Baltimore Orioles: What to do about the pitching


We could analyze in depth what happened in yesterday’s Baltimore Orioles loss to San Diego, but an 8-4 score speaks for itself in a way. The game started well enough, with Everth Carbrera swinging at the first pitch and grounding out. However San Diego put across two runs in the second, and added on from there. J.J. Hardy’s home run in the second brought the O’s to within 2-1, and Matt Wieters’ sixth inning homer brought them to within 4-2. That’s about as close as it got, for as I said it seemed that San Diego was intent to keep adding on runs. One bright spot was Manny Machado, who continued raking the ball to every corner of the field. Machado went 4-for-5, with seven total bases and three doubles.

The starting pitching is starting to become an issue with the Birds however, and one has to wonder what might happen with this team in the immediate future. Of the Orioles’ starters on Opening Day, only two (Jason Hammel and Chris Tillman)of the five remain in the rotation. Hammel’s struggled a bit here and there, but overall he’s been fairly solid. Tillman’s probably been the most consistent pitcher the Orioles have had thus far, which certainly is to his credit. However Jake Arrieta’s currently in the minors again, and Miguel Gonzalez & Wei-Yin Chen are on the DL. (Gonzalez will throw a simulated game at Camden Yards tomorrow, and if that goes well he could in theory come off the DL on Sunday.)

Let’s be fair about criticizing the Orioles’ starting pitching situation; only Arrieta is no longer with the big league club due to ineffectiveness. Once the season starts injuries are tough to control. However the rhetoric is that Chen and Gonzalez are not currently eligible to play. So that leaves the Orioles with the likes of Freddy Garcia, and Jair Jurrjens (who’s expected to be called up to make tomorrow’s start). Again, let’s be fair; Jurrjens might well come up to the Orioles and make a huge impact. It’s just not something we can properly gauge until he gets here.

That aside, the pitching depth that Dan Duquette has stockpiled has been pressed into use. And the fact is that it probably hasn’t worked out quite as well as many people thought it should have. I italicized and emboldened that word because I feel that there’s a thought that the depth should be as good as the everyday starters. Are backup quarterbacks in the NFL as good as starters? If they were, they’d be starting someplace. The same is true even of relief pitchers; if they were capable of being starters, they would be. Nevertheless, it might be unfair for people to think that Freddy Garcia or Josh Stinson was going to come up here and “kill it.”

Nevertheless, there’s good news and bad news on the horizon with regard to Orioles’ pitching. The good news is the aforementioned nugget that Gonzalez could be coming off the DL. The Orioles will potentially need another starter on Tuesday against NY, and the thought is that it’ll be Gonzalez if he’s able to throw in that simulated game without reopening the blister on his hand. The bad news is that Tuesday’s starter would basically be an add-on. In other words, whomever that guy ends up being is not on the roster right now. So odds are the corresponding roster move would be sending someone else back to Norfolk. I suppose my point is that if you’re tired of Freddy Garcia, bringing Gonzalez back wouldn’t simply be inserting him in place of Garcia. Gonzalez would in essence be the #5 starter.

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The fear is that Chen might be out for as much as six weeks. If that’s the case, the Orioles might be at a bit of a crossroads. I have no doubt that Garcia is trying as hard as he possibly can, and for sure he had Anaheim’s number in his first start. However whether or not he’s a long-term serviceable starter is another story. (Garcia’s line yesterday: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K.) That’s where the Orioles find themselves at a bit of a crossroads. Arrieta and Zach Britton are getting beaten around a bit at triple-A, and Steve Johnson still has to remain in the minors for another week or so after being sent down on Sunday morning. (Whether or not he would be in the mix to be called up is another story.) Many fans love to throw out Kevin Gausman’s name as a guy that could help the club. My vote would be negatory there. Is it really worth risking a potential future star to make ends meet now?

My thought process would be to look for a potential trade for a starting pitcher that would be able to go into the rotation immediately. (And in doing so it should go without saying that the likes of Gausman and Dylan Bundy would be off the table.) If you read from time to time, you know that Philadelphia might be looking to deal a starter at some point. If you’re the Orioles, there’s no time like the present. Is something going to happen imminently? Odds are against it. However these have to be conversations that are being held on daily basis’ y Dan Duquette.

Ultimately, the O’s just need to play better baseball than they did against San Diego moving forward. Some teams just have your number; as the Kansas City Royals when they play the O’s, or ask Duke about playing Maryland (basketball). The good news is that you’re only as good as your next day’s starter, and after an off day today the Orioles have Jason Hammel going tomorrow against Tampa.