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.