After giving up six runs in a loss to Toronto in his final appearance before the All-Star break, Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel said he was going to remove himself as far away from baseball as possible.
So the 30-year-old spent time with his family, went to the beach and played golf before returning to the Orioles to start the second half of the season.
And while his first start Tuesday at Kansas City didn’t quite go as he wanted — three runs on 10 hits for another loss — Hammel is confident he can return to the form he showed in 2012 when he posted a 3.43 ERA. Getting away from the game for the break was just the first step.
“You got to have that, whether you’re having a good season or something not up to par,” Hammel said Saturday. “You have to get a little bit away from the game, just to decompress and kind of refresh it. It’s not that you don’t love the game that much, but your body needs a little bit of a break, your mind needs a little bit of a break too.”
Hammel, the Orioles’ opening day starter, has quickly fallen from the rotation’s top pitcher to its biggest question mark. He hasn’t won a decision since May 27 at Washington, and since that victory, he is 0-5 with a 5.47 ERA, and opponents are batting .292 against him. His record went from 7-2 to 7-7.
The Orioles offense hasn’t helped Hammel much, either. In his first 11 starts, the Orioles were averaging 7.09 runs per game. In the nine starts since May 27, the Orioles are plating just three runs per game. After scoring at least five runs in 10 of those 11 starts, the Orioles have reached that mark just twice in the past two months with Hammel on the mound.
“Well, the end product was pretty good at Kansas City,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’d be the first to tell you they squared some things up. We just didn’t swing the bats very well. That outing may have been looked at differently if we’d swung the bats a little bit better.”
The performance of the other Orioles starters has magnified Hammel’s struggles, too. Right-hander Chris Tillman made the All-Star Game and pitched seven shutout innings in Friday’s win over Boston. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez had a lengthy string of quality starts until it was snapped in Kansas City. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has steadied the rotation since his return from an injury, and right-hander Scott Feldman was a solid acquisition via trade.
“You could go around baseball, and I challenge you to find five starters with the exception of maybe Tampa Bay that are reeling it off every time out there,” Showalter said. “Hammel wants to and he can, but it’s hard to do. Starting pitching in the American League East is hard to do. That’s what makes it remarkable when you see good outings, especially when you’re so familiar with each other.”
Showalter said he expects each of Hammel’s starts to be the one where the right-hander kicks off a streak of quality outings. It hasn’t happened yet, but both Showalter and Hammel are expecting it to be soon.
“Sometimes you have a bad run,” Hammel said. “Sometimes you have a great run. If you’re worried about proving yourself over and over again, you’re just going to get in your own way. I’m in the big leagues for a reason, and that’s because I have quality stuff and I’m here to compete. It’s not like I doubt myself or I’m not confident, but it’s a matter of minimizing the damage and making sure I’m going about it the right way, not trying to do too much.”
Hoes expected to be called up
Outfielder L.J. Hoes is headed to Baltimore and will most likely be activated for Sunday’s Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox, according to a source.
Hoes, rated as the No. 6 prospect in the organization by Baseball America, is batting .304 with a .406 on-base percentage in 99 games for Triple-A Norfolk this season. He has more walks (58) than strikeouts (56) to go with 29 extra-base hits. After batting .281 in April and May, Hoes has batted .327 since the start of June.
The 23-year-old made his major-league debut Sept. 25, 2012 and appeared in two games with one at-bat for the Orioles. He had a .300/.374/.397 slash line in 82 games with the Tides in 2012. He was a third-round pick in the 2008 draft out of St. John’s High School in Washington.
It’s expected he will take the place of a pitcher on the roster. The Orioles currently have only three players on their bench — Ryan Flaherty, Alexi Casilla and Taylor Teagarden.