Message from weekend sweep: O's are resilient, but still need to add pitching -
Dan Connolly

Message from weekend sweep: O’s are resilient, but still need to add pitching

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

There are two important things that can be gleaned from this weekend’s sweep of the Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards.

One: Good teams are resilient. They battle when things don’t look particularly promising. And they do it in a convincing way. This is a good Orioles team.

Two: Don’t be fooled. The Orioles still need starting pitching reinforcements, no matter how well the rotation has pitched recently. Because this game’s outcome is so often decided by quality pitching.

Let’s get to the first point.

Last week, the Orioles lost three of four in New York, couldn’t hit and, well, couldn’t sleep. A nasty flu virus ripped through the roster and even manager Buck Showalter fell victim to it.

Matt Wieters was hurt, Joey Rickard was hurt, Hyun Soo Kim was forced to the disabled list, and the Orioles dropped out of first for the first time since June 4.

They left Yankee Stadium with a needed win Thursday afternoon and limped back to Camden Yards to face the American League-best Indians. Sudden doom was sure to follow.

And then the Orioles realized – again – there was no place like home. They swept the Indians, improved to an incredible 36-14 at Camden Yards and suddenly have the best record in the AL and a 1 ½ game lead over the Boston Red Sox.

It was an impressive rebound – capped off with Nolan Reimold’s walkoff homer on Sunday afternoon. Winning those kinds of games, and sweeping an excellent club after getting beat up by the Yankees, is the kind of integral stretch you point to in a playoff season.

Showalter likes to downplay momentum in baseball, but no question the club can draw on this run when the inevitable downturn comes again. The Orioles have proven a few times this year – the swing-and-miss disaster in Houston, the four-game sweep in Seattle and now the escape from New York – that they can bounce back in impressive fashion.

And, now, the Orioles are getting healthy. Reliever Darren O’Day has returned from the DL, where he has been shelved since June 3 with a hamstring strain. After a week absence with a foot injury, Wieters is expected back in the lineup Monday or Tuesday. Kim is on rehab assignment from his hamstring injury and could return as early as Tuesday.

So, in theory anyway, this Orioles team should be in a better spot than it was last week. Especially now that the starting pitching has suddenly looked formidable – going from one of the worst ERAs in the majors to a 2.90 in its last dozen starts.

That brings us to Point No. 2. This is not a time to think that this fine starting trend will continue. Maybe it will. But Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, who has never been scared about making a push for the stretch run, has to acquire at least one – and maybe two – starting pitchers in the next week.

Yes, Chris Tillman continues to look like a top-of-the-rotation starter. Yes, Kevin Gausman shows glimpses of the ace he was predicted to be. Yes, rookie Dylan Bundy has given the club a lift in his two starts. Yes, Vance Worley continues to answer any challenge the club presents. And, yes, Yovani Gallardo has been serviceable now that he appears to be over shoulder woes.

But Tillman is the only one that’s been consistent and healthy all season. Adding another proven starter gives the rotation depth in case one of the “what ifs?” isn’t answered in the affirmative. Of course, the tricky part is what kind of pitcher can the Orioles land with a farm system devoid of blue-chip prospects in a weak starting pitching market?

Duquette’s probably going to have to overpay for a marginal starter, something that has bitten the club in the past. But, frankly, this team’s resiliency is showing that it can reach the playoffs, assuming contingencies are made in case injury or ineffectiveness occur again. When you have that opportunity in Major League Baseball, you have to seize it.

Adding an additional starter likely pushes Bundy or Worley back to a long relief role, further strengthening the stout bullpen – another plus.

Personally, I’d stick with Worley over Bundy for now – I’m still concerned about Bundy’s long-term health in the rotation after not pitching for most of three seasons. And Worley can handle fifth starter responsibilities adequately; that’s really why the club signed him initially anyway. If he can’t, then you revisit the Bundy Experiment.

But those specifics can be worked out later.

The pressing issue is that the Orioles need to understand what this late July sweep of the Indians represents. That they can play with anyone in the American League when all facets of their game – pitching, hitting and defense – is on.

And, because of that potential for the postseason, they can’t rely on blind hope that the rotation will continue its strong run, even though that is tempting (and so much easier). Because baseball, a game of peaks and valleys, doesn’t work that way.

