Strop and the bullpen: The morning after (and Garcia note)

I could hear the blood pressure of some fans rising after yesterday’s loss. My ears popped when it spiked.

It’s never easy to surrender a five-run lead, blow a two-run lead in the ninth and commit back-to-back throwing errors in the 10th that hands a game to the opponent. That’ll make you chew nails for the rest of the night.

To the fans who wondered why Jim Johnson didn’t pitch yesterday, I’ll repeat that he was used on five of the previous six days. No game is worth having his arm fall off. He was not available to close.

To the fans who wondered why manager Buck Showalter didn’t go for broke in order to win the game, this isn’t the NFL. They play 162 games in baseball during the regular season. It’s still April. He’s not going to burn out the bullpen and risk injuries to complete a four-game sweep in Oakland.

The Orioles still have three games in Seattle and four in Anaheim on this trip, with no days off.

My only second-guess pertained to Tommy Hunter. I would have used him to start the 10th inning, but Showalter may have been saving him for possible long relief duty tonight if left-hander Zach Britton is knocked out early. I’m only speculating here.

Of course, if Hunter served up a home run yesterday, Showalter would have been torched for putting him in the game and not giving him the Kevin Gregg treatment.

Pedro Strop is on the 25-man roster. Showalter can’t always avoid using him in pressure situations while also being careful with Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland and, on occasion, laying off Johnson.

Strop is out of minor league options. Please stop saying the Orioles need to “send him down” (you know who you are) because it’s not that simple. He would first have to clear waivers, which isn’t likely to happen. Arms like that intrigue other teams.

Now, if you’re OK with losing him on a waiver claim, that’s a different story. But the Orioles can’t just option him to the minors.

Strop appears to be lost right now, unsure where the ball is going and unable to correct the problem. A few batters have done him a favor by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

Strop didn’t issue a walk in his first five outings. He gave up three runs on April 3 at Tropicana Field, but as I’ve pointed out, there were cheapies against the shift. A bunt single, a ground ball that would have been a double play. He deserved a pass that night.

There are no excuses for what happened in Oakland. Strop hit a batter and walked another one Saturday without recording an out. He took the loss yesterday, retiring only one batter, by allowing an unearned run on a hit and a walk and committing a throwing error.

He doesn’t even know where the ball is going when he tries to get the out at second base.

Strop has walked six batters in his last six appearances covering 3 2/3 innings. He threw 16 pitches yesterday, only eight for strikes.

Can we please stop talking about his cap? Yeah, it’s “crooked.” And Adam Jones blows bubbles. So what?

The cap means nothing. It’s his lack of control, not fashion sense, that’s the issue here. And each time a fan vents about Strop’s appearance, I wonder if the same complaints would be aimed at Nate McLouth if his cap were tilted to one side. Would McLouth be accused of looking like a “thug?”

I’m content to let Showalter decide whether Strop’s cap is straight enough or whether it matters. He’s pretty old school and he hasn’t done anything about it.

Showalter has bigger issues with Strop. It’s the walks. It’s the difficulty in trusting him in tight situations. And it’s the inability to just send him down.

Note: Freddy Garcia was named International League Pitcher of the Week.

Garcia went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA, no walks and nine strikeouts.

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