More changes in store for the Orioles

When it comes to the Orioles these days, the great debate centers on the biggest concern.

The defense? It's been tagged for 69 errors in 78 games, most in the majors.

The offense? It perked up a little over the weekend with a combined 14 runs in two games, but the Orioles managed only two yesterday and didn't have a baserunner until the fifth inning.

The pitching? The starters have a 4.82 ERA that's the fourth-highest in the majors.

So what's a team to do?

Well, the Orioles traded for Jim Thome, figuring he would provide more of a presence in the middle of the order. They optioned Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz to Triple-A Norfolk in the past two days as part of a rotation upheaval.

The defense not only has been ignored, it got worse yesterday with Xavier Avery being optioned. Adam Jones is the only natural outfielder on the active roster. Too many guys are playing out of position. Just check the infield and outfield corners each night.

Thome's bat could help, but he's a full-time designated hitter. It would be nice to find a guy who also packs a glove.

Avery is expected back after the break. His 10 days will be up and manager Buck Showalter prefers to carry a fourth reserve. Unfortunately, the rotation's shortcomings are forcing him to use a short bench.

It's become crystal clear that Showalter has lost patience with his starters.

"Without stating the obvious, what's going on is not good enough. It's not good enough," he said after yesterday's 6-2 loss.

"I got it. They got it, too. Nobody knows better than Brian and nobody knows better than Dana (Eveland) and Jake (Arrieta) and some of the other guys. It's a competitive place for you, me. We have to bring what we need to bring."

Steve Johnson will join the team today in Seattle, but Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette need to decide what they're doing with the rotation beyond the next three starters. Jason Hammel opposes Hisashi Iwakuma tonight, Wei-Yin Chen opposes Felix Hernandez tomorrow and Arrieta opposes Hector Noesi on Wednesday.

Zach Britton would be working on normal rest if he got the call Friday. Chris Tillman is scheduled to start tonight in Norfolk. Let's see if he still takes the ball. Let's see if he takes it and is removed after a few innings.

The Orioles remain in second place in the American League East, but they just lost three of four games at home to the Indians. They're six games behind the Yankees and only a half-game ahead of the Red Sox. Only 2 1/2 games separate them from the basement.

They need to figure it out. All of it.

The defense.

The offense.

The pitching.

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