Let’s get this straight. The Orioles are in first place in the American League East by one game with two to play before the All Star Break.
And they are doing it with a rotation in tatters.
Right now, they have three starters: Chris Tillman, who is having a bounce-back year, and Kevin Gausman (1-6, 4.15 ERA) and Yovani Gallardo (3-1, 6.10 ERA), who have been uneven at best.
Then pray for rain. Or a strike. Or some other calamity.
The team can’t keep winning if the starting pitching is like Friday’s when Ubaldo Jimenez recorded four outs and gave up five runs.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t say it directly Friday, but Jimenez is out of the rotation. He shouldn’t have been in it anyway, but the rotation lacked options.
And it still does.
Tyler Wilson, who has a 5.22 ERA, was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday – he’ll probably be back up soon enough. Mike Wright was demoted earlier in June. He was called back Friday – again, Showalter called it a necessity – pitched in relief of Jimenez and gave up four runs (two earned) and was sent back to Norfolk after the game.
T.J. McFarland (knee) is on the disabled list at Norfolk and is seeking a second opinion Monday from Dr. James Andrews
No other Tides starters – or Double-A Bowie Baysox starters – appear ready to step into the Orioles’ rotation.
With Jimenez likely back in the bullpen, which is far from an ideal situation, the Orioles technically will have four long relievers: Jimenez, Vance Worley, Odrisamer Despaigne and Dylan Bundy.
Worley has made two starts for the Orioles this season. Despaigne started at Norfolk and has previously started 34 games in the big leagues for the San Diego Padres.
Then there is Bundy, the 23-year-old, oft-injured top prospect who is pitching well in long relief. He threw 56 pitches in his last outing, was used every fourth or fifth day in June and clearly is being stretched out for a rotation stint at some point in the second half – perhaps sooner than later.
Three months ago, rushing Bundy to the major league rotation after barely pitching in three years seemed unthinkable. But now it would be surprising if he doesn’t start for the Orioles in the next few weeks.
There just aren’t many other alternatives. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette is going to have to make a deal for at least one starting pitcher this month. But you wonder what he has to give, and the quality of what will come back in return. The Orioles aren’t the only team looking to trade for starting pitching.
Bottom line: This is a mess. The Orioles are still in first. They still have serious – and realistic — playoff hopes, but they need to do something drastic about this rotation during the All Star Break.
Everyone knows it. But it’s much easier said than done.
“Tyler Wilson gets some of the arm strength back and the command he had, and Yovani is going to have a good post-All Star Break, hopefully, and we’re going to do some other things we’re thinking about,” Showalter said. “We’ll keep searching for that. Through it all, we’ve figured out a way to be better than the rest of the guys in our division so far. But we’re not going to look at it with blinders on. We realize it’s a challenge.”