Tag Archive | "Ubaldo Jimenez"

Nothing typical about these AL East champion Orioles

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nothing typical about these AL East champion Orioles

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For years, the discrepancy was clear as the Orioles wallowed at the bottom of the American League East.

Lagging behind in payroll and player development, they looked up at the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays while being stuck in neutral with no apparent direction or plan of how to get better. The Orioles didn’t spend like New York or Boston and couldn’t cultivate their own talent like Tampa Bay while suffering through a seemingly endless run of fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the toughest division in baseball year in and year out.

When the Orioles finally broke through Tuesday night with an 8-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays to win their first AL East title since 1997, it was an atypical sum of the parts that put them on top. Yes, their payroll is higher now than it was for years, but it still remains in the middle of the pack and far below those of the Yankees and Red Sox. Their farm system has produced a number of key players, but it isn’t the well-oiled machine like those of other top organizations in baseball.

It started with Andy MacPhail using some savvy trades and top draft picks to put together a core group of All-Star talent and continued with the arrival of manager Buck Showalter and current executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who began filling in the gaps with below-the-radar additions and, finally, a couple high-profile free agents this past winter. What’s resulted is a club that’s won more than 90 games for the second time in three years and appears poised to make a deep run in October.

The journey certainly hasn’t been easy as the season-ending injuries to catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado and the recent 25-game suspension of first baseman Chris Davis have provided easy excuses for the Orioles to wilt down the stretch. Not all has gone to plan as the $50 million free-agent addition of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has been an utter failure in the first season of a four-year commitment.

But Tuesday’s win provided the perfect microcosm of what’s made the Orioles continue to thrive in 2014.

You can expect the unexpected.

Making his first start in a month after being dumped from the starting rotation, Jimenez overcame a shaky beginning to pitch five solid innings to earn just his fifth win of the season. Ironically, it was the kind of important game in which the Orioles envisioned Jimenez pitching when they signed him in February.

A three-run home run in the first inning came off the bat of Steve Pearce, the journeyman who was designated for assignment in April before being re-signed a few days later when Davis went on the disabled list. The 31-year-old has gone on to hit a career-high 18 homers, which is more than he’d hit in his first seven major league seasons combined. More than any other player, Pearce might be the ultimate symbol of the 2014 Orioles when the final chapter is written sometime next month.

A solo shot came an inning later from third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who was claimed off waivers by the Orioles during spring training and then lost to the Kansas City Royals a couple days later. Duquette eventually reacquired the 25-year-old in time for him to provide a handful of big hits in his few weeks with the club.

T.J. McFarland pitched a scoreless sixth inning. He was the Rule 5 selection the Orioles stubbornly retained on the 25-man roster all last season.

Darren O’Day provided 1 1/3 innings of excellent relief as he has for the last three seasons. The sidearm pitcher was claimed off waivers from Texas before Duquette was even hired three years ago.

Left field Alejandro De Aza hit the three-run triple in the seventh to bust the game open after he was acquired for two nondescript minor-league pitchers at the waiver trade deadline late last month.

Dominant lefty Andrew Miller struck out the only two hitters he faced and has been exactly what the Orioles envisioned when they acquired the best relief pitcher on the market while the rest of baseball lauded Oakland and Detroit for acquiring Jon Lester and David Price, respectively. The Orioles now own a better record than the Athletics and the Tigers.

When Pearce fielded the final out for the club’s 91st win of the season, it was just the latest example of the sum being much greater than the parts appear on paper.

There hasn’t been a set formula apparent to the rest of the baseball world that explains the Orioles’ ascent over the last few years, but they play great defense, hit home runs, and have pitched as well as anyone since early June. Those strengths have allowed them to overcome the loss of All-Star position players and failed free-agent acquisitions.

For Duquette and Showalter, the question isn’t who is the best player as much as it’s who is the best fit. It hasn’t been about spending money as much as it’s been about making the smartest decision.

And it’s been perfectly imperfect as Baltimore wrapped up the division title with 11 games to spare.

