Orioles are in a tough spot with scuffling Pedro Strop

Reliever is out of options, so expect team to ride him for the time being

June 12, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

Forget the goofy way he wears his cap — Pedro Strop has bigger issues to deal with right now.

But before Orioles fans jump all over him and the Twitterverse smacks him around like a pinata for days, know this: he's probably not going anywhere.

At least not right now.

Not with that blazing fastball and the great arsenal of pitches that can make batters look silly when he's going well.

Not with the fact that he's out of options and that the Orioles need all the relief help they can get.

Yes, Strop looked awful again Wednesday in the Orioles' ugly 9-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

He came on in relief of Jason Hammel in the seventh inning with two on and none out and promptly turned a smoldering trashcan fire into a four-alarm blaze.

To recap the ugliness, it went like this: Single off Strop's glove by Hank Conger; bases-clearing triple by Erick Aybar, who scored on Ryan Flaherty's throwing error; walk to J.B. Shuck one batter later; then a homer on an 0-2 pitch to struggling Albert Pujols, who limped around the bases like a 70-year-old with two knee replacements.

That was enough for Buck Showalter, who practically sprinted to the mound to yank Strop and bring in Troy Patton.

Then Strop made the long, lonely walk to the dugout amid a thunderous chorus of boos, which probably didn't help his frame of mind, either.

"He's just not getting results," Showalter said. "He understands it. Nobody cares more about pitching well for this team than Pete."

Strop, a stand-up guy who normally sticks around to take his grilling from the media after bad outings, gave the world's shortest postgame interview for MASN's postgame show. Then he was gone before the rest of the media appeared in the clubhouse.

Maybe this time he wanted to beat himself up in front of as few reporters as possible, which is always a good idea if you can get away with it.

"Not good," he said when asked to sum up his outing. "Only thing I can say. I couldn't do the job."

He was equally succinct about the pitch to Aybar that essentially gift-wrapped the win for the Angels, who are an absolute mess right now (28-38, fourth place in the American League West) despite having the third-highest payroll in baseball.

"I was trying to go down and away, and I missed down and in," Strop said. "A happy zone for lefties."

If you're the Orioles, what do you do with Strop now?

Yes, he's struggled all year. But again, he's out of options, so he's not going back to the minors. If they designate him for assignment, they'd have 10 days to trade him or release him or see if he clears waivers. And with his stuff, there's not much chance of that happening.

The more likely scenario is that the Orioles stick with him, at least for a while longer, and hope he comes out of this funk.

He just came off the disabled list Saturday after that mysterious "lower back strain" that felt more like an ERA strain. A trip to the DL seemed like a perfect way for the Orioles to get him to clear his head and work on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Adair.

But if that was the plan, it didn't work so well.

Now, after this disaster against the Angels in his first real pressurized outing since he's been back, the Orioles need to figure out what to do with him going forward.

I'd look for Showalter to use him in as many low-pressure situations as possible until he starts making better pitches and gets his confidence back.

On the other hand, a manager can't always do that when he's trying to win in the toughest division in baseball.

When asked Wednesday if he'd hesitate to put Strop in a tight situation again with runners on, Showalter shrugged.

"We can't pitch the same guys every night," he said, meaning yeah, he might have to use Strop in that scenario.

Sure, Strop is definitely the fans' punching bag right now.

But so was shortstop J.J. Hardy when he got off to that the awful start and batted .191 in his first 30 games.

So was closer Jim Johnson not long ago, when he blew a few saves and Orioles fans were calling for his head.

Maybe Strop can turn it around, too. The Orioles need his power arm in the late innings as a bridge to Johnson in the ninth.

That's why the Orioles will give him every chance to pitch like the Pedro Strop of last season.

They really don't have much choice.



Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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