Orioles temporarily, at least, go to six-man rotation

Tillman to start Sunday against Rays

September 03, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

With the pending recall of Triple-A starter Chris Tillman, the Orioles are, at least temporarily, going to a six-man rotation.

Tillman, who is 1-4 with a 7.92 ERA in six starts with the Orioles this season, is headed to Baltimore and will pitch Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, pushing the rotation back one slot.

So Brian Matusz, originally scheduled to face the Rays at Camden Yards, will now pitch against New York at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Jake Arrieta, who was supposed to start that game, will instead throw Tuesday and Brad Bergesen will pitch Wednesday in the Orioles last 2010 game in the Bronx.

The Orioles have an off day Thursday and then Kevin Millwood will pitch on six-days' rest against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Friday. That will begin a stint of starters resting for six days in between starts instead of the usual four.

Tillman, who was 11-7 with a 3.34 ERA in 21 starts for the Tides this season, will be on regular rest Sunday, before the next three starters throw on five-days' rest. The rotation mix is further complicated because the Orioles have off days Thursday, on Sept. 16 and on Sept. 23.

"Yeah, a little bit. This time of year you like to stay in a routine as much as possible with pitchers," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's more of just, 'Get a ball in your hand and work out the kinks a little bit.' There are adjustments you can make to [six-days' rest] to make it pretty seamless. During the year, there are many times when guys go with an extra day, too. But it's not necessarily a perfect situation, but there are some benefits from it, too."

The club has kicked around implementing a six-man rotation for a while so Showalter could further evaluate certain pitchers while limiting the innings of the young hurlers.

Currently, Arrieta is at 161 total innings between Triple-A and the Orioles, which is 10 1/3 higher than his previous best; Matusz, who has only pitched in the majors this year, is seven innings short of matching last year's pro debut of 157 2/3 innings; Bergesen is 14 innings short of his pro high of 165 1/3 in 2008; Tillman has logged 146 1/3 innings this year between the Orioles and the Tides, which is about 15 innings shy of his top, 161 2/3 in 2009.

"I would keep in mind where Jake and Bergy and Matusz are with their innings," Showalter said about the potential duration of the six-man rotation. "That would affect how we go some. I think we feel good with Guthrie and Millwood and obviously we would monitor Tillman's innings too. [But] I don't want them pitching thinking, 'This is my last start. This is my next to last start. I am going to be finished.'"

Showalter said the club has developed several scenarios, but has to see how they play out.

"We have made it out for the month, we have made it out for the week, we have made it out for two days and we have already adjusted it some as we go," he said.

Showalter also would like to get Rick VandenHurk, who will be out of options next spring, into the rotation before season's end. That, Showalter said, becomes more possible when David Hernandez returns to the bullpen. Hernandez (ankle) will pitch one inning Saturday and Monday at Double-A Bowie before eventually returning to the big-league bullpen.

It's also possible the Orioles could recall another reliever or two to the team this month besides Hernandez, but that, too, is undecided.

"That can change. We have had a couple [games] where we used a lot of guys," he said. "I don't see it immediately, but it could change."

Jones out again

Center fielder Adam Jones was out of the starting lineup due to a left shoulder injury that has forced him to miss seven of the club's last nine games.

Jones's shoulder was injected with cortisone on Thursday and he is still being considered "day-to-day," Showalter said.

Originally hurt on Aug. 24, when he was plunked in the back by Gavin Floyd pitch, Jones missed five games before playing Tuesday. He left Wednesday's game after re-aggravating the injury on a swing. The pain intensified and moved more toward his shoulder, he said.

"It's a little sore but I am feeling better," Jones said on Friday. "I should play in the series, probably [Saturday]."

Corey Patterson, who was unavailable Thursday with a sore neck, started in center field Friday. Because Patterson is able to play, it's less likely that the Orioles will call up a minor-league outfielder, something that was a growing consideration Thursday.

"There's nothing imminent there," Showalter said.

One possibility, Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Matt Angle, is currently injured with a right pinkie strain.

Showalter addresses Bell's lapses

In Thursday's third inning, Orioles rookie third baseman Josh Bell fielded a grounder by Boston Marco Scutaro and stepped on third for the inning's final out. Bell then continued to throw to first, surprising Ty Wigginton, who attempted to field and, subsequently, missed the bouncing, unnecessary throw.

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