Yesterday I talked about how Jake Arrieta stepped up in his start on Thursday and took a big step towards claiming the fifth spot in the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation. Yesterday it was Steve Johnson‘s turn; Johnson looked decent, however he did have one poor inning in which he gave up three runs. Buck Showalter recognized this after the game, and he also said he knew it was uncharacteristic of Johnson. However whether it’s Arrieta, Brian Matusz, or Zach Britton (who had a fairly poor outing earlier in the week), we’ve seen all of these pitchers look very good at times. And we’ve seen them also look lost; so which is it?
I suppose my point is that as improved and as solid as this Orioles’ rotation is going to be, the back of the rotation is going to have a hole or two. It’s also worth mentioning that all of these players are only human; fans cannot expect the world from them in each outing. Translated, I’m telling you that nobody’s perfect. I know, earth-shattering news…right?! However let’s not forget that Arrieta was last season’s opening day starter, and eventually he was sent down to triple-A. I’m sure that Arrieta (or whomever wins the #5 starter job) doesn’t want that to happen this year. But again, which pitcher shows up every fifth day?
I would submit that the likes of Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz are in essence victims of circumstance. While Arrieta was held back in the minors a bit longer, both were probably rushed to the big leagues a bit too early. I don’t necessarily want to blame Dave Trembley and Andy MacPhail for this, however they do share some of that blame. I believe that Trembley probably knew that he was on a very short leash from the day he was given the job as manager of the Orioles. He felt that bringing up what was known as “the cavalry” might have bought him some time. Instead these guys were brought up before they should have been, and inconsistency has been the result. In fairness to Trembley (and MacPhail), the state of the Orioles’ minor league system in terms of the quality of instructors is much better now than it was at that time. Chris Tillman was in the same boat in that he was probably brought up too early. However after spending more time in the minors up until the middle of last season, he’s seemed to work those issues out.
The purpose here is not to point at Trembley and MacPhail, because I do believe that they tried as hard as they could with what they were given to succeed. I just don’t think they had the horses that the franchise has now. One benefit of this exercise with choosing a #5 starter is that whomever that person is will know that he has two or three guys at Norfolk nipping at his heels. With Arrieta it’s all about fastball command; does he have it on a consistent basis? With Britton it’s all about his two-seamer; is it sinking as opposed to staying up? And with Matusz it’s about keeping his walks down.
I would hope that Buck Showalter has an idea of who’s winning the competition at this point, but he’s certainly not saying. I wouldn’t expect an announcement of that sort until late next week or so. Let’s keep in mind that whomever this fifth starter is will not pitch until two weeks from tonight against Minnesota at Camden Yards. But the Orioles will get there, and I’m sure that when he announces who it’s going to be Buck Showalter will have an array of technical reasons for his decision. This afternoon’s game against Philadelphia in Sarasota is another opportunity for fans to see the 2013 Orioles before the curtain comes up, as it’s being shown on MASN at 1 PM.