Orioles taking the bad with the good

What is it about a hard early-morning rain that makes you want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed?

It also makes teams play doubleheaders, which could happen tomorrow unless we end up with that proverbial "window" tonight that allows the Orioles to begin their three-game series with the undefeated Rangers.

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The Rangers are 6-0, the Orioles are 5-1. Let's take an early peek at that ALCS.

J.J. Hardy might not be in the lineup after complaining of soreness in his lower left ribcage. That's not a huge issue at the moment, since the Orioles kept two middle infielders on their roster.

Many people have questioned the wisdom of breaking camp with Cesar Izturis and Robert Andino, but at least manager Buck Showalter has choices if Hardy can't play. And it wouldn't hurt to give Andino a start, which Showalter plans to do this weekend.

It's just uncanny how every Orioles win seems to be accompanied by a health crisis. Brian Matusz's back, Luke Scott's groin, Jeremy Guthrie's pneumonia, Hardy's ribcage.

This team is 5-1, and two of its projected top three starters haven't taken the mound. Yes, I'm including Justin Duchscherer, who most likely would have been No. 3 if he had avoided the disabled list. And Guthrie, the opening night starter, spent a few nights in a local hospital and might not pitch again until Tuesday.

The assumption had been that Guthrie would go on the disabled list to make room for Chris Jakubauskas, who tossed five scoreless innings in Tuesday's game against Norfolk State, if he couldn't take his scheduled turn on Sunday. However, Showalter is willing to push back Guthrie until Tuesday's series-opener against the Yankees in the Bronx.

The Orioles would still need a starter for Sunday. And unless they're willing to use someone out of the bullpen, such as Jason Berken, they'd still need to make a roster move. And Showalter already has indicated that they're more likely to summon an arm from the minors.

The bullpen is already thinned out with Josh Rupe and Jeremy Accardo unavailable tonight (and Koji Uehara, too, if he can't go back-to-back games.) Another pitcher might be needed from Triple-A Norfolk's roster tonight.

Making room for another pitcher without putting anyone on the disabled list is a tricky maneuver. Berken has options left, but he's needed here and he's struck out six in three scoreless innings. Andino, Felix Pie and Jake Fox are out of options. And the Orioles would be short one man on the bench if you subtracted a position player.

Chris Tillman could be optioned after starting last night, but he'd have to stay down for 10 days unless he's needed to replace an injured player.

Life will be simplified if Guthrie can make Sunday's start against the Rangers. He's supposed to throw in the bullpen today, which will give Showalter a better idea if that's feasible.

I've never had pneumonia - though one of my former Sun colleagues joked last night that I was going to be the next pneumonia note because I didn't wear a jacket as the temperature kept falling - but I can't imagine pitching in a major league game four days after being released from the hospital.

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