DETROIT - The Orioles came home from a nine-day road trip with a black eye.
Losing six games by one run is bound to leave a mark.
The offense wakes up and the rotation regresses, placing a strain on the bullpen, impacting performances and forcing the club into making more roster moves. The Orioles need to find their center, to regain their balance. They can’t count on outslugging teams every night.
Seth Smith doesn’t have a black eye, but he’s sporting a nasty red spot on his left cheek after he drove a ball into home plate yesterday and caught it with his face. Never happened to him before. The foot, ankle and shin are more common targets. The inside of the knee also is vulnerable. But the face?
Smith confirmed afterward that he isn’t a doctor, which eliminated all the follow-up questions about his condition. He’d normally be in the lineup tonight against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez, but manager Buck Showalter may have to adjust his usual routine.
Manny Machado has a sore finger on his right hand, which kept him from playing yesterday, but still enabled him to catch Dylan Bundy between innings. Lobbing the ball back to the mound wasn’t an issue.
Ryan Flaherty wore an ice pack on his right shoulder before and after the game. Mark Trumbo has a bruise on his left ankle that’s multi-colored and can best be described as grotesque. Jonathan Schoop came out of Tuesday’s game with cramping in his right hamstring, which was heavily wrapped, and he might have been rested yesterday if not for Machado’s finger.
And this is just the visible stuff to the media. The training room isn’t a popular gathering spot because it has snacks.
The baseball season is a grind and it’s only 39 games old.
Chris Tillman finally is healthy after beginning the season on the disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder. His third start comes tonight in the series opener against the Blue Jays.
Tillman tossed five scoreless innings on May 7 against the White Sox, allowing three hits, walking three batters and throwing 93 pitches. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings Saturday night in Kansas City and allowed three runs and eight hits with two walks before leaving with his pitch count at 105.
“His numbers are a little better than probably his starts,” Showalter said. “Command has been a challenge for him, as it’s been for a lot of our guys. We hopefully get on a run where we get more than four- and five-inning starts. That’s what’s been the biggest challenge for our bullpen. But he feels good health-wise, so that’s a good sign.
“I’m looking forward to him getting in a groove and pitching like he’s capable of.”
The Orioles won’t go far this season if the rotation doesn’t snap out of its collective funk.
Tillman is 5-10 with a 5.44 ERA in 24 career starts against the Jays. He’s registered a 1.369 WHIP in 137 1/3 innings.
Kevin Pillar is 9-for-25 (.360) with two doubles and three home runs lifetime against Tillman, but he’s been suspended two games for using a homophobic slur on the field Wednesday night. He won’t be in tonight’s lineup.
Ryan Goins is 9-for-27 (.333) with a home run against Tillman, José Bautista is 13-for-46 (.283) with four doubles and four home runs, Kendrys Morales is 5-for-16 (.313) with a double, Ezequiel Cabrera is 4-for-12 (.333) with a home run, and Devon Travis is 3-for-10 (.300) with two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.
Sanchez is 0-1 with a 2.95 ERA in four starts this season, including his April 14 outing in Baltimore when he allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. Schoop, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy hit home runs.
Sanchez is 5-3 with a 4.31 ERA and 1.562 WHIP in 14 career games (nine starts) against the Orioles spanning 56 1/3 innings. He’s 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.609 WHIP in six games (four starts) at Camden Yards over 23 innings.
Davis is 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, four home runs and 10 walks lifetime against Sanchez. Schoop is 9-for-21 (.429) with a home run, Hyun Soo Kim is 4