Pitching a poor fit

I could keep beating the same drum about the Orioles' poor starting pitching, but it's starting to sound like a Neil Peart solo. And I'm not getting a Rush from it.

See what I did there?

Oriole starters have posted an 8.19 ERA in the last 12 games. You can find more distasteful stats if you go back further, but really, why do that to yourselves?

"It needs to do better," president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said earlier this week. "I feel pretty good when (Jake) Arrieta, (Zach) Britton and (Jeremy) Guthrie go out there, like we can get a good start and have a good chance to win that day. But Brian (Matusz) hasn't come back the same from the ribcage injury and we haven't gotten much from the fifth spot, so that's kind of where we are."

The Orioles are in a worse place since MacPhail offered that quote. Guthrie fell to 3-11 last night by allowing six runs and eight hits in five innings. He's got an 6.75 ERA in his last four starts, with 31 hits and 13 walks in 24 innings.

Where can the Orioles turn for rotation help? Matusz isn't ready to come back. Chris Tillman is 3-2 with a 4.54 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk. Rick VandenHurk is 5-9 with a 4.73 ERA. Chris George gave up three runs and 10 hits, and walked two batters, in 5 2/3 innings last night, leaving his ERA at 4.79.

Steve Johnson, in his second tour with the Tides, is 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA in six starts. He was 0-2 with a 15.09 ERA in his first three starts, with 19 runs, 16 hits and 13 walks in 11 1/3 innings. However, he's 0-1 with a 2.50 ERA in his last three starts, with five runs, 17 hits, eight walks and 14 strikeouts in 18 innings.

The door's open if he wants to push through it.

What about Troy Patton? He's 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 games, but only two starts. He tossed five scoreless innings on Saturday, but didn't throw more than 1 2/3 in four of his previous five appearances.

Keep stretching him out.

MacPhail mentioned that Brad Bergesen could get another shot in the rotation, but the right-hander gave up four runs and four hits in one inning last night and is carrying a 5.92 ERA.

The rotation already includes two pitchers, Chris Jakubauskas and Mitch Atkins, who weren't on the 40-man roster. Atkins didn't throw a pitch in spring training. Jakubauskas wasn't even invited.

I'll give Dylan Bundy $30 million if he can be ready by the weekend.

"We just don't have enough depth," MacPhail said. "Somewhere between the last pitch of the Grapefruit League and the first pitch of the American League, we lost two starters. (Justin) Duchscherer went down with the hip and then Matusz with the ribcage. We were probably working with seven or eight and you really need to work with more than that."

Duchscherer is scheduled to be examined by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens on Monday.

"He's been up and down," MacPhail said. "His own analysis, up and down."

He's already being paid $700,000 this season, so the Orioles will hold onto him "at this point in time," MacPhail said.

"We're trying to investigate all the options we have."

MacPhail still can't lure the top free-agent pitchers to Baltimore.

"They're not coming here," he said. "Trades are the only way. You've got to get them on an involuntary basis. All things being close to equal, they wouldn't come. That doesn't mean you don't try. But also look how they went off, how many there were, what their costs were. Even guys like Cliff Lee, he didn't go to the highest bidder. They get to a certain comfort level and they go where they want to go, for whatever reasons.

"You can find hitters, but the pitching has pretty much got to be internal. Not so much relief pitching, but starting pitching. You just can't have enough of it."

The Orioles need more of it.

They need someone who can get them deeper into games, someone who gives them a chance to win.

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