J.J.’s role in 2011

It’s Monday, it’s raining and the Orioles have lost four in a row.

That’ll put a bounce in your step.

The Rays are poised to clinch a playoff berth, needing one more victory or a Red Sox loss. Manager Buck Showalter has suggested that it might do his players some good to watch another team celebrate, providing a reminder of what everyone strives for in this game. Well, he’ll probably get his wish at Tropicana Field, unless you’ve got something else in mind.

The Orioles get Wade Davis tonight. He’s 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA lifetime against the Orioles and has won his last seven decisions this season after dropping five in a row. They’re not exactly catching him at the right time.

You need a glimmer of hope? Davis allowed four runs in five innings in a Sept. 5 game at Camden Yards.

Nick Markakis is 1-for-13 lifetime against Davis. Luke Scott is 2-for-12. Corey Patterson is 1-for-1, which is worth noting because he also has a home run and three RBIs.

Brian Matusz owns a lifetime 6.23 ERA against Tampa Bay, but he’s given up two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last nine starts this season. I’m counting the “triceps contusion” game, when he lasted only one inning.

Jason Bartlett is 6-for-13 against Matusz, and Evan Longoria is 4-for-10 with three doubles.

Matusz is slated to make two more starts as the rotation is currently aligned. He won’t win AL Rookie of the Year at 8-12 with a 4.59 ERA, but he’s finishing up nicely.

The Orioles would like to do the same and avoid 100 losses. They need two more victories, which seemed like a lock before they headed to Toronto.

Here are the updated standings:
Pittsburgh 55-100
Seattle 59-96
Orioles 61-94
Kansas City 63-92
Arizona 64-92
Cleveland 65-91
Washington 67-89

I’ll close this entry by revisiting a topic from yesterday’s O’s Xtra segment, minus the jacket and tie.

Jim Johnson would like to be a starter again. He doesn’t complain about his current role, but he’d prefer to go back into the rotation. He was a starter through 2007, before the Orioles discovered that he could be a dominant set-up man in the eighth inning.

I believe that he’s more valuable to the Orioles coming out of the bullpen and pitching in one-inning bursts, which also eases the strain on his right elbow. Let’s not forget that he missed a large chunk of the season because of a tear that he rehabbed.

My question: Should the Orioles put Johnson on a starter’s schedule in spring training and give him a shot at the rotation, perhaps grooming David Hernandez for that eighth-inning role, or hope that he returns to 2008 form in 2011 and serves as a sturdy bridge to the closer?

If you want Johnson in the rotation, you’ll need to explain how you’re making room for him.

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