Baltimore Orioles: Tommy gets hunted
Prior to last night’s 6-2 loss at Toronto manager Buck Showalter announced that outfielder Endy Chavez would be activated following a few rehab games, and would be in Toronto tonight. Prevailing wisdom says that either Steve Tolleson or Xavier Avery will probably be sent back to the minors in the corresponding roster move since Stu Pomeranz is already on the DL (the Orioles had been carrying an extra reliever since the last round of roster moves). After Tommy Hunter’s outing last night, it’s tough to say what’s going to happen. Hunter’s final line: 3 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 0 BB, 0K.
I suppose if you’re looking for a silver lining it would be the fact that he didn’t walk anybody. However that might be due to the fact that Toronto was swinging away from the beginning, and Hunter didn’t have much pizzazz or late movement on any of his pitches. At one point during the game I tweeted that the bats were sitting there waiting for Hunter’s pitches; that’s certainly what it looked like at times. Kelly Johnson set the tone for the evening with a lead-off double in the first inning, and he was promptly plated by Colby Rasmus’ single. If you want to win games you can’t give teams extra outs, and that’s what the Orioles did in the third when first baseman Chris Davis dropped a routine throw from third allowing Jose Bautista to reach base. Hunter served up a home run ball to Juan Encarnacion in the next at-bat.
If there was one bright spot for the Birds (aside from Adam Jones continuing his hit streak to 19 games), it was Dana Eveland. After Hunter served up his second homer in the 4th inning, Buck Showalter brought in Eveland almost cold from the bullpen. That in itself tells me that Hunter might not necessarily be too much longer for the big league roster. However Eveland was very effective out of the ‘pen. He pitched three innings giving up three walks and striking out two. Unlike Hunter, his pitches did have that late movement and you could almost see the Toronto hitters wondering where their beach ball-like pitches right to their bats had gone. I was especially impressed with his breaking ball, which froze several hitters for strike one in several at-bats. Eveland’s outing from the ‘pen undoubtedly kept a few arms fresh for the rest of the series.
It’s also fair to mention that Mark Reynolds went 2-for-3 in his first game back off the DL. Perhaps more importantly, he worked the count in each of his at-bats. As for Hunter, I don’t want to be overly harsh on the guy. I do recognize that it wasn’t his idea for the game to unfold like this. The question is whether or not this is a mechanical problem or perhaps something behind the seams. My vote would be mechanics; as I said, Hunter’s pitches appeared to be flat, and thus special deliveries right to the hitters’ bats. Toronto appeared to have done a good job of scouting Hunter and the O’s for this game, because they were swinging early and often. As I said, once Eveland (and later Kevin Gregg, who did a good job pitching in the 9th inning) came in you could almost see the Toronto hitters saying “no fair!”
Whether or not the corresponding roster move once Chavez arrives involves Tommy Hunter going to the minors remains to be seen today. Buck Showalter might even go ahead and make the move with a position player as was probably the plan from the beginning. The O’s have an off day on Thursday and again on Monday, so they don’t need a fifth starter for the time being. Furthermore, at some point in the near future I have a feeling that Zach Britton will be ready to come back to the team, which will create the need for another roster move. Keep in mind that I’m only speculating that Hunter will get sent back down at some point, however it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Showalter utilize the off day(s) and in effect use a four-man rotation. Then when Britton is ready Hunter would be sent to Norfolk.
The series with Toronto continues tonight as the Birds send Jake Arrieta to the mound, who’s also in need of a quality start. To that point, let’s even forget quality starts; Arrieta needs to put the Orioles in a position to win the game tonight. They’ve now tied their season-long losing streak at three games, and I’m sure that they don’t want to set a new mark this evening. We do have to remember that all teams will go through a stretch or two like this, so it’s important not to overreact. However the quicker you get that stop-gap win the more you minimize these kinds of streaks. Arrieta will be opposed by Ricky Romero, who’s given the Orioles fits over time. However Romero is struggling right now also despite his 5-1 record. In his previous start in Tampa, Romero issued a career-high seven walks. The team might want to study Mark Reynolds’ at-bats last night and try to duplicate them because it appears that Romero is having trouble not issuing free passes. If you take enough pitches, eventually Romero’s going to get frustrated and make a bad mistake that could end up over the outfield wall.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala