It’s a great storyline for an otherwise non-descript game in August against a mediocre Chicago White Sox team.
There’s a potential for redemption in this one. Technically, there’s potential for hard feelings, for a sense of vengeance, for a ‘this is what you’re missing’ vibe.
But this is also a tale that involves White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, one of the nicest, classiest, most respectful guys in baseball.
I’m sure he wants to shut down the Orioles on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field. I’m sure nothing would feel better after the Orioles released him in spring training to save about $4 million on his $5.1 million salary.
Gonzalez pitched for the Orioles for four seasons, going 39-33 with a 3.82 ERA in 118 games (111 starts). He threw some big games for the team and picked up the reputation for being fearless.
But he struggled in an injury-riddled 2015, going 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA in 17 games. His woes carried into spring training. His velocity was down and he posted a 9.78 ERA in six outings while rookies Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson outpitched him.
The Orioles could have sent Gonzalez, 32, to the minors – he had an option remaining – but decided instead to release him. It was a move seen by many, including some of his ex-teammates, as a monetary decision, a way to cut some costs after the club had embarked on a spending spree in the offseason.
After he cleared waivers, Gonzalez agreed to a split-deal with the White Sox and began the year in the minors. He’s had some mixed results with the White Sox, posting a 2-5 record and a 4.06 ERA in 17 games (16 starts).
But he has been excellent recently. He made six starts in July, all quality ones, and compiled a 2.50 ERA. In that span, he’s held the opposition to a .204 average while striking out 31 batters and walking only nine.
“Miguel did some good things here and he’s doing them again,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I think everybody here likes Miguel and pulls for him every time he pitches —except against us.”
Showalter said “it kind of equals out,” when asked who would have the edge in the first matchup of the former Orioles pitcher and a bunch of his teammates. They know each other well.
“It kind of negates the familiarity,” Showalter said. “He may have broken out something new. … We have a pretty good idea of what he’s going to do, and if he does it, he’ll be successful.”
Obviously, the Orioles, who have been looking for improved starting pitching all season and traded for Wade Miley on Sunday, could use the kind of numbers that Gonzalez has put up in July.
It’s impossible, though, to say whether Gonzalez could have done that here this year. U.S. Cellular is not exactly a pitcher’s park, either.
It’s clear, however, that the Orioles misjudged their starting pitching options. Wright struggled mightily and Wilson was inconsistent. Free-agent signing Yovani Gallardo is battling back from injury with mixed results and we all know how Ubaldo Jimenez has done in 2016.
Could Gonzalez have helped? Sure. Might this team be stronger if he were in the rotation? Sure.
Will Gonzalez want to make that known – via his right arm — to the Orioles’ brass Friday? I’d think so.
So Friday’s game will be worth watching for reasons other than just the Orioles’ pennant race – even though it would be a real surprise if Gonzalez said any of the wrong things.