Whether they have 11 wins in them next month remains to be seen, but the journey to this point has been both difficult and overwhelmingly rewarding.

And it paid off with a celebration at Camden Yards Tuesday night while the rest of the American League East was looking up at the Orioles for a change.

 

Comments (1)

Monday musings on Orioles magic, Ravens, and NFL Week 2

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday musings on Orioles magic, Ravens, and NFL Week 2

Posted on 15 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Journeyman infielder Kelly Johnson became the latest hero for the Orioles Sunday night with his ninth-inning double to complete a dramatic 3-2 comeback win over the New York Yankees and shrink Baltimore’s magic number to only three.

Acquired just before the waiver deadline late last month, Johnson hadn’t made a big impression with his new club before stroking a double to deep right-center off Yankees closer David Robertson and sending the Orioles to victory in walk-off fashion. Having played for all five American League East teams over the last three seasons, Johnson is clearly happy to have landed with the first-place Orioles at the perfect time and now has an excellent chance to secure a postseason roster spot in wake of the Chris Davis suspension.

“I’ve bounced around a little bit now and you know, you just get a feel,” Johnson said about his new club. “Sometimes, it’s just meant to be. You find a way to win, rather than ways to lose. It’s been pretty cool. I haven’t been here long, but I’ve seen some things I haven’t seen before.”

If you’re subscribing to Johnson’s feeling of it all being “meant to be,” brace yourself for the start of a three-game series against Toronto with the Orioles needing to take two games from the Blue Jays to secure their first AL East title since 1997. If the Orioles are able to win the series opener on Monday night, they will send Ubaldo Jimenez — who will act as a sixth starter this time through the rotation due to the doubleheader on Friday — to the hill with the opportunity to clinch the division on Tuesday night.

It wouldn’t forgive what’s been a horrendous first season in Baltimore for the 30-year-old right-hander, but how ironic would it be if Jimenez — the free-agent pitcher the Orioles signed to pitch in big games as a top-half-of-the-rotation starter — pitched well enough to earn the win in the division-clinching game of the season? Exactly how Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter drew it up back in spring training, right?

Nothing would surprise me with the Orioles at this point, including Jimenez finally delivering in a big spot to officially punch their ticket to the playoffs.

> It’s difficult not to be pleased with the performance of the offensive line through the first two weeks of the season as the Ravens try to put the nightmarish line play of 2013 behind them once and for all.

New center Jeremy Zuttah has impressed, second-year right tackle Rick Wagner has held up, and Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele have looked the part of the ferocious guard tandem the organization envisioned. Even left tackle Eugene Monroe bounced back against Pittsburgh with a strong performance after a poor preseason and Week 1 showing against Cincinnati.

However, Sunday will bring another important test as the Ravens play their first road game against a talented Cleveland front. With the communication issues the offensive line faced all last season, Zuttah will need to show he can make the right calls at the line of scrimmage with crowd noise being a factor unlike when the offense operates at M&T Bank Stadium.

There’s plenty to be encouraged by with the way the unit has protected quarterback Joe Flacco and wore down the Steelers’ defensive line with the running game in the fourth quarter, but it will take another strong performance or two to convince doubters that the offensive line issues are a thing of the past.

> Speaking of Flacco, I couldn’t help but think of him in the moments that followed the gruesome ankle injury suffered by Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III against Jacksonville on Sunday.

Taken with the second overall pick of the 2012 draft to be the franchise quarterback, Griffin has now suffered two major injuries in just over two seasons of play. It just goes to show how difficult it can be to stay healthy, let alone play at an exceptional level on a yearly basis in the NFL.

Flacco will make his 98th consecutive regular-season start to begin his NFL career against the Browns on Sunday, which just shows how durable and dependable he’s been since arriving on the scene in 2008. Of course, the seventh-year quarterback’s style of play and size make him far less of an injury risk than a signal-caller like Griffin, but that shouldn’t diminish the value of having a quarterback you can count on to be under center every week.

The high number of injuries to star players on Sunday makes you appreciate Flacco’s durability while you immediately knock on wood and keep your fingers crossed that it continues.

