For all of your concerns, my concerns, everyone’s concerns about the Orioles’ rotation – and believe me, those are warranted – there are two names that you must pay attention to in the next few weeks. Two names that may be the biggest keys throughout this month for the Orioles:
Mychal Givens and Brad Brach; Givens more than Brach, really.
We all know what this team is: It has lots of power, meaning sometimes it will score runs in bunches and other times it will be shut down like a bar at 2 a.m.
We also know that the starting rotation can get on a roll occasionally, but is adequate at best. The rotation is going to be a rollercoaster all year, with some smooth spots and some nightmare dips.
So with those two concepts near certainties, the Orioles need consistency out of their superb bullpen. It seems unfair, really. Why do the hitters and the starters get the luxury to be awful at times, but the bullpen must keep shutting down the opposition?
Don’t know, but that’s the way it is with this club; it’s been like that for several years.
On Friday, however, the Orioles were dealt a major blow when eighth-inning sidearmer Darren O’Day was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain.
That means the rest of the bullpen is going to have to step up and absorb his innings.
Translation: Brach, who has been fantastic, is going to have to fill O’Day’s shoes while Givens will have to fill Brach’s.
On Friday evening, Givens passed the first test in tremendous fashion.
After Chris Tillman was knocked out in the sixth, lefty T.J. McFarland entered and pitched a scoreless inning.
In the seventh, Givens was summoned in a tie ballgame with two outs and a runner on first to face Alex Rodriguez. Not an easy task, and one that was wiped out when catcher Matt Wieters threw out baserunner Brett Gardner attempting to steal second.
So Givens came back in the eighth with a one-run lead to face ARod again. The 26-year-old sidearmer came up huge, getting the veteran slugger to pop out. He then retired the next two batters, turned the ball over to closer Zach Britton and, ultimately, Givens picked up his fifth win of the season in relief.
Only Tillman, with seven, has more wins than Brach and Givens, each with five.
“Mychal’s been thrown in the fire mostly because we think he can handle it,” Showalter said. “We have other options, but he’s responded to it well.”
One of those options is down now. Givens is the next in line for high leverage situations in the seventh. It’s an important task, because good teams overcome injuries internally. And it’s definitely a good test for the former shortstop who is still learning to pitch at the major league level.
Debating an early pinch-hitter
One of the beauties of baseball is strategizing along with the managers. And we had a little powwow in the bottom of the sixth in the press box Friday. The Orioles had tied the score at 5-5 on a Jonathan Schoop double and had runners at second and third with two outs.
Lefty Ryan Flaherty was scheduled to hit against right-handed reliever Kirby Yates.
The question I asked in the press box was: “Do you bring Nolan Reimold in to hit here?” Reimold is a right-hander, but he has had success against right-handers and left-handers in his career. He’s also batting .300 this season.
Flaherty had a four-game hitting streak going into Friday, but he entered the night batting .200 on the year and was hitless in two previous at-bats in the game.
I thought it should be seriously considered, especially because New York had its big three waiting in the bullpen: Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman – and so runs would be at a premium if the Orioles didn’t score in the sixth.
Plus, Paul Janish was available to come in and play defense at third for Flaherty in the seventh, so there wouldn’t be a defensive dropoff there.
The consensus, though, was it was too early to burn your best pinch-hitting weapon. So Showalter stuck with Flaherty, who popped up to end the inning.
It didn’t matter, though, because the Orioles scored a run against Betances in the seventh to go up, 6-5.
An interesting debate, nonetheless.
The durable O’Day
The decision to put set-up man Darren O’Day on the DL with a right hamstring strain was met with some surprise.
That’s partially because of O’Day’s tremendous durability as an Oriole. He’s spent four full seasons with the Orioles and never once went on the disabled list. O’Day has made 68 or more appearances each of those four years and already had thrown in 22 games in 2016.
O’Day’s closest DL scare was in September 2013 when he pitched just once from Sept. 2 to Sept. 18 due to numbness in his pitching hand. But he never was disabled.
It looked like something was bothering O’Day in his last outing – he may have tweaked the hamstring on a play at first. And it had to be really bothersome for the 33-year-old to go on the DL.
Showalter believes O’Day could be back in 15 days. It’ll be interesting to see if the layoff is good for him, or if there will be rust. We don’t know, since we’ve never seen him with such a layoff in Baltimore before.