Wright, Gausman, Matusz and the roster domino effect - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Wright, Gausman, Matusz and the roster domino effect

Wright_Mike_04192016_15
Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Mike Wright recorded a quality start Tuesday night against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays, allowing three runs in six innings.

He struggled early, but settled down, allowing six hits and three walks while keeping his team in the game. A solid performance.

And Wright needed that, because Kevin Gausman pitches Wednesday night for Triple-A Norfolk at Charlotte in what could be his final rehab assignment.

If Gausman is back with the Orioles for his next turn in the rotation, someone will have to go.

“We’re trying to win games, so with Kevin coming back, that’s only a positive,” said Wright, who is 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts. “I think I’m giving my team a chance to win. If a move has to be made, it has to be made. But I think we’re all out here trying to win.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t putting Gausman back into the rotation just yet. At least that’s what the skipper was saying Tuesday. He wants Gausman throw five to six effective innings Wednesday, last about 90 pitches and see no lingering effects of the right shoulder tendinitis that landed him on the disabled list before the season began.

“I want to see how he feels and what our people there think and, ‘Is he better than what we have?’” Showalter said. “We know he has the potential to be here and contribute, potentially the rest of the season. Let’s see how tomorrow night goes in Charlotte.”

If it goes well, you have to think Gausman makes his next start for the Orioles, which would line up for the series in Tampa Bay from April 25 to 27.

I asked Showalter if there was a chance Gausman could come back to the big league bullpen, and his answer was one that could use a little, between-the-line reading.

“Right now, everything is in play until we get through (Wednesday),” he said. “But we know how we’d like for it to work out, but we’ll see.”

In other words, no.

So if Gausman is in the rotation, then what?

Well, Wright either stays in the rotation – or he is in the minors starting every fifth day. They wouldn’t bump him to the bullpen.

Vance Worley, however, would more easily fit into a relief role. And he can’t be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. The Orioles have liked what Worley has given them so far, so he is staying with the big league club, one would think.

So if Gausman forces Worley out of the rotation instead of Wright, then somebody has to come out of the bullpen. Really, two somebodies.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz (intercostal strain) threw four innings on injury rehab assignment Tuesday for High-A Frederick and was dominant. He allowed one hit and struck out nine in four scoreless innings. He’ll join the Orioles for their upcoming road trip and likely will be activated before Friday’s game at Kansas City.

Showalter said Matusz likely would go back to his lefty specialist role and probably wouldn’t pitch in long relief.

So, given all this, if Wright and Gausman are in the rotation, two relievers are going to be sent out to make room for Gausman’s and Matusz’s return. That’s two from a likely group of the following three: Tyler Wilson, T.J. McFarland and Mychal Givens – all of whom have minor league options remaining.

My guess is if Wright stays, Wilson will get sent down even though he has the best ERA of all of them. Norfolk’s rotation isn’t strong and there is real value in having Wilson start every fifth day, so he can be stretched out and ready to join the rotation if the need arises.

With an all right-handed rotation, Showalter loves having the lefty McFarland available to come in and piggyback a struggling right-hander. Givens is definitely a weapon, but he could be demoted if Showalter feels the need to keep two relievers better suited to pitch multiple innings.

Showalter quipped that he doesn’t need long relievers if, “we get six or seven innings out of our starters.”

But we all know this rotation isn’t built for that every day (very few are). So this was Showalter’s postscript to the question:

“Between Worley and Tyler, and I wouldn’t forget about McFarland’s ability to go long, too. We certainly won’t go forward without someone capable of throwing multiple innings.”

Bottom line: It’s likely, in the next six days, two pitchers will be bumped out of the majors, creating a new challenge for Showalter and his bullpen.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Creatively_19

    April 20, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Dan – What do you think is going to happen long-term with Matusz, who is a free agent this year. I know we’re 12 games into the season, so its a little early to speculate too much, but once he becomes a free-agent I don’t see the O’s re-signing him without a clear role. He’s being stretched out now, and looked pretty last night. Could he ever return to a starters role?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 20, 2016 at 8:46 am

      If the Orioles didn’t have other options for starters, then, yes, I think Matusz would have been considered for the rotation this year. It’s what he would prefer. It’s what most relievers would prefer heading into their walk seasons. But I see Matusz returning to his lefty role and staying with it in 2016. And I think he would like to have the chance to start again, meaning he probably will look elsewhere this offseason. For now, though, he is a big part of a great bullpen.

  2. astetka

    April 20, 2016 at 8:29 am

    Have to think that McFarland is one of the two that goes down to Norfolk. My best guess is that Wilson would be the other, but I could see it being Givens if Wilson continues to pitch the way he has. I don’t think they will want to give up on Worley at this point, stashing him in the bullpen seems the best option.

    • Creatively_19

      April 20, 2016 at 8:45 am

      I was thinking that too, except Buck LOVES McFarland. I think it makes sense that he goes down, and while he’s been okay at the MLB level, I would never say that he’s great. However, I think he’s a guy that would have to really come off the tracks to get a ticket on the Norfolk shuttle.

      • Dan Connolly

        April 20, 2016 at 8:49 am

        To answer both of you guys, I see both points. McFarland seems like a sensible guy to demote, given the options, performance, roles, etc. BUT, Buck does love having Mac around, especially to piggyback short starts from an all RHP rotation. As for Worley, he’ll get claimed if waived. No reason to do that when you have other optionable pieces that aren’t clearly better.

  3. AlaskanOsFan

    April 20, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Mats will be trade bait based off what we see from Givens this season IMO..no mention of Bundy so I assume u think he is locked into the rotation/pen?

  4. 420rob

    April 21, 2016 at 7:02 am

    This is actually a good problem to have quilty relievers or starters with the guys with option u can move up and down its a long season.it sucks when u don’t have any quilty arms in the minors and a starter gets hurt

  5. 420rob

    April 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    worst comes to worst I she give Kim tell Kim u go down or we release u.

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