> Though Philadelphia has an opportunity to join the ranks of the 2-0 teams with an upset win at Indianapolis Monday night, only six teams could claim such a record at the end of business on Sunday.

Who would have guessed that Buffalo and Houston would be two of them along with Denver, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Carolina? The Texans have now won two straight under new head coach Bill O’Brien after losing 14 consecutive games to close their disastrous 2013 season.

And who would have predicted New Orleans would be sitting at 0-2, even with two road games to begin the season?

You just never know with the NFL.

 

Comments (0)

Struggling Jimenez finally heading to Orioles bullpen

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , ,

Showalter reveals post-break rotation for start of challenging West Coast trip

Posted on 14 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Entering the All-Star break in first place for the first time since 1997, the Orioles won’t receive any breaks to start the second half with a 10-game West Coast trip and three clubs with winning records staring them in the face.

Manager Buck Showalter revealed his starting rotation to begin the second half with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Kevin Gausman pitching in the three-game series against the Oakland Athletics next weekend. After that, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez are expected to be recalled from the minors to make starts against the Los Angeles Angels on July 21 and July 22 before Tillman starts the finale in Anaheim.

Injured starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez will not be activated during the road trip as he continues to work his way back from an injured ankle suffered last week. Showalter said the plan is for the struggling right-hander to make a minor-league rehab start on July 23, which would put him in line to be ready to be activated when the Orioles finally return home on July 29.

Jimenez was still favoring his ankle when he tried to work on Sunday.

“He was trying to protect it and we kind of shortened it up a little bit because it wasn’t getting any better and we didn’t want him to have a setback,” Showalter said. “They have X-rayed I’m pretty sure. He’s had a history and anybody who’s had that ankle, it gets a little weaker each time you do it or it’s more susceptible to it. Obviously, he’s got some [discomfort] in there that we’re going to have to clear up before we can pitch him.”

Catcher Steve Clevenger and relief pitcher Preston Guilmet are expected to accompany the Orioles to the West Coast and remain with the club until Norris and Gonzalez are recalled.

Comments (3)

Jimenez going to disabled list with freak ankle injury

Tags: , , , ,

Jimenez going to disabled list with freak ankle injury

Posted on 11 July 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A freak ankle injury has brought the first half of Ubaldo Jimenez’s first season in Baltimore to an end with the Orioles placing the starting pitcher on the 15-day disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter announced Friday that the 30-year-old rolled his right ankle stepping in a hole in a parking lot two days ago, forcing the Orioles to send Jimenez to the DL and recall right-hander Kevin Gausman to start against the New York Yankees on either Saturday or Sunday. Chris Tillman is likely to pitch on Saturday after initially being scheduled to start on Sunday night with Gausman taking the hill for the final game prior to the All-Star break.

“It’s pretty puffy [and] taped up,” Showalter said. “He tried to take a workday [on Thursday]. We were hoping it would resolve somewhat today. It did not. It’s real sore today”

Jimenez injured the same ankle while pitching in 2012 and is eligible to return on the sixth day after the All-Star break, according to Showalter. Because the Orioles will be recalling Gausman to take Jimenez’s place, the Orioles can only backdate Jimenez’s time on the DL to the day after Gausman was optioned on Monday, meaning he is eligible to return on July 23.

The news ends a difficult first half of the 2014 season for the right-hander as he has a 3-8 record with a 4.52 ERA and leads the majors with 60 walks in his 99 2/3 innings over 18 starts. Jimenez signed a four-year, $50 million contract in the offseason, but the veteran hasn’t lived up to the high expectations that accompanied the long-term investment.

“It is what it is. I understand how things work with people that make a living making light of things like this,” said Showalter about the nature of the ankle injury. “He’s pretty frustrated by it, but we’d rather have him healthy and pitching. If it wasn’t for the All-Star break, we might wait a couple days [to see if he'd heal quickly].”

Comments (1)

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Comments (0)

8910683bf6d0425c9ebe2450ff5874f2-dd8ad223e8d94eeca87926ddd011bac2-fad14a2fe2fd2c12540f6a706700e152

Tags: , , , ,

If Gausman shines, he should stay

Posted on 12 June 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

This could get complicated.

