of the season with their Opening Day rotation making all but one start, the Orioles placed starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique on Friday.

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman has been summoned to make the start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday but will not be activated for the series opener. The Orioles also optioned right-handed relief pitcher Preston Guilmet to Triple-A Norfolk, recalled left-handed pitcher Tim Berry from Double-A Bowie, and selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk.

To make room for Meek on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred Rule 5 infielder Michael Almanzar (knee) to the 60-day disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter expressed optimism that Gonzalez’s time on the disabled list will be minimal as he could begin a minor-league rehab assignment at Bowie or Single-A Frederick as early as the middle of next week, putting him in line to return as early as his first day of eligibility on June 15. Gonzalez expressed optimism on Friday afternoon that he would still be able to make Saturday’s start, but Showalter did not want to risk him going to the hill and experiencing an issue with the oblique strain, leaving the Orioles in a dangerous position with their bullpen.

“No one wants to be on the DL, but you’ve got to think about it in the long run,” Gonzalez said prior to the news becoming official. “You don’t want to go out there and hurt yourself and be out for 2 1/2 months and miss all that time. You don’t want to do that.”

Gonzalez’s stint on the DL is retroactive to May 31 as he started against the Houston Astros last Friday. The 30-year-old right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.17 earned run average in 58 1/3 innings this season and had registered four straight quality starts prior to waking up with pain in his right side earlier this week.

Gausman will be making his second start of the season for the Orioles after being tagged for five earned runs in four innings in a spot start against the Detroit Tigers on May 14. Showalter expressed hope that the 2012 first-round pick would make it difficult on the Orioles to decide on his fate once Gonzalez is ready to be activated later this month.

In 10 starts for Norfolk this season, Gausman is 1-3 with a 2.98 ERA and has struck out 44 batters and walked 18 in 42 1/3 innings.

Berry and Meek were summoned to provide extra help in the bullpen after starter Chris Tillman was knocked out in the second inning of Thursday’s 8-6 loss to the Texans Rangers. The Orioles would then option Berry back to Bowie to make room for Gausman to start on Saturday if all goes to plan.

A 50th-round pick in the 2009 draft, the 23-year-old Berry landed firmly on the Orioles’ prospect radar after a 3.85 ERA at Single-A Frederick last year and was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 11 starts for Bowie this season.

In other injury-related news, right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter (groin) will make a rehab appearance for Single-A Delmarva on Saturday and could be activated from the disabled list as early as Sunday.

During his outing in Sarasota on Friday, veteran left-handed pitcher Johan Santana was struck by a line drive and felt something in his Achilles tendon while trying to field the ball, causing him to leave the game. The 35-year-old was still being examined when Showalter met with local reporters on Friday afternoon.

Santana was expected to be assigned to a minor-league affiliate for his next outing as he is moving closer to an expected debut in Baltimore later this month, so it remains to be seen if those plans will now need to be altered.

 

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Orioles make changes to pitching staff prior to start of Oakland series

Posted on 06 June 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced that they have recalled LHP TIM BERRY from Double-A Bowie and selected the contract of RHP EVAN MEEK from Triple-A Norfolk. Additionally, the club has placed RHP MIGUEL GONZALEZ on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 31, with a strained right oblique and optioned RHP PRESTON GUILMET to Triple-A Norfolk.

Berry, 23, has gone 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA (63.1IP, 29ER) and a career-best 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 starts for the Baysox this season. A 50th round selection in the 2009 First Year Player Draft, Berry will become the lowest-drafted player in club history to play in the majors with the Orioles when he makes his debut (previously INF CALVIN PICKERING, 35th round in 1995). Berry will wear #34.

Meek, 31, has gone 1-0 with three saves and a 3.95 ERA (13.2IP, 6ER) in 12 games with the Tides. He went 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA (11.2IP, 9ER) in 12 appearances for the Orioles earlier this season.

Gonzalez, 30, is 3-4 with a 4.17 ERA (58.1IP, 27ER) in 11 games (10 starts) for the Orioles this season, posting six Quality Starts and a career-best 7.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.

Guilmet, 26, has pitched to a 5.79 ERA (9.1IP, 6ER) in nine games for the Orioles this season, striking out 11 and walking two.

To make room for Meek on the 40-man roster, INF MICHAEL ALMANZAR has been transferred to the 60-day DL.

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Is moving to a six-man rotation what’s best for the Orioles?

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Is moving to a six-man rotation what’s best for the Orioles?

Posted on 05 June 2014 by Luke Jones

Orioles manager Buck Showalter often quips how his best-laid plans and toughest decisions tend to be made by the baseball gods, making Wednesday’s news of starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez possibly going to the disabled list with a strained oblique unfortunate but also fitting.

The injury came just a day after Showalter acknowledged the possibility of moving to a six-man rotation with left-handed pitcher and former two-time American League Cy Young Award winnter Johan Santana slated to be ready to return to the major leagues later this month. Baltimore’s starting pitching ranks 12th in the AL in earned run average and 14th in innings pitched, but no one starter has struggled significantly more than the others in trying to decide who might be replaced by the 35-year-old Santana.

Traditionalists still pining for the days of a four-man rotation and the 1971 Orioles will scoff at the notion of using six starters, asking why Showalter and the organization would want to make such a change when they don’t even have five starters consistent enough for their liking. One of the biggest arguments against a six-man rotation is that it limits the amount of work for your best pitchers, but no Orioles starter has performed well enough so far this season to really have such a gripe.

Assuming Gonzalez’s potential trip to the DL isn’t a lengthy one, what are the benefits of using a six-man rotation when Santana is ready to be activated?

The fundamental change does reduce the average starter’s workload by just over five starts in the course of a 162-game schedule, but it also adds an extra day of recovery time, which is an interesting variable considering how often Showalter has tried to gain an extra day of rest for the likes of Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen over the last couple seasons. Never one to shy away from thinking outside of the box, Showalter could reason that a six-man staff might require tinkering with pitchers’ between-start regimens — perhaps each member of the rotation has a day in which he’s available in the bullpen to account for the lost roster spot — but could also result in fresher arms come September.

Would a schedule in which a pitcher works every sixth day allow him to throw 15 extra pitches per start or — more importantly — to simply be more effective and efficient when he takes the hill because he feels stronger?

With the alarming increase in Tommy John surgeries for major league pitchers this year, some have discussed the merits of using the six-man rotation to alleviate stress on the elbow while pointing to Japanese baseball’s significantly lower rate of Tommy John surgeries compared to the major leagues. In this era of increased specialization and the desire to protect pitching investments reaching nine figures, it only seems to be a matter of when — not if — clubs begin shifting to six-man rotations in the same way that the standard changed from four starters to five beginning in the 1970s. It has already started with some clubs occasionally moving to six-man rotations to protect young pitchers’ innings limits and is likely to trickle down to underwhelming rotations — like the Orioles’ current group — before ultimately becoming the standard around the major leagues at some point down the road.

Moving to a six-man rotation would allow Showalter to add Santana to the mix without relegating a current starter to the bullpen where he might struggle to get regular work. One of the more overlooked challenges for a pitcher can be the in-season shuffle between starting and relieving, which can put significant strain on the arm. Should Santana’s surgically-repaired left shoulder not hold up or he simply prove ineffective after not pitching since 2012, the Orioles could either transition back to a five-man rotation or look to add 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman to the starting mix, which would also quell concerns about his innings limit in 2014.

There’s no clear-cut answer as some pitchers such as Chen and Gonzalez have thrived with extra rest while Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris have historically performed better working on four days’ rest. Perhaps a six-man rotation in which one or two starters take a higher priority in staying on turn would need to be designed, but Showalter’s mere acknowledgement of it being a possibility tells you the Orioles skipper has put extensive thought into it and has collected as much information as possible to make a potential decision.

Maybe we’ll see it or perhaps the baseball gods will intervene to prevent it from happening, but below is a look at the current starters’ results based on four, five, and six or more days of rest in their major league careers.

Chris Tillman
Four days: 4.47 ERA in 54 starts, 5.75 innings per start
Five days: 4.56 ERA in 18 starts, 5.59 innings per start
Six days or more: 3.82 ERA in 24 starts, 5.5 innings per start

Ubaldo Jimenez
Four days: 3.64 ERA in 131 starts, 6.23 innings per start
Five days: 4.31 ERA in 65 starts, 5.85 innings per start
Six days or more: 4.74 ERA in 27 starts, 5.42 innings per start

Bud Norris
Four days: 4.10 ERA in 65 starts, 5.81 innings per start
Five days: 4.49 ERA in 50 starts, 5.93 innings per start
Six days or more: 5.07 ERA in 21 starts, 5.49 innings per start

Wei-Yin Chen
Four days: 4.52 ERA in 30 starts, 5.84 innings per start
Five days: 3.89 ERA in 25 starts, 6.11 innings per start
Six days or more: 3.32 ERA in 11 starts, 5.91 innings per start

Miguel Gonzalez
Four days: 4.18 ERA in 25 starts, 6.12 innings per start
Five days: 2.77 ERA in 13 starts, 6.26 innings per start
Six days or more: 3.31 ERA in 14 starts, 5.83 innings per start

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