The blame starts with the starting pitching

I'm here to offer a few simple facts and check whether you like your eggs scrambled or over easy.

The starting pitching has to get better. Period.

Bash the bullpen for allowing a pair of three-run homers in last night's 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays. Bash the offense for producing nothing except for Nelson Cruz's three-run homer. Bash Steve Lombardozzi for the error that opened both the bottom of the sixth inning and the floodgates.

The bottom line is, the rotation can't give the Orioles five innings every night and expect this team to win enough games to make the playoffs.

Starters are cruising and then they hit a wall. Air bags should deploy in the sixth.

The rotation has produced one quality start in the last eight games. The ERA is 4.50, which is 25th in the majors. It's not good for the bullpen. It's not good for anyone other than the opponent.

Manager Buck Showalter is going with a 13-man pitching staff, and he suggested yesterday while meeting with reporters during batting practice that he could stay with that arrangement indefinitely. Depends on the needs of the club.

As he kept asking in spring training, are the Orioles better served by carrying an extra pitcher or bench player?

Right now, it makes sense to keep an additional arm unless injuries force the Orioles to bring up a position player. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Matt Wieters are expected back in the lineup tonight, but this club keeps dealing with nagging little injuries. And that includes David Lough's concussion-like symptoms that finally have subsided.

Otherwise, the lineup is mostly set. Not a lot of substituting when the Orioles are healthy. And if the starters keep heading for the exits in the middle of games, eight relievers are going to be needed on a nightly basis.

That is, unless you like the smell of burned out bullpen.

The Orioles are benefiting from the plethora of open dates on their early schedule, with two more coming up next week. That won't last much longer.

Down on the farm, left-hander Troy Patton gave up one hit in 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his first rehab game with Triple-A Norfolk. He threw 14 pitches, seven for strikes.

Seems weird to refer to it as a "rehab" assignment, since he's not recovering from an injury. It's a 25-game suspension, which only hurts your career.

Patton must be activated on April 30. I've questioned how the Orioles will make room for him, but it becomes much easier if they stay with 13 pitchers.

Jemile Weeks had two more hits, a walk and his fourth stolen base last night and is batting .314.

It's going to be a light blogging day for me. I've got the Bachelor/Bachelorette Date Auction tonight at Looney's in Bel Air that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I'm a giver. Feel free to insert your own joke here.

My date package (OK, no jokes here) includes dinner at Gordon Biersch in Harbor East and salsa lessons. You can't put a price on that, but please try. It's for a good cause. And you can spare me the humiliation of having no one bid on me.

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