Kevin Gausman, long thought to be a cornerstone of the future of the Orioles’ pitching staff takes the mound tonight against the first place Toronto Blue Jays.  After earning his first Major League win as a starter just five days ago against the Oakland A’s, Gausman has a chance to put Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter in a tough spot.

Should Gausman pitch well tonight–let alone earn a victory against Mark Buehrle (10-2) and the Jays (39-28)–logic says he should remain a member of the Orioles starting rotation.  But the true question is, who is the odd man out?

Miguel Gonzales looks to return from the 15-Day DL shortly, creating a surplus of starters.

Initially, when Johan Santana was in the conversation, prior to tearing his Achilles, Showalter had kicked around the idea of an unorthodox six-man rotation; but after listening to WNST’s Luke Jones on yesterday’s Happy Hours show with Nestor, it doesn’t seem Showalter is leaning that way at this point.

When getting down to brass tacks, you’d have to think Gonzalez, who had started to finally find his groove before heading for a short trip to the DL, is a lock to return to the rotation.  In that same notion, if he has back-to-back solid outings against the two best clubs in the American League, it’s hard to imagine moving Gausman to the bullpen or sending him back to Norfolk.

Bud Norris is coming off of a combined shutout, as is Wei-Yin Chen who just recorded his seventh victory. They’re both safe.  Meaning, the true option, which is best for the ball club, is to move Ubaldo Jimenez to a long relief role.

Generally, when a pitcher struggles the way Jimenez has, it’s mechanical or possibly due to injury.  At seven losses and a ballooning ERA that’s now over the five-mark, it’s time to make some sort of change.

A change that isn’t a demotion, so to speak, but something that will allow Jimenez to spend time working out the kinks during bullpen sessions and contributing in non-critical game roles.

The other option is to find and injury and stick Jimenez on the DL; but that’s a short-sighted move, simply because like-it-or-not, he’s property of Baltimore for the next four years.  The time to figure out his issues are now, rather than shelf him and hope something magically changes.

Circling back, it’s impossible to take Gausman–who for all intents and purposes, has good enough stuff to finish the season as the ace of the staff–back to the minor leagues.

If he pitches well tonight, this should be it.  No more up-and-down, no more relief and spot start roles.  If Gausman looks anything like he did five days ago, he’s a mainstay that can be seen every fifth day in Baltimore.  Sure, it’s not really the best idea to send a $60 million pitcher to the pen, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for the club.

It’s complicated, but that’s a good thing.

 

 

Tony Wisniewski is the newest addition to the WNST staff.

Follow him @TonyWizTweets.

 

 

 

 

Comments (0)

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

Comments (0)

Not all 2012 similarities provide feel-good reminder for Orioles

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Not all 2012 similarities provide feel-good reminder for Orioles

Posted on 27 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Nearly two months into the 2014 season, the similarities are there between this year’s Orioles and the 2012 club that broke a streak of 14 straight losing seasons and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Contributions from unexpected heroes, a 5-1 record in extra-inning games, an 11-6 mark in one-run contests, and an ability to overcome a slew of injuries to this point are all themes reminiscent of two years ago. A bullpen that ranks fifth in the American League in earned run average and now appears stabilized — knock on wood — with Zach Britton stepping into the closer role appears to be emerging as a strength for manager Buck Showalter.

But another similarity to 2012 doesn’t make one feel inclined to print the playoff tickets just yet as the Orioles currently rank 11th in the American League in starter earned run average and tied for 13th in innings pitched by starters entering play on Tuesday. Two years ago, the Orioles ranked ninth in starter ERA and starter innings, but that improved ranking only came after substantial improvement in which they had the fifth-best ERA in the AL in the second half.

Of course, it didn’t take a shrewd prognosticator to anticipate struggles with the starting pitching this season, but the current state of the rotation still has an upside-down feel to it. Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez occupied the top two spots in the Opening Day rotation and have been the weakest — or, at least, the most frustrating — links through the first two months of the season. Jimenez’s inconsistency shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s paid close attention to his career and his unorthodox mechanics, but Tillman’s struggles after his first three starts of the season in which he posted a 0.84 ERA have become very alarming.

In his last eight starts, the 2013 All-Star selection has posted a 6.64 ERA, and that’s even including a complete-game shutout against Kansas City on May 16. What initially looked like a stretch of simple inconsistency is quickly becoming a long-term concern with Memorial Day now in the rear-view mirror and many fans wondering if the de facto ace is hiding an injury.

The 26-year-old right-hander has maintained he’s fine physically aside from some minor groin tightness a couple weeks back, but his fastball command has failed him, making it difficult to use his other pitches effectively. He’s walked 24 batters in his last 42 innings after walking only three in his first 21 1/3 innings of work in 2014.

Meanwhile, the trio of Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, and Wei-Yin Chen have pitched more effectively despite plenty of clamoring for upgrades to replace any combination of the three earlier this spring. Norris has quietly been the club’s best starter with a 3.83 ERA and has averaged more than six innings per outing, the only member of the rotation to do so.

Fans were screaming for Gonzalez to be removed from the rotation after he allowed 10 earned runs in his first two starts, but the right-hander has posted a strong 3.19 ERA since those horrific outings and has turned in three consecutive quality starts. Chen may cause plenty of nerves once he hits the 90-pitch mark in a given outing, but his 4.08 ERA is acceptable in the AL East.

Despite Norris, Gonzalez, and Chen keeping the rotation afloat while Tillman and Jimenez try to rebound from their poor starts, Showalter and the Orioles clearly need more from the starting pitching. It’s a common theme that played out in 2012 — when Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter occupied the top two spots in the Opening Day rotation — before Tillman and Gonzalez provided second-half shots in the arm to a rotation that improved over the course of a 93-win campaign.

Making changes may prove more complicated this time around as Tillman’s track record suggests Showalter will continue running him to the hill every fifth day — and he probably should for the time being. Of course, there are 50 million reasons why you shouldn’t expect Jimenez’s spot to be in any real jeopardy despite a 4.98 ERA, and you simply hope he discovers one of his customary hot stretches at the right time in what’s been a consistently inconsistent career.

But it’d be difficult to convince anyone that the Orioles will make the postseason with the same five starting pitchers in their rotation all year. Reinforcements will be necessary as they are for any team in any season.

At this point, it appears that 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman and veteran reclamation project Johan Santana are the most likely candidates to receive opportunities.

Putting aside an ill-advised call-up to start on three days’ rest earlier this month, Gausman remains the crown jewel of the minor-league system and is still expected to be a contributor for a large portion of the 2014 season. His 2.41 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A Norfolk has kept him on the fast track to Baltimore, but it remains to be seen if his slider has developed enough to make him the kind of pitcher that can go through a lineup three times in a given night.

The most intriguing pitcher to watch over the next couple weeks will be Santana, who appeared to be nothing more than a lottery ticket the Orioles purchased in spring training as he was recovering from a second surgery on his left shoulder. His fastball velocity is now in the high 80s — about where it was with the New York Mets — giving him the desired 10-miles-per-hour difference with his famous changeup that the Orioles feel is necessary to be successful.

The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner completed his final extended spring training start on Monday and has an opt-out clause that can be used at the end of the month, but he’s expected to be assigned to a minor-league affiliate with the potential to receive a shot in the Baltimore rotation in the not-too-distant future. Reports and results from Sarasota have been favorable on the 35-year-old, but there’s no way of knowing whether his health or current stuff will hold up at the major league level.

Even with all the feel-good comparisons to the 2012 Orioles tossed about by media and fans alike, this year’s club knows it needs better starting pitching to stay afloat in what’s been a mediocre AL East this season. Their best hopes are with Tillman or Jimenez — preferably both — to reverse their early-season struggles, but the Orioles will inevitably need to lean on reinforcements because of injuries or ineffectiveness at some point.

Those reinforcements worked in 2012, but it remains to be seen if that’s another trend that will resurface for the Orioles.

Comments (0)