It’s easier to understand now why the Orioles were slow to reveal Wednesday afternoon’s starter against the Tigers at Camden Yards. The move was tied to Chris Tillman’s groin and Bud Norris’ status.
Or something along those lines.
Manager Buck Showalter wanted to give left-hander Wei-Yin Chen an extra day of rest. He didn’t want to start Miguel Gonzalez on short rest. He may need Gonzalez to replace Tillman on Friday, though it’s not expected to happen.
Norris could appeal a suspension and make Saturday’s start, though the Orioles aren’t anticipating disciplinary action from the commissioner’s office.
Showalter won’t initiate contact with Major League Baseball, saying he doesn’t want to “throw up any red flags.”
“I don’t expect anything, but they don’t really consult what my mindset is,” he added. “If they want to talk about it, I’m certainly willing to talk about it, but I’m not going to initiate. We’ll see what direction they go in.”
Asked whether he expects some carryover in tonight’s game following last night’s altercation between Norris and Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, Showalter replied, “Believe me, it’s probably a topic in here among people who talk about it, but just like there wasn’t much comment about the two balls thrown over Nicky (Markakis’) head last night. Just part of the game. You deal with it. It takes a lot of guts to compete at this level knowing that’s around every corner. That’s part of it.
“You deal with it, you’re supportive of your people and you deal with whatever may come your way. If something’s there, we’ll deal with it and move on. It’s part of doing this for a living. But if it needs to be something, it needs to be. We’ll take care of it.”
Showalter repeated that he understood Hunter’s reaction after the outfielder was drilled in the ribs and what the pitch “looked like” one batter after Ian Kinsler’s two-run homer.
“Bud had been pitching him there a lot and that one got a little further in and it hit him in a spot that ... Torii’s the type of guy who goes out over the plate and that’s why he’s such a good player. He’s fearless. Bud has to pitch inside, but the timing of it is what caused a lot of emotion there.”
The Orioles will need to make room for Kevin Gausman on the 25-man roster, a move that could be announced later tonight.
Gausman said he threw a short bullpen session and is fine working on three days rest. He also said he could throw 90-100 pitches if necessary.
“I don’t know if it will be a pure numbers pitch count as opposed to how the Tigers are doing against him, more than anything,” Showalter said. “But obviously there’s a number there that I’ll have in mind. But I look more at the stressfulness of it.”
Showalter said Gausman’s previous quality start against the Tigers wasn’t a big factor in the decision to recall him.
“It’s a small part of it,” Showalter said. “It’s more serving the needs of our pitchers and matchups and where we are with Tilly and where we are with Bud and what might come down the road. We just want to be prepared and make sure we get ahead of some potential physical strain that we put on people and also get ahead of, being prudent about some things that might be headed your way that might make you adjust things. And all that takes is a rainout or two to throw all those plans back in a tailspin. But how he pitched against Detroit one time was way down the pecking list.
“It kind of fits best for our club and some of the situations that changed over the last couple of days that we need to be prepared for down the road. Obviously, some guys pitch better with extra rest and some guys don’t. Kevin, because of some of his inactivity down below and where they’ve shortened him up, his innings management is in good shape right now as we sit here in the middle of May.”
The Orioles aren’t calling it a spot start. They aren’t going to proclaim that Gausman is here to stay.
“It’s like I say all the time, who’s your No. 1 starter? It’s the guy that’s pitching tonight,” Showalter said. “Where does this land me after this? I don’t know. Go pitch real well and that enhances that. It’s like the guy who always wants strokes on the first tee. Play better. They don’t handicap this thing.”
With Johan Santana and Dylan Bundy making good progress in their recoveries from surgery, the potential exists for the Orioles to have increased pitching options.
“I don’t worry about how is it going to fit,” Showalter said. “Unfortunately, in today’s game it always seems to have a way of fitting. We’ve had some tough calls on personnel this year, but not necessarily with pitchers, but I think we’re getting ready to head down that road before long if we stay healthy and that’s a good thing.
“As good as Detroit is, their backbone is the five starters they run out there. Offense is going to come and go. Defense shouldn’t go into slumps, attitude shouldn’t go into slumps and effort shouldn’t go into slumps. And quite frankly, starting pitching very seldom as a group goes into a slump if you’re quality, so that’s where we’re trying to get if we want to get where we want to go later in the season.”
Showalter was accustomed in the past to deciding on a pitcher based on “last guy standing,” which no longer seems to be as much of an issue in Baltimore.
“Now, it’s a tough evaluation,” he said. “You’re always trying to take the best 25 as opposed to the right 25. The thing I like is, people talk about arb years and Super 2 and all that other stuff. That doesn’t come up here much. It might be the tail end of it, but who’s best? It’s time. I can’t tell you how many times over the course of conversations after games and whatever, it’s kind of challenging. It’s tough to do the logistics of it, but it ends with, ‘We’re trying to win here, aren’t we? Is this the right thing? Yes? Then let’s do it.’”
Showalter was amused when asked whether the Orioles could deal from their pitching surplus to fill another need on the roster.
“The Baltimore Orioles trading a surplus of pitching? Did you just say that? Wow.” Showalter said.
“No, we’re going to keep it all. We’re going to horde it.
“Somebody write that down, with the date and the time.”
The Orioles are 3-7 against the American League Central and 17-9 against the rest of baseball.
Since starting out 2-for-10, catcher Steve Clevenger is batting .333/.385/.528 in his last 10 games.
The Orioles rank second in the American League with a .279 average with runners in scoring position, trailing only the Tigers (.282).
The Orioles named Double-A Bowie outfielder Dariel Alvarez as the organization’s Player of the Month and Baysox right-hander Tyler Wilson as Pitcher of the Month. Alvarez, 25, batted .361/.370/.567 with 11 doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs in 23 games. Wilson, 24, went 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in five games, with six walks and 36 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.