Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Examining the O's starting pitching options

Jake Arrieta will miss his next start because of discomfort in his right elbow, and he may need surgery to repair the problem, which would end his season. The news isn't too alarming -- the status of Arrieta's elbow has been speculated about a few times in the last several weeks -- but it does present another blow to an Orioles rotation that's in disarray.

If Arrieta is lost for the season, here's the rotation the O's could be forced to use:

Jeremy Guthrie
Alfredo Simon
Tommy Hunter
Zach Britton
Brad Bergesen

That is, uh, not good. Guthrie and Simon are no-brainers. Hunter may end up pitching out of the bullpen a few times first, but he'll be in the rotation soon enough.

After those three, though, things get convoluted. Britton's still on the roster, meaning he'll likely make his next start. His presence would look better if not for how bad he's pitched lately: He's failed to make it out of the first inning in his last two starts for the O's. After Britton, the next-best option may be Bergesen, who probably should be in the bullpen. He'll put together a solid outing every few starts, but he's just not very good, especially when he's walking opposing batters. But I'll give Bergesen a break, for now, because he just had a kid.

If Britton and/or Bergesen falter, which is probable considering how awful the O's are, these guys could also see starts:

Jo-Jo Reyes. The O's (who also released Justin Duchscherer) claimed Reyes earlier today off of waivers from the Blue Jays. He hasn't pitched well this season, but he has made 20 starts, meaning the O's may use him to soak up some innings.

Chris Jakubauskas. If the O's had any kind of pitching depth, he wouldn't be on the roster. The same could be said of Reyes. But he's still in the bullpen, which means that if the guys in front of him keep pitching poorly or get hurt, he could start a game or two. But hopefully that doesn't happen.

Jim Johnson. He may be more of an option to join the O's rotation next season, because 1) there's not a whole lot of time to stretch him out before the season is over, and 2) he's already helping out the O's bullpen, which is also terrible. But it's possible.

Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz. I'm going to lump these two together since they're in Triple-A Norfolk, but either guy could make a few more starts before the season ends. Tillman was just demoted after pitching poorly against the Yankees in New York. He got off to a promising start and worked two scoreless innings to begin the game. But he lasted just 4.1 innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits. He walked just one while striking out six, but he also demonstrated some of the bad habits that have plagued him throughout his young career, particularly pitching from behind and throwing straight fastballs right down the middle of the plate. As for Matusz, he's still working hard to regain his pitching form and velocity, but there hasn't been any sign from the O's that they're ready to bring Matusz back just yet.

Remember the days when the O's were looking forward to a rotation including Matusz, Arrieta, Britton, and Tillman? That seems like such a long time ago.

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