Yovani Gallardo wasn’t particularly impressive Saturday afternoon. In a sense, he didn’t have to be. He just had to survive and advance to be considered a plus for this beleaguered rotation.
So, in that sense, mission accomplished.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good ever since I started throwing the baseball,” said Gallardo, who has been on the disabled list for nearly two months with shoulder tendinitis. “I made some pitches whenever I had to. It’s just (good) to be back out there once again.”
What Gallardo did in his first start for the Orioles since April 22 was pedestrian: He allowed two runs on five hits and four walks in five innings pitched against the Toronto Blue Jays. He threw 85 pitches in five innings, 50 for strikes.
Typically, that type of performance barely would be worthy of mention.
With this club’s rotation woes, though, the Orioles should have released 1,000 balloons from the warehouse after Gallardo’s outing.
Really, not much more could have been expected from Gallardo after making three minor league starts to test his right shoulder – none more than five innings.
“I was real pleased with him,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “To get that kind of start, I think it bodes well. I’m excited about him the rest of the year.”
Gallardo wasn’t fooling the mighty Jays’ lineup Saturday – there were lots of hard hit balls. But he limited damage and turned the ball over to the Orioles’ superb bullpen for four shutout innings. Perhaps most important, Gallardo’s fastball reached 93 mph – and was consistently in 90-91 range. He had been in the mid-80s before he went on the DL.
Gallardo said he could tell the difference without looking at a radar gun.
“It’s one of those things that it’s kind of hard to explain, but it feels like it has that life. That life, and it jumps through the zone right before it gets over the plate,” Gallardo said. “It just shows all the hard work, those trainers, those strength coaches and everybody (did). I’ve been busting my butt to get back as quickly as I can. It’s nice.”
Statistically speaking, it was Gallardo’s best Orioles’ start since his club debut, a two-hitter through five innings against the Minnesota Twins on April 6.
The bar hasn’t been high since – three clunkers and a DL stint for the Orioles’ big offseason pitching acquisition (two years, $22 million). He had a 7.00 ERA heading into Saturday.
It would be great if Gallardo was an ace here. If he hopped on a way-back machine and won 16 games with a 3.66 ERA like he did with Milwaukee in 2012. He had an even lower ERA last year with Texas, 3.42.
Frankly, those kinds of numbers would be gravy. What the Orioles need is a starter that can give them six innings and three runs or fewer more starts than not. Someone besides Chris Tillman, that is. This offense and bullpen can do the rest.
Gallardo got close to those benchmarks on Saturday. And that’s a good beginning, even if it comes in June.
If he can pump it up to six innings the next couple times out and keep the runs at a minimum, the warehouse might need to stock up on balloons and confetti.