It’s difficult to tell what Baltimore Orioles’ fans are more concerned about; Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Davis, or last night’s 4-0 loss in Anaheim. I would submit that the latter of those three items is the least of anyone’s concern. With two outs in the fifth inning last night Chris Davis tried to beat out a ground ball at first base and he pulled up lame down the right field line after crossing the bag. Davis was in obvious discomfort, and once Buck Showalter and trainer Richie Bancells got him back into the dugout he appeared to be putting no pressure on his right knee. Davis was lifted from the game and Ryan Flaherty was brought in at first base.
Starter Miguel Gonzalez recorded a quality start, although he also took the loss on the night. Gonzalez’s line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K. The zero walks is an extremely positive sign; personally I felt that Gonzalez’s breaking pitches were deadly last night. However Gonzalez was lifted after only six innings and 80 pitches; after the game Buck Showalter said that Gonzalez had ripped a blister off his right thumb. That puts Gonzalez’s next start in jeapardy, although the Orioles do have an off day Monday which might allow them to tweak the rotation a bit to push Gonzalez back. They could also just skip him if need be.
Gonzalez was hurt by the long ball, as Mark Trumbo sent a solo shot over the wall in the second inning, and Mike Trout hit a two-run homer in the fifth. In fact, the pitch to Trout was low and away, and Trout had to reach for it; that speaks more to Trout’s strength and power than to Gonzalez’s pitching ability. At best one could say that wasn’t a bad pitch; at worst it certainly wasn’t a pitch one would think would end up in the outfield grandstand. Oriole bats couldn’t get anything going whatsoever against Jason Vargas, who pitched a complete game and held the Orioles to only three hits. They only got a runner to third base once, and Jones was caught in a rundown after running on contact on a grounder in the infield. The lone bright spot in the game for the Orioles (other than Jones and Nick Markakis‘ doubles) was Pedro Strop, who pitched the final 1.1 innings and struck out two. Granted this was a bit of a low pressure situation since the Birds already trailed, however it’s worth noting that Strop looked very good.
Take your pick as to whether Davis or Gonazlez is the bigger concern right now. Davis is expected to have an MRI sometime this morning, however based on seeing the injury and his reaction to it the potential exists that he might have to go to the DL. Steve Pearce is considered the Orioles’ backup first baseman, however given that he was the DH last night Showalter didn’t want to switch him to first (requiring the Orioles to insert their pitchers into the batting order for the second time in a week). While Ryan Flaherty finished the game at first base last night however, I would expect Pearce to get most of the reps at first if Davis has to miss any substantial amount of time. (It is worth noting that while he wasn’t tested with any difficult plays, Flaherty played a decent first base.) It also matters who the Orioles bring up to take Davis’ roster spot if in fact he ends up on the DL. Travis Ishikawa is the first baseman in Norfolk for what that’s worth.
Presuming at at the very least Davis is out for today’s game, that presents Buck Showalter with an interesting dilema. Normally it’s presumed that Matt Wieters would have been on the bench this afternoon given that it’s a day game after a night game. However the Orioles will be without a considerable amount of power given that Davis will be out of the lineup; I suppose it’s possible that Showalter would end up playing Wieters (or at least DHing him) so as not to lose his bat in the lineup today as well. Most catchers also seem to gravitate towards first base, especially later in their careers. Could Wieters see some time there if Davis is going to be out more than just a few days?
These are all questions that Buck Showalter has to be asking himself. He also has to be asking himself what the Orioles will do if this blister issue sends Miguel Gonzalez to the DL. That might not be as big of a problem given the amount of pitching depth that the Orioles have in their system. But you never want to lose guys to injuries, especially given that Davis and Gonzalez were the second and third Orioles to go down during this road trip. (Taylor Teagarden was sent to the DL after being hit in the throwing hand with a foul ball, causing a sprain.)
As Showalter said after Nick Markakis’ season was ended last year after being hit by a pitch against NY, the Orioles are a “sum of the parts team.” That means that if Davis heads to the DL, they’re going to have to find a way to win without him. That sounds great to say, but in practice it’s a lot tougher. However whomever takes his spot on a day-to-day basis will just have to dig in and work the count the way he would, and try to consistently get on base. That’s what good teams do when guys go down.
The series continues this afternoon as the Orioles will call up Freddy Garcia to make the start, his first of the season at this level. Garcia will be opposed by Anaheim’s Tommy Hanson. Today’s game will begin at 4 PM eastern time, and be shown by FOX.