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Five biggest Orioles disappointments of 2016 first half

Posted on 13 July 2016 by Luke Jones

In the midst of the tightest division race in the majors at the All-Star break, the Orioles have still endured their share of disappointing performers during a 51-36 start.

While plenty has gone smoothly for the first-place club, several players have turned in underwhelming performances in comparison to their expectations for the 2016 season. Those shortcomings make it more impressive that Baltimore has been able to excel in the competitive American League East.

After examining the biggest surprises of the first half earlier this week, below are my five biggest individual disappointments:

Dubious mention: Kevin Gausman, T.J. McFarland, Brian Matusz, Tyler Wilson, J.J. Hardy

5. Darren O’Day

The 2015 All-Star reliever’s inclusion on this list is obviously much more about his extended absence than his performance as his hamstring injury has put great strain on a bullpen trying to compensate for one of the worst starting rotations in the majors.

It also came after the Orioles invested a four-year, $31 million contract in O’Day this past offseason, but the club should feel good about the right-hander’s track record in coming back to contribute in meaningful ways in the second half.

Injury aside, O’Day would likely be the first to tell you that he wasn’t pitching at his best despite a respectable 3.15 ERA in 20 innings of work through June 1. His five home runs allowed are still the most surrendered by any Baltimore reliever this season and match his total in 65 1/3 innings last year. His walk rate of 4.1 per nine innings is also the worst of his career and substantially higher than the 2.1 per nine he averaged over his first four seasons with the Orioles.

It remains unclear exactly when O’Day will be ready to be activated, but manager Buck Showalter is itching to have the backbone of his bullpen back in the mix.

4. Caleb Joseph

It almost feels cruel to include the backup catcher on this list after his gruesome testicular injury suffered on Memorial Day that required surgery and sidelined him for a month, but failing to collect a single RBI in 81 plate appearances can’t be ignored.

There was a fair argument this winter that the Orioles would have been better off not extending a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters and going with Joseph as the starting catcher at a fraction of the cost, but the latter has batted .160 with only two extra-base hits and a .409 on-base plus slugging percentage. In his defense, Joseph hasn’t received nearly as much playing time as he did last season when he posted an acceptable .693 OPS with 11 homers and 49 RBIs, but his struggles at the plate have been so extreme that you’d worry about an injury to Wieters at this point.

Joseph’s defense remains a clear strength and Wieters has had no perceived issues moving back to a heavier workload now being two years removed from Tommy John surgery, but the Orioles are likely going to need the understudy to get his bat going at some point in the second half.

3. Mike Wright

Perhaps it’s unfair to include a pitcher who had just 44 2/3 major league innings under his belt entering 2016, but the Orioles thought enough of Wright being in their rotation that they jettisoned veteran Miguel Gonzalez in an effort to save $4 million before the season.

Needless to say, the decision hasn’t worked out as Wright has posted a 5.97 ERA in 69 1/3 innings that included 12 starts. He has twice been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and did not fare well in his latest return to the major leagues just before the break.

Wright has held right-handed batters to a .237 average, but lefties are hitting .355 with a 1.023 OPS, leaving many to continue to believe the hard-throwing 26-year-old is better suited for a relief role reminiscent of former Oriole Tommy Hunter. He has a plus fastball, but it’s fair to wonder whether his secondary stuff — or his composure — is cut out for a long-term starting role.

The reality is that the Orioles probably could have lived with a 4.50 to 4.75 ERA from Wright at the end of the rotation, but he’s fallen well short of that mark.

2. Yovani Gallardo

This free-agent marriage began on poor footing when the Orioles’ concerns about his right shoulder prompted them to rework the original three-year agreement into a $22 million deal for two seasons.

Struggling to touch the high 80s with his fastball in March and April, Gallardo pitched to a 7.00 ERA in only four starts before landing on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis and missing nearly two months of action. His velocity has improved since then, but the 30-year-old has completed six innings just twice in his nine starts and hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning or later since June 27, 2015.

Even at his best this year, Gallardo has been no better than a five-inning pitcher as opponents are hitting .333 with an .801 OPS when he goes through the order a third time. The problem is that Showalter can’t always afford to go to his bullpen that early when considering the struggles of the rest of the rotation.

Despite his 3.66 career ERA entering 2016, the warning signs with Gallardo were there this winter with a declining strikeout rate and diminishing velocity. A quarter of the way through the contract, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette’s decision to forfeit a first-round pick and fork over $22 million for Gallardo isn’t looking very wise.

1. Ubaldo Jimenez

Inconsistency has been the calling card throughout Jimenez’s career, but even that doesn’t fit anymore as he’s just been plain bad in 2016.

His 7.38 ERA is the highest in the majors among pitchers with at least 80 innings, leaving most to wonder how the Orioles can continue justifying keeping him on the 25-man roster, let alone in the starting rotation for a contending club. Jimenez is still owed roughly $20 million through the end of next season, but evidence continues to pile up that this is a sunk cost to move on from.

Lost in the countless discussions about his poor command and erratic mechanics is the fact that the 32-year-old’s average fastball velocity has dropped below 90 miles per hour, a far cry from the pitcher whose fastball sat in the mid-90s earlier in his career. His 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings look fine, but his 5.5 walks per nine match his career high and he’s putting on two baserunners per inning.

Jimenez desperately wants to turn around his fortunes to contribute, but his 2.81 ERA from the first half of 2015 — his only extended period of success in his three years with the Orioles — feels like an eternity ago. The command and the stuff may simply no longer be there for Jimenez to turn this ship around in his 11th major league season.

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Orioles starting Jimenez sends bad all-around message

Posted on 22 June 2016 by Luke Jones

It doesn’t matter how Ubaldo Jimenez performs on Wednesday night.

Whether the good version makes a cameo for the first time since early May or he again pitches like the worst starter in baseball, the Orioles are sending a bad message all the way around by giving him the ball against the San Diego Padres after moving him to the bullpen just a week ago.

Through all the noise about the difficult schedule this week, the Orioles have known since sending Mike Wright down to Triple-A Norfolk on Friday that they would need a starter for Wednesday’s game. They even opened up space Tuesday by outrighting infielder Paul Janish to Norfolk, meaning they had the flexibility to promote any pitcher in the organization not currently on the 40-man roster.

Instead, the Orioles decided to roll with a pitcher whose 7.34 ERA ranks last in the majors among those registering at least 60 innings.

It speaks volumes about the state of the organization’s starting pitching depth. Not that anyone is convinced that Odrisamer Despaigne or Joe Gunkel or Nick Additon or any other minor-league starter with a pulse would provide substantial improvement, but why field teams at Norfolk or Double-A Bowie if you’re just going to maintain the status quo with a starting rotation ranking 13th in the AL in ERA?

What message does it send to the rest of your first-place club that this is the best you can do? A couple weeks ago, the Orioles replaced Mike Wright with, well, Mike Wright. Then, they removed Jimenez for the returning Yovani Gallardo. Now, they’ve demoted Wright again in favor of Jimenez.

Talk about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Orioles have now essentially told both Jimenez and Wright, “You’re not good enough, but here’s the ball again because we have no one else worthy of receiving a shot.” Having no competition for starting pitchers performing so far below expectations is embarrassing for a contending team.

A first-place club with a powerful offense, a great bullpen, and a strong infield defense deserves better. It at least deserves an attempt to be better, but that’s an issue that dates back to the offseason when improving the starting pitching was initially deemed a priority by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles proceeded to lose their best starter from 2015 — Wei-Yin Chen — and replace him with Gallardo, a pitcher with shoulder concerns that have already landed him on the disabled list.

To make matters worse, the Orioles thought they had enough rotation depth this spring to jettison a struggling Miguel Gonzalez to save $4 million instead of sending him to the minors to work on his issues. His 4.29 ERA is far from stellar, but his velocity is back in line with where it was the last four years and he’d be a substantial upgrade over Wright or Jimenez right now.

Of course, Wednesday’s start doesn’t mean Jimenez will remain in the rotation. Perhaps this truly is an attempt at a Hail Mary with the 32-year-old after seeing how his demotion has negatively impacted the bullpen over the last week. His lone relief appearance last Friday brought an inability to even keep the Orioles within four runs of Toronto after Wright was lifted in the fourth inning.

It’s difficult to hide a pitcher in the bullpen when he can’t even contribute in that kind of a low-leverage situation.

Despite still being owed roughly $21 million through next season, maybe this represents Jimenez’s last chance with the Orioles.

At some point, you have to recognize a sunk cost and move on, right?

Otherwise, we’re reminded that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Orioles option McFarland in addition to Wright before Saturday’s game

Posted on 18 June 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Needing to create roster room to activate both starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo and shortstop J.J. Hardy from the disabled list on Saturday, the Orioles optioned two pitchers to Triple-A Norfolk.

After struggling starting pitcher Mike Wright was optioned to Norfolk late Friday night, Baltimore sent down left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland, who pitched two scoreless innings and threw 25 pitches in the 13-3 loss to Toronto. The move leaves the Orioles with a seven-man bullpen after Ubaldo Jimenez was demoted to a relief role earlier in the week.

With Manny Machado’s four-game suspension about to begin, manager Buck Showalter prefers keeping both Ryan Flaherty and Paul Janish on the roster — Baltimore will play with 24 players while Machado is out — but the state of the bullpen will go a long way in determining how feasible that is. The Blue Jays entered Saturday having scored 10 or more runs in five of their last seven games with three of those contests coming against the Orioles.

With Wright demoted and now set to start for the Tides, the Orioles will need a starter for Wednesday’s game against San Diego. Odrisamer Despaigne and Jimenez would appear to be the in-house candidates to take the ball on that day, but their usage over the next few days will be a major factor. The struggling Jimenez clearly wouldn’t be received as a popular option as he threw 62 pitches and allowed five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings on Friday to raise his season ERA to 7.34.

The Orioles entered Saturday with a 4.93 starter ERA, ranking 13th out of 15 American League clubs.

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Orioles make latest change to sinking rotation

Posted on 18 June 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles starter Mike Wright had few answers after his latest outing went horribly wrong in a 13-3 loss to Toronto on Friday night.

After allowing a career-high eight earned runs in just 3 2/3 innings, Wright saw his season ERA climb to an unseemly 6.12. To little surprise, the 26-year-old was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game, signaling Baltimore’s second rotation change this week with disappointing veteran Ubaldo Jimenez already being sent to the bullpen.

In his last two starts covering 8 2/3 innings — both against the Blue Jays — Wright allowed 12 earned runs.

“I threw some good pitches, I threw some bad pitches. They hit them both,” said Wright shortly before his demotion was announced. “I’m working harder than ever. When you’re working harder than ever and you get those results, it’s tough.”

Despite being optioned to Norfolk following his June 1 start against Boston that lasted only 2 2/3 innings, Wright was recalled on June 3 when reliever Darren O’Day was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The young pitcher initially took advantage of the “do-over” by tossing seven strong innings against a depleted Kansas City lineup, but his last two starts only reaffirmed the struggles with his command and with the quality of his secondary pitches.

On Saturday, the Orioles will activate veteran starter Yovani Gallardo from the DL, a move they hope will serve as a shot in the arm for a starting rotation sporting a 4.93 ERA through the first 67 games of the 2016 season. However, Gallardo is only taking Jimenez’s spot in the rotation, making it unclear who will replace Wright when his turn next comes around on Wednesday.

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Hardy begins rehab assignment as Gallardo wraps his

Posted on 14 June 2016 by Luke Jones

As a key member of the Orioles concluded a minor-league rehab assignment, another is about to begin his.

With starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo performing well in his third and final rehab start on Monday, shortstop J.J. Hardy will begin playing for Double-A Bowie on Tuesday as he moves closer to a return from a fractured left foot suffered on May 1. Gallardo could be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make Saturday’s start against the Toronto Blue Jays while it remains unclear how long Hardy’s assignment will last.

Pitching for Triple-A Norfolk against Charlotte on Monday, Gallardo turned in a strong five-inning performance in which he allowed just one run on one hit while striking out five and issuing two walks. The lone run he allowed came on a leadoff homer before he settled in to throw 90 pitches.

Showing better velocity than he did early in the season when he posted a 7.00 ERA in four starts before going on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis, Gallardo will be asked to help stabilize a starting rotation that’s struggled mightily in recent weeks. It remains unclear whose rotation spot Gallardo will take, but veteran Ubaldo Jimenez owns a grotesque 6.89 ERA and both Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson have minor-league options and have also struggled.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are eager to welcome back Hardy to help solidify the left side of their infield. Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado has played very well shifting to shortstop, but Baltimore has had problems at the hot corner with Ryan Flaherty and Paul Janish offering substandard offense and Pedro Alvarez providing subpar defense when asked to play there.

Ideally, the Orioles would like to have Hardy return before Machado begins serving his suspension stemming from last week’s brawl with Yordano Ventura and the Kansas City Royals. Machado’s four-game suspension is pending an appeal.

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Jimenez leaves Orioles no choice but to make change

Posted on 12 June 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have no other choice after Ubaldo Jimenez allowed five runs and retired just one batter before being removed from Sunday’s game in Toronto.

It’s time to make a change.

Whether that means a trip to the bullpen or the Orioles making the bold and difficult decision to designate him for assignment, Jimenez shouldn’t remain in the starting rotation. How hard a worker the 32-year-old might be or even how much money he’s still owed through next season can’t justify him making his next start for a team entering a much-needed off-day still tied for first place in the AL East and 10 games over .500 in mid-June.

Inconsistency is one thing — it’s defined his career, after all — but not giving your club a chance while repeatedly compromising the bullpen is another. The good — or even decent — version of Jimenez has been missing for well over a month now with his best performance over that time being an outing in which he allowed nine hits and three walks in five innings against an undermanned Kansas City lineup last week.

In his last seven starts, Jimenez has pitched to a 10.00 ERA in 27 innings of work. Over that time, he’s twice failed to complete two innings, hasn’t once finished six innings, and has surrendered five or more runs in all but one of those outings.

His season ERA now sits at 6.89 and his WHIP — walks and hits per inning pitched — is an appalling 1.98. As Ravens coach John Harbaugh would say, that’s below the line.

Asked multiple times over the last few weeks about Jimenez’s spot in the rotation, manager Buck Showalter has often replied, “As opposed to whom?” It’s his subtle and mostly-innocuous way of challenging a reporter asking a critical question but also a commentary on the organization’s lack of viable starting pitching depth.

It’s no longer a fitting retort, however. No matter how limited the alternatives might be, you cannot maintain the status quo if you’re trying to be fair to the rest of the players on a contending club, especially after the Orioles decided to jettison the popular Miguel Gonzalez — who is pitching pretty well again in Chicago, mind you — after a difficult second half to 2015 and a poor spring.

It’s unfortunate because Jimenez is a well-liked teammate and desperately wants to do well, but the answer to Showalter’s rhetorical question has become “anybody else” at this point. That’s not to say that Yovani Gallardo or Vance Worley or T.J. McFarland or Odrisamer Despaigne or anyone Dan Duquette might find off the scrapheap will provide the solution the Orioles seek, but all options need to be on the table when you’re talking about replacing a starter with an ERA a smidgen under 7.00.

With Gallardo scheduled to make a final rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday, he’s poised to return to the rotation this weekend. The Orioles can only pray that he will have more to offer than he did in April when he had a 7.00 ERA in four starts before going to the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis.

We know Jimenez isn’t the only starter struggling as Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson both pitched poorly in Toronto, but that shouldn’t be an argument to justify continuing to go down this path with the veteran right-hander.

One problem at a time.

The frustrating thing is that the Orioles don’t need terrific starting pitching to contend when they have such a powerful offense, a terrific bullpen, and strong infield defense. Mediocrity from its rotation would probably be enough, but Jimenez hasn’t been able to provide even that much despite being in the third season of a four-year, $50 million contract.

Even if you believe Jimenez can get himself straightened out with some side sessions and low-leverage appearances out of the bullpen before giving him another shot in the rotation in a few weeks, there’s no competitive reason to continue sending him to the mound every fifth day for a contending club right now. He needs a break mentally and emotionally as much as he does physically to try to figure out how to fix this — if he can.

The Orioles have been more than patient, but Showalter’s first-inning hook on Sunday said it all.

It’s time to throw in the towel.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 11-6 loss to Blue Jays

Posted on 11 June 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 11-6 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 61st game of the 2016 season.

1st — With the Orioles not having as much quality in the bullpen these days with Darren O’Day on the disabled list and Buck Showalter needing to stay away from Mychal Givens and Brad Brach, T.J. McFarland offered no relief in the sixth inning. Many questioned why the lefty long man didn’t begin the bottom of the sixth with no one on, but having a leadoff runner on first can’t excuse the poor performance. You can’t walk Russell Martin and Ezequiel Carrera with Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion looming, and Toronto’s big guns made McFarland pay with a sacrifice fly and a three-run homer, respectively. Making matters worse, the lefty gave up another run in the seventh that loomed big when the Orioles lineup made the game interesting again in the top of the eighth. Five runs, five hits, and two walks over two innings certainly didn’t make his manager happy.

2nd — He somehow managed to keep the Orioles in the game into the sixth inning, but Mike Wright’s inability to throw strikes led to his downfall as just 49 of the 103 pitches he threw were in the strike zone. Trying to build off an encouraging start against Kansas City, the right-hander walked a career-high five in five-plus innings and threw first-pitch strikes to just eight of the 24 hitters he faced on Saturday afternoon. His fastball command was especially poor as he got away with a number of pitches over the course of his outing that could have made the final results even worse. After temporarily being sent to the minors before his strong outing against the Royals acted as a mulligan, this clearly wasn’t what the Orioles were looking for from the 26-year-old.

3rd — It’s difficult to find too much fault with an offense that scored six runs on the day, but the Orioles went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Baltimore stranded a runner on third with one out in the fourth, a runner on second with no outs in the sixth, and scored only one more time after Mark Trumbo’s RBI single that kept the bases loaded with no outs in the seventh. Six runs should be enough to win most days, but the Orioles did have plenty of chances to add more.

Home — The Blue Jays removed all doubt about the outcome after Brian Duensing gave up solo homers to Encarnacion and Michael Saunders in the eighth. The veteran lefty has allowed four runs in his first 3 2/3 innings with the Orioles. … Chris Davis homered in his fourth consecutive game and collected the first two extra-base hits by a left-handed batter against Toronto starter J.A. Happ this season. … Joey Rickard collected his first three-hit game since April 21 and hit his fifth homer of the season. … Manny Machado hit his 16th homer of the season and raised his average to .306 with a three-hit afternoon. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill in search of a series split on Sunday while right-hander Aaron Sanchez starts for the Blue Jays.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-1 win over Kansas City

Posted on 07 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 56th game of the 2016 season.

1st Mike Wright took full advantage of the mulligan from his minor-league demotion last week with seven strong innings in which he allow one unearned run and five hits while striking out four and walking two. The right-hander did have a favorable matchup against an injury-depleted Kansas City lineup missing two impact lefty bats, but he did a superb job keeping his fastball down in the zone and Royals hitters were just 2-for-8 with a walk in Wright’s third trip through the order, which has been very problematic for him this year. His hold on a rotation spot entering Monday was tenuous at best, but Wright turned in his best outing of the year for his fourth quality start of 2016.

2ndMatt Wieters wasn’t quite tired and ready to go home in the seventh, but he was more than eager to help his starting pitcher get a win by homering to dead center off Royals starter Danny Duffy, who had shut down Baltimore over his first six innings of work. The blast would prove to be the winning run as Wieters slugged the 100th home run of his career as a catcher and is now batting .362 with 17 RBIs over his last 19 games. He also did an excellent job behind the plate with a young starter who was pitching for his job on Monday night.

3rdMark Trumbo was the first Orioles batter to solve Duffy on Monday by homering on the third pitch of the bottom of the seventh after the Royals had taken a 1-0 lead on Jonathan Schoop’s error in the top half of the inning. Trumbo now leads the majors with his 19 homers, just three shy of his 2015 total in 307 fewer plate appearances this season. It was the 150th long ball of his career.

HomeBrad Brach continued his brilliant season by striking out the top three hitters in the Royals order in a 1-2-3 eighth inning. He extended his scoreless streak to nine games covering 10 2/3 innings to lower his season ERA to a microscopic 0.88 in 30 2/3 innings. … Zach Britton induced three quick grounders on just eight pitches to earn his 18th save in as many tries and extend his scoreless streak to 14 games spanning 15 1/3 innings. … Adam Jones’ RBI double in the seventh tied Brady Anderson for first place in extra-base hits (243) in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. … In the eighth, Manny Machado clubbed his 15th homer, the first of the season allowed by standout reliever Kelvin Herrera. … With Monday’s victory, Showalter surpassed former Orioles manager Davey Johnson for sole possession of 29th place on the all-time managerial wins list with 1,373. … The Orioles lead the majors with 19 comeback victories and have won five of their last six with all five of the come-from-behind variety. … Ubaldo Jimenez takes the hill on Tuesday while Yordano Ventura will start for Kansas City.

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Orioles place O’Day on disabled list with hamstring strain

Posted on 03 June 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles placed right-handed relief pitcher Darren O’Day on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain prior to Friday’s series opener with the New York Yankees.

Right-handed pitcher Mike Wright was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take O’Day’s place on the 25-man roster. Optioned to the Tides on Thursday, Wright was not required to remain in the minor leagues for 10 days since he was taking the place of a player going on the DL.

O’Day is expected to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection to help the healing process in hopes of him being ready to return after the minimum 15-day requirement. He last pitched in Wednesday’s 13-9 win over Boston in which he gave up a solo home run to Chris Young.

“He felt it a little bit [before], but covering first base the other night, [the hamstring] grabbed on him,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It wasn’t better the next day. We hope to get him back in 15. We’ll see. I’m cautiously optimistic about that. His arm feels great.”

Signed to a four-year, $31 million contract extension after his All-Star season in 2015, O’Day has posted a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings of work this season, but the sidearm reliever has surrendered five home runs, matching his total in 65 1/3 innings a year ago. His absence means the Orioles will likely lean more heavily on Brad Brach and Mychal Givens in the late innings to help bridge the gap to closer Zach Britton, meaning the likes of Dylan Bundy and Brian Duensing will need to filling more meaningful roles in middle relief.

Since 2012, O’Day has served as the backbone of the Orioles bullpen by pitching to a 2.00 ERA in 283 innings and averaging 68 appearances per season.

Yet to announce a starting pitcher for Monday’s game against Kansas City, Showalter was noncommittal about Wright making what was to be his original start before he was optioned to the minors on Thursday. The 26-year-old will be available in the bullpen after Friday’s game.

“We’ll see what Monday brings,” Showalter said. “We’re trying to get through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It will kind of be a moving target for a couple days.”

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Orioles send down struggling Wright, add Duensing to bullpen

Posted on 02 June 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Sorting through their current mess of a pitching staff, the Orioles optioned right-hander Mike Wright to Triple-A Norfolk and selected the contract of lefty reliever Brian Duensing on Thursday.

After making the club out of spring training as the No. 4 starter, Wright had failed to complete six innings in four of his last five outings and allowed a career-high four home runs in just 2 2/3 innings against Boston on Wednesday. His season ERA had risen to a robust 5.88 in 49 innings that included nine starts.

Manager Buck Showalter said the 26-year-old will start for the Tides on Monday and emphasized that he would remain a starter when asked if Wright could be moved to a bullpen role as many have suggested.

“I know he spent the day looking at the tape of all of his starts in the big leagues,” Showalter said. “He’s in the process of becoming a good pitcher for us up here. Mike’s going to be a good starter for the Baltimore Orioles. That’s what I feel. Today is part of the process. A lot of guys come up and they get a little better each time. We’re hoping the next time Mike comes up that we won’t need this move to be made.

“He’ll contribute to our club this year as a starter. I really believe that.”

Despite possessing a good fastball, Wright hasn’t been able to consistently command his off-speed pitches and has struggled against lefties, who are batting .369 with four homers and a 1.028 on-base plus slugging percentage against him this year. He has held right-handed bats to a .234 average.

It remains unclear who would immediately take Wright’s spot in the rotation with T.J. McFarland and Vance Worley being the two logical candidates currently on the active roster.

The roster move came on the same day that Yovani Gallardo was making his first minor-league rehab start and the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez was taking the hill against the powerful Red Sox lineup. At Single-A Frederick, Gallardo pitched three innings, allowing three runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out four.

Showalter reiterated on Thursday that the plan was for Gallardo to make at least two rehab starts, meaning he wouldn’t be ready to be activated to take Wright’s next turn in the rotation on Monday.

The 33-year-old Duensing adds an experienced left-handed reliever to a club that parted ways with Brian Matusz last month. Beginning the year in Kansas City’s organization, Duensing had opted out of his minor-league deal to join the Orioles and had thrown three scoreless innings for the Tides.

He had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins prior to this year, serving exclusively as a reliever since 2013. In 48 2/3 innings for the Twins last season, Duensing pitched to a 4.25 ERA with 4.4 strikeouts and 3.9 walks per nine innings.

He holds a 4.13 career ERA in seven major league seasons.

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