Once the All-Star break is over, the Orioles hope their starting staff can get stronger. John Means, who has missed more than a month because of a strained left shoulder, is expected back in the fourth or fifth game after the break.
Bruce Zimmermann, who has been out because of left biceps tendinitis, is expected to rejoin the rotation by the end of the month.
Between now and then, the Orioles’ rotation full of question marks and inexperience.
“We’re definitely struggling in our rotation,” manager Brandon Hyde said after the Orioles lost to the Chicago White Sox, 8-3, on Saturday. “We’re out of games early. We’ve only had a handful of quality starts since the Means’ no-hitter, which tells you a lot, and our bullpen guys have pitched a lot of innings. It’s very challenging.”
Thomas Eshelman, who’s trying to prove he belongs in the rotation, had a difficult third inning in the loss to the White Sox before before an announced crowed 26,391 at Camden Yards, the largest of the season.
Eshelman (0-2) gave up Brian Goodwin’s fourth home run in the second. In the third, Jake Burger led off by lining a ball off Eshelman’s left shin. He ran after the ball in foul territory and rolled over trying to make the play.
Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel checked on Eshelman, and he stayed in the game. Eshelman walked Zack Collins, and then Tim Anderson hit a ball down the right field line that the ball boy mistakenly picked up and tried to toss into the crowd.
Anderson was awarded second base on interference and Burger scored. Yoán Moncada doubled to score Collins and Anderson and Chicago led, 4-0.
“I think it did affect him,” Hyde said of the injury. “After Moncada hit the ball down the line, just watching him back up, you could tell the leg was bothering him. I don’t know how hard the ball was hit, but it was hit hard. It hit him right on the bone.
“I give him credit for being a team guy and trying to stay in the game and trying to get through that inning. It didn’t look like it was going to happen.”
After Eshelman walked José Abreu, he was replaced by Keegan Akin.
“It swelled up on me,” Eshelman said of his shin. “I wanted to grind through the third and hopefully give the bullpen a break.”
Akin, who was supposed to follow Dillon Tate in Thursday’s postponed game, allowed two runs in the fifth on Goodwin’s RBI single and Leury Garcia’s run-scoring double.
In the seventh, Chicago (53-35) added two runs on a single by Goodwin, his fifth RBI in the series, and a run-scoring double by Garcia. Akin gave up four runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.
“That was the best stuff I’d seen Keegan have in a while,” Hyde said. “I was impressed by that.”
Hyde rejected the idea that Akin’s future is in the bullpen
“We’re in dire need of rotation help,” Hyde said. “He’s always been a starter throughout his career. He’s still really young. His career is just starting in the big leagues. I’m pretty sure you’re going to see him back in the rotation just because we are going to need the innings and we need starters.”
The Orioles (28-60) did little against Lucas Giolito (7-6), who allowed two runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out nine and walking two. Domingo Leyba had RBI singles in the fourth and sixth.
In the eighth, the Orioles threatened, loading the bases against José Ruiz with two outs. Austin Hays walked, scoring Ryan Mountcastle, and pinch-hitter Ryan McKenna struck out against Liam Hendriks to end the inning. Hendriks then worked a perfect ninth, striking out two.
Notes: Hyde said that Means, who allowed two home runs in three innings at Bowie on Friday night, joked about his outing. “He said he has a tough time pitching at Bowie,” Hyde said. “He said he feels great … he said he threw the ball well, made a couple of mistakes that they hit for homers, but besides that, he’s healthy and ready to make his next start.” Means will start for Norfolk at Memphis next week before rejoining the Orioles … Hyde said that he’s gotten positive reports on second baseman Jahmai Jones at Norfolk. “I’ve been following,” Hyde said. “Sounds like he’s swinging the bat pretty well. They’re working hard with him defensively at second base to get reps every day because he’s so inexperienced at second. It’s important for him to get the defensive reps.”… Spenser Watkins (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will face Dylan Cease (7-4, 4.14) on Sunday.