There was very little fanfare when the Orioles traded minor league lefty Ariel Miranda to the Seattle Mariners for veteran lefty Wade Miley on July 31.
Some fans harrumphed that it wasn’t a move that would get the Orioles to the playoffs. I kind of liked it, even though Miley’s numbers this year in pitching-friendly Safeco Field weren’t good – and neither was Miley’s track record against AL East teams or at Camden Yards.
My thought was that Miley was left-handed, breathing and about as good as the Orioles could have hoped for given their lack of top-tier prospects.
Well it’s four games into the Wade Miley Experiment and the results are probably worse than anyone imagined. He’s now 0-2 with an unsightly 9.53 ERA in four Orioles starts. Those numbers are skewed, of course, by his performance Friday: six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Miley was handed a 5-1 lead after the Orioles homered four times in the first inning before they made one out – something that hasn’t been done in modern baseball history.
And they still lost. Partially because Miley gave up five runs in the second. The man is a competitor. And he made no excuses after Friday’s game, repeatedly saying he stunk.
“It’s frustrating. It’s embarrassing for me. I know I’m better than this,” said Miley, who now has a 5.58 ERA in 23 total starts in 2016. “I got to make some adjustments. We still have a month and a half to go. We are right there in this thing, but I got to go out and give us a chance. That’s just unacceptable. I got to be better.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter offered his support – to an extent – in his post-game news conference.
“We’re at that stage of the season where it’s about results. Obviously, got a pretty good feel about what he has to do to be successful,” Showalter said. “Obviously, (Miley) hasn’t been getting results here we hoped to get lately, but he’s got a track record for bouncing back and hopefully he’ll pitch better next time out.”
I thought one of the more illuminating quotes about Miley was from slugger Mark Trumbo, who has been on four teams in his career.
“I’ve been through it personally, so I know what he’s going through. In-season trades are extremely difficult. He’s doing the best he can to get acclimated,” Trumbo said. “I’m not making excuses for him. He’s probably not quite adjusted yet, and until he kind of feels at home, it’s tough to go out there. He’s going to battle. He’s going to give it what he has, and we’re always there for him.”
Ultimately, Miley has to pitch better or the trade for him – no matter what Miranda does for Seattle – will be a bust. That’s because the club is basically on the hook for $9.4 million for Miley in 2017 (including a $500,000 buyout option for 2018).
They already are dealing with Ubaldo Jimenez’s lost salary – another empty contract would be severely limiting for this front office.
Injuries frustrating durable O’Day
One of the reasons the Orioles re-signed reliever Darren O’Day to a four-year, $31 million extension is that he is exceptionally durable. He had made 68 or more appearances in each of his four seasons with the Orioles.
This year, though, he’s made just 30, first because of a hamstring injury and now a rotator cuff strain in his right shoulder.
“I haven’t been injured in a long time, and to be injured twice in one year is frustrating,” O’Day said. “It’s the nature of the game when you play this many games.”
O’Day returned from the hamstring injury after roughly seven weeks on the shelf. He made eight appearances and went back on the DL. He said he felt some shoulder stiffness against his last batter Aug. 8, but tried to push through it. The stiffness worsened after his Aug. 11 outing.
You have to wonder if the two injuries are connected, that compensating for the hamstring caused a slight change in mechanics. O’Day admits he’s wondered.
“The previous injury could have contributed to this one, I don’t know. It happened to me in 2011. I hurt my hip labrum. I came back too soon, hurt my shoulder, got designated,” O’Day said. “I don’t want to say it’s predictable, but it’s happened to me before. You come back from injuries, and you’re not 100 percent, you’re trying too hard.”
Showalter said he’s tried to “connect the dots,” too.
“Because you don’t want something to happen again. But I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sure it is on his mind somewhat. But he is more interested in making sure he gets everything taken care of and being back there for us the last month of the season and plus, we hope.”
O’Day is eligible to return Aug, 27, but the Orioles are going to make sure he is fully healed before activating him. He hasn’t thrown since the injury, but said he felt better Friday than he did Thursday.
The best guess is he’ll be back in September, and, potentially, ready for the season’s final month.
The bullpen looking human
We’ve talked all year about how good this Orioles bullpen is. A league best 3.20 relievers’ ERA heading into Friday night.
Of course, on Friday night the Orioles bullpen allowed nine runs – primarily Jimenez and Tyler Wilson, who was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.
Like most clubs, middle relief is going to be the weak belly of a pitching staff. And it gets weaker when the starting rotation doesn’t go deep, like Friday’s egg laid by Miley.
But the problem now is that O’Day is injured, Dylan Bundy is in the rotation and Brad Brach hasn’t been as shutdown as he was in the first half. Mychal Givens and Vance Worley have done their jobs, but there’s now a tendency to go to them more often because of lack of options. Rookie Donnie Hart has handled the lefty specialist role, but the Orioles don’t want to give him much more than that at this point.
It still may not be too late to acquire a reliever – ideally a lefty who can retire right-handers, too – in the trade market. But they are running out of time for that, too.
Lefty Brian Duensing (elbow) begins his rehab assignment Monday in the Gulf Coast League, but his return isn’t imminent.
While fingers continue to be pointed at the rotation and lack of diversity in the offense, the bullpen is no longer free of concern, either.