Sorting through the latest changes to the rotation

There's no crying in baseball and there's no reason to shed any tears over a 3-3 road trip to Detroit and Texas.

The Orioles fell to 24-40 last night when their opponent scores first and 17-43 when they score three runs or fewer. So... they need to score first and score more than three runs. Simple as that.

The Orioles are now 33-26 when they don't commit an error. The defense wasn't the issue last night. The starting pitching let them down.

Tommy Hunter faced eight batters in the fourth inning and couldn't record an out. He surrendered three more home runs, giving him 32 in 121 innings.

As the rotation is currently set up, Hunter wouldn't start again before Wednesday night against the White Sox at Camden Yards. He's no lock to get the assignment. Zach Britton, who starts Friday night against the Blue Jays, would be working on normal rest.

hunter nym pitching sidebar.jpgThe Orioles still have a three-man bench and figure to send down a pitcher at some point to add a position player - perhaps Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty, who's currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk. Anyone who's optioned now wouldn't be able to return before the Aug. 31 deadline for setting playoff rosters unless there's a DL situation.

Yes, we're still talking playoffs.

Steve Johnson figures to start Saturday after throwing 23 pitches last night in what amounted to a side session. Who's the other candidate? Wei-Yin Chen is being pushed back to Monday, followed by Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday. Jake Arrieta started last night for Norfolk, which rules him out for the weekend.

Zach Clark is scheduled to start Saturday for Norfolk. He's having a tremendous year, but he isn't on the 40-man roster and he's not likely to get the assignment over Johnson.

Manager Buck Showalter's decision to push back Chen and Gonzalez reminds us that this is a pretty young rotation. It includes three rookies when Johnson is added to it, and Britton and Chris Tillman aren't exactly grizzled veterans.

Chen isn't your typical rookie, but he qualifies. He's thrown 151 innings this season after totaling 164 2/3 last year for the Chunichi Dragons. Gonzalez has thrown 66 1/3 innings with the Orioles and 44 2/3 with Norfolk. He totaled 56 2/3 last year with three different affiliates in the Red Sox's system. Gonzalez's career high is 130 2/3 innings with Double-A Arkansas in 2007, and he missed the next two years with injuries.

Showalter is planning ahead, knowing that he'll need both pitchers to be fresh for September and perhaps beyond.

Yes, we're still talking beyond. And not just the three games against the Rays at the beginning of October.

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