Orioles' starting pitching depth will be an asset this month

Orioles will have up to eight options to choose from for the stretch run

September 05, 2012|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO — With Jason Hammel rejoining the Orioles on Thursday and given the fact that Chris Tillman has yet to be scratched from his next start, I asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter  about the concept of going to a six-man rotation for the stretch run.

He quickly shook his head, lost on the term "rotation." Having numbers is good. Adding pitchers like Steve Johnson and perhaps Jake Arrieta to a mix that already included Hammel, Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton, Joe Saunders and Miguel Gonzalez can help the Orioles reach their ultimate goal – the playoffs.

“We haven’t had this problem before,” Showalter told me. ”We don’t look at it as a problem. We look at it as a strength.”

So now, it’s figuring out how to give each guy his shot.

The most important factor will be giving Chen and Gonzalez an extra day of rest here and there. Chen, who has thrown 163 2/3 innings this season, has never pitched more than 188 innings in six-man rotations in Japan. And Gonzalez, who is at 118 innings between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk, hasn’t thrown this many innings since coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2009.

If there’s any doubt that Tillman, who has an inflamed ulnar nerve in his elbow, is not ready, the addition of Hammel – and the pushing back of Chen to Friday to give him an extra day – puts Joe Saunders and Zach Britton in line to pitch on normal rest Saturday and Sunday, respectively, before Monday’s off day.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Showalter, it’s that he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to finding different situational splits on his players. So he will utiliize all of his research in finding spot starts for each of his arms, including Johnson as well as Arrieta, who could be recalled as early as Thursday.

“We’ve got options to pick from, and we’ll continue to look,” Showalter said. “We’ve looked at a lot of different angles from where they pitch well at, to how they pitch with ‘X’ number of days off, which team they match up well with. We’ll continue to do that with the 20-some remaining games we’ve got.”

So Showalter’s right. We shouldn’t call it a rotation. I’m not quite sure what the accurate term is. But whatever it is, it’s working.

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