Big start for Hammel?

Jason Hammel is making his 20th start for the Orioles tonight, matching his total for the entire 2012 season.

That's where the similarities end.

Hammel hasn't won since May 27, a span of eight starts. His ERA is up to 5.24. In his last outing, he allowed six runs and 10 hits in six innings against the Blue Jays.

Manager Buck Showalter moved Scott Feldman ahead of Hammel in the rotation. Should we read anything into it?

I don't sense that Hammel is on the verge of being yanked from the rotation. He does have bullpen experience and a change in roles could happen later if he continues to struggle - it's not like Jairo Asencio has a hammerlock on his spot - but the Orioles seem content for now to leave Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton at Triple-A Norfolk.

A big start for Hammel tonight? You could say so. The rest of the rotation is in sync, cranking out quality starts as if they're moving on a conveyor belt. All that's missing is Lucy Ricardo dipping them in chocolate.

There's less urgency for Hammel to get on a roll with the other four starters performing at a higher level. The bullpen isn't being abused. But the 2012 version of Hammel - the healthy one - would really provide a lift for a team that's trying to overtake the Red Sox.

Feldman won again last night and registered his third quality start in four outings with the Orioles. He doesn't come with an "ace" label, but he's a nice addition.

By the way, Jake Arrieta is 0-2 with a 5.17 ERA in four games with Triple-A Iowa. He's allowed nine earned runs (13 total) and 20 hits in 15 2/3 innings, with six walks and 17 strikeouts.

Hammel is 6-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 11 road starts this season. He hasn't pitched at Kauffman Stadium since May 21, 2010.

In seven career games (four starts) against the Royals, Hammel is 1-2 with a 5.11 ERA over 24 2/3 innings.

Former Oriole Bruce Chen will make only his second start among 21 appearances this season, and his presence on the mound will force Showalter into a difficult decision.

Give Henry Urrutia a start against a left-hander after he collected three hits last night, or start Danny Valencia, who's in an 0-for-20 slump but is 11-for-20 with four doubles, a triple and seven RBIs lifetime against Chen?

Would Showalter start Urrutia in left field and sit Nate McLouth, who reached base five times last night? I doubt it.

Nick Markakis is 8-for-16 with three doubles and a home run against Chen. Adam Jones is 6-for-16 with a homer and five RBIs.

Urrutia has four major league hits - a single to right field against a left-hander and three singles to left field. He also flied to left last night. He's got the ability to take the ball to all fields and hit lefties as well as right-handers.

His baserunning? A work in progress.

Urrutia was slow getting to second base Saturday night in Texas, which caused Brian Roberts to hold up and then get thrown out at second on what was scored a long single. And he was thrown out at second last night while trying to advance on a ball that got past Royals catcher Salvador Perez. He must have broke late.

The Orioles can work with him. They're just happy that he's getting on base.

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