Duquette has never been afraid of striking while the iron is hot, even if the results end up as lukewarm.

Based on what we just witnessed, that has to be the strategy before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline arrives.



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 25, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Going down the rabbit hole … Is there anyone willing to take Crush Davis and what is soon to be is albatross of a contract off our hands for a starting pitcher?

    Heck I named my last dog after Mr. Davis, I like him as much as the next guy, but how can we (OK …. they) afford to pay the what … $23.5 million a year to a .230 hitter, that carries a team for a week at a time but then disappears for months on end?

    “I don’t think…” then you shouldn’t talk, said the Hatter.”

  2. rebusgadfly

    July 25, 2016 at 8:25 am

    WOW just wow Boog! What a bomb you just dropped. Tell us what you really thing. I was irritated and sadden by the Trumbo for pitching trade talk but now Davis for a choice from the major league pitching pool, of no real talent. Just darn my good sir. I get if we lose one, Davis, we could probably sign two, Trumbo and Machado but name me a pitcher worth that deal or better said name me a team with a solid pitcher who is willing to part with them. (Tampa Bay is an anomaly and don’t count) Boog, I love ya man but I can’t name an available picture worth a few bats and a bag of balls.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 25, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Rebus, allow me to reply:

      I agree there is no starting pitcher available worth Jack-spit at this point, but what scares me is that Mr. Duquette is very likely going to give up a name or two like Mancini, Sisco, Reyes, Mountcastle or Heim. The trading of the future needs to stop. Unfortunately, it’s become the “Oriole Way”.

      How are we going to keep the core of this team when we’ve got 6 more years of paying Davis’ current contract? And by core, I’m thinking Manny, Schoop and Wieters. The other core players, Jones & JJ are locked up for a few more years.

      I’m simply down on Crush today (the player, not my dog). The guy has a $23.5 million body, but I wouldn’t give you the price of one Polock Johnny Sausage for his head! While Bordick and the other MASN shills are espousing his great defense and hustle, I’m noticing his outright refusal to try and hit the other way (like in 2014 when he was spraying the ball over ALL the outfield fences and going for 50+ taters, and in the process, inspiring me to name my dog after him … I digress). Or trying to bunt down the 3rd base line (like he did earlier this year) making them pay for that stupid shift!

      Instead, if he isn’t whiffing at every inside slider hitting the dirt at his feet before watching strike 3 brush the outside corner, he’s fruitlessly pulling the ball to the 2nd baseman who’s playing the short right field rover position!!! I understand he’s trying to hit the warehouse, but frankly, I just want him to hit the stinkin’ ball at this point!

      And then yesterday, the dope loses count of balls and strikes, and fakes out Manny into being picked off 1st base!! Eeeesh! IS THIS WORTH $23.5 Million (I think that’s the number) a year Mr. Angelos is paying him?

      Like I said, I was simply going down the rabbit hole with this one. Dreaming of having someone take that contract off the O’s hands for ANY pitcher with a heartbeat, rather than trading our future players. Addition by subtraction I guess.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 25, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Lost amongst all that rant is this … Yes Dan, I agree with you 100%, we still certainly need to add some starting pitching. Let’s just ask Mr. Duquette to please do that wisely…

    • Dan Connolly

      July 25, 2016 at 10:01 am

      I’ll reply to all of these at once. You can’t pull the plug on Davis’ contract and consider it a bust now. Way, way, way too premature. Thing is with Davis is he’s always been super streaky. When he is bad, he looks completely lost. When he is on, watch out. You just have to hope those bad streaks are fewer than the good ones. And, that said, no team that is looking to give up players want a huge contract in return. They want prospects. So nothing is in that rabbit hole.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 25, 2016 at 10:28 am

        You Sir, as usual, are correct as well as the voice of reason. Nobody would be foolhardy enough to take on that contract. My statement was intended to be rhetorical. But a virtual GM can dream can’t he?

  4. ZantiGM

    July 25, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Mr. Duquette-please do not get a false sense of security from Worley’s Sunday outing he is not the answer for a championship rotation.Worley has done a nice job this season but needs to stay in the BP.Please go after Hellickson,Moore,Cashner,Finnigan or Shoemaker but hopefully don’t give up Mancini,Sisco,Mountcastle or Hess.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 25, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      There is competition for each of those guys. So they’ll have to give something up to get one.

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