Stacey Long: Short outings by the rotation are killing the O’s

There are two days left in June, and for the entire month, there has been exactly one game when the starting pitcher for the Orioles pitched at least seven innings. That game was June 10, when Jake Arrieta pitched seven innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s it.

Since his disappointing return from the disabled list, Brian Matusz is averaging less than 4.5 innings per game. Since joining the rotation, Chris Jakubauskas has pitched 20 1/3 innings in four starts. Rookie Zach Britton is averaging just over six innings per game, but hasn’t pitched into the seventh since May 18. Arrieta often can’t pitch late into the game even when he’s pitching well because he throws too many pitches. And even veteran Jeremy Guthrie is having his troubles, pitching into the seventh inning just once in June.

Going into the season, it was obvious that the success of the Orioles would be tied to the rotation, and the starting pitchers just aren’t pulling their weight. In addition to their poor outings making it difficult for the offense to catch up, it’s also taking a toll on the bullpen. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara, the two most reliable bullpen arms, have made 35 and 33 appearances, respectively. That puts Johnson on pace for 74 appearances and Uehara on pace for 70. Those are absurd numbers; Johnson has appeared in greater than 54 games just once, with 64 in 2009. You might remember that after that he spent much of 2010 injured. And Uehara has yet to spend a season in the majors without going on the disabled list, pitching in only 33 games last year.

If the rotation keeps going the way it is, the entire bullpen, but especially Johnson and Uehara, will be burned out before the season ends, and then the Orioles will be in even more trouble. Something needs to change.

Stacey Long blogs about the Orioles at Camden Chat. Read Long’s Orioles observations as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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