Lauren Tilley: Pitching rotation in organized shambles

Sunday’s ugly 8-5 win against the Tigers got me thinking about the pitching rotation for the rest of the season and even next season. Jo-Jo Reyes, who the O’s oddly scooped up off waivers not too long ago, registered his first win as an Oriole with his six-inning, four-hit, one-run (off a solo shot) outing.

When the Orioles first acquired Reyes, running through my mind were thoughts such as, “What in the world are they thinking now? This guy went 28 consecutive starts without a win, tying the record.” I honestly thought it was just another in a long line of pointless moves by the head honchos in Baltimore this season. However, he proved he could still pitch and pitch well on Sunday. Even with Nick Markakis’ four4-RBI night, Reyes didn’t need the offense, as he only gave up one run and never really got into trouble.

So if he can go out there and continue to pitch well, giving up two or three runs every start, maybe the front office made a good move after all. He’s probably not a part of the Orioles’ future, even though he is young at 26, but maybe, just maybe, he’s a part of this team’s near future. Think about it. We know that Jake Arrieta is done for the season as he just underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow recently. Then we have the very promising Zach Britton, the rookie southpaw who started off great but has hit some huge struggles the past few months and has landed on the 15-day disabled list. He’s still the O’s top pitching prospect and for very good reason, he just needs another season or two under his belt to really mature and hone his skills. There’s Brian Matusz who came back from the DL still not 100 percent healthy as he struggled massively in his few starts before being sent down to Triple-A-Norfolk. He’s scheduled to make another start tonight against Oakland as he’s had three consecutive strong starts in the minors, including a complete game shutout. Let’s hope he can carry those solid outings to the majors and finally be the pitcher we know and love.

For the rest of this season, the pitching rotation will be in what I call organized shambles. Jeremy Guthrie, Alfredo Simon, Tommy Hunter and Reyes will be the main four. Then there’s Matusz, who if he does well in his next few starts, will remain with the club. If he doesn’t do well, the Orioles will wait for Britton to be healthy again and insert him back into the starting rotation. Until then, there will be random spot starters of names we’ve never heard and names we dread hearing (Brad Bergesen, anyone?) This is what I mean by organized shambles: we all have an idea of who will start, but we aren’t sure of when and how often these guys will start.

With all of this said, there’s one positive that comes out of this mess. Jim Johnson may not, after all, see a start this season or see a spot on the starting rotation for next season. When it first came out that Johnson might be a starter next season, I welcomed the idea with open arms. Everyone knows how desperate a need starting pitching is for this team. However, the more I thought about it, the more I backed off of the idea. We don’t really have another seventh- or eighth-inning guy that can go a little more than one inning toward the end of the game, especially after trading set-up, strikeout man Koji Uehara to the Rangers.

If Johnson became a starter, who would we look to in those seventh-inning situations when we need someone to go out there and pitch three to six quick outs? So even though the starting pitching is a mess and we’re kind of in the dark as to what’s going to happen in the future with the young guns, I’m extremely happy that Johnson will most likely remain in the role that he has perfected: the seventh-inning bullpen guy.

Lauren Tilley blogs about the Orioles for Birds Watcher, and her thoughts on the O’s appear here 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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