Buck Showalter leaning toward carrying 11 pitchers in ALDS and other notes

(Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY…)
September 24, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK – Orioles manager Buck Showalter will meet with his staff Monday to decide the team’s roster for the American League Division Series. In the meantime, he still wants to get some final looks at players before making those choices.

Showalter said he’s leaning toward carrying 11 pitchers in the best-of-five series, but he hadn’t made that decision.

He’s also leaning toward starting right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Whoever starts that game likely won’t pitch too long, because Showalter wants to use some of the relievers he'll have on the playoff roster to make sure they don’t have more than three days off before the postseason starts.

There is a competition for the final few infield spots on the playoff roster. Today, Showalter will get a glimpse of Steve Clevenger at first base. It will be Clevenger’s first start at first base this season and his first start overall since Aug. 28. 

Nelson Cruz, who will be the starting designated hitter today, said he didn’t think he’d be able to hit 40 homers before the season began, but he said staying healthy has been the key to having a career season at age 34.

“No shot,” he said when asked if he thought at the beginning of the year he’d hit 40. “I was able to do that number. I didn’t expect 40, the number. I think the aim for any player is to stay healthy, play as many games as he can, stay on the field. That was my main goal, to try and stay healthy, to try to put up numbers. I was able to put up the numbers. My main concern was to stay healthy.”

With his 40th homer in the Orioles’ 5-4 win Tuesday, Cruz became the sixth Orioles player to reach that milestone in a season. He joined Chris Davis (53 in 2013), Brady Anderson (50 in 1996), Frank Robinson (49 in 1966), Jim Gentile (46 in 1961) and Rafael Palmeiro (43 in 1998).

“Any time you make history with that type of performance, especially with this team, it has lots of history, and it’s been here for a while, that makes it special,” Cruz said.

After hitting just .213 in July and August, Cruz is hitting .360/.400/.640 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 22 games this month.

“It’s the same routine with everything I do since day one,” Cruz said. "I guess you put a little more effort into tough situations and try to stay focused for the end of the season and the start of the playoff drive.”

-- Right-hander Chris Tillman said he was honored to be named the Orioles’ starter in Game 1 of the ALDS.

“It means a lot,” Tillman said. “I’m excited about it, looking forward to it. I still got one more start to go, so I’m pretty focused on that. But at the same time, I know it means a lot to the team, means a lot to me and hopefully get us going in the right direction.”

The Orioles have won each of Tillman’s last 11 starts, and Tillman is 6-0 in August and September, all from a pitcher who didn’t pitch in the postseason in 2012.

Tillman said it doesn’t matter who he will face in the ALDS. The Orioles are currently slotted to face the winner of the AL Central, where the Detroit Tigers hold a one-game lead over the Kansas City Royals.

“Yeah we still don’t know, got a couple more games I guess to go,” Tillman said. “It is what it is. It’s just another baseball game to us, just the stakes go up a little higher.”

-- With a win this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles will improve to 46-26 against the American League East, marking the first time they will be 20 games over .500 against the division. They haven’t finished that well against the division since 1980, when they were 49-29 against the AL East.

-- Right-hander Bud Norris has had his share of success against the division. He is 8-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 13 starts against the AL East. The Orioles are 12-1 in those games. His .889 winning percentage against the AL East is the best in the major leagues among all pitchers with eight or more starts.

-- The Orioles have three pitchers with 13 wins this season -- Chen (16), Norris (14) and Tillman (13) -- equaling the number of 13-game winners they’ve had the past eight years combined (Tillman last year and Erik Bedard in 2006 and 2007).

-- With his 36th save last night, closer Zach Britton became the eighth left-hander in AL history to record 36 or more saves. He’s the third Orioles left-hander to do that, joining Randy Myers (45) in 1997 and B.J. Ryan (36) in 2005.

Here are today’s starting lineups:

Orioles

Nick Markakis RF
David Lough LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Steve Clevenger 1B
Jimmy Paredes 3B
Kelly Johnson 2B
Ryan Flaherty SS
Caleb Joseph C
Bud Norris RHP

Yankees

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter DH
Chase Headley 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Francisco Cervelli C
Stephen Drew 2B
Chris Young LF
Antoan Richadson RF
Brendan Ryan SS
Shane Greene RHP

eencina@baltsun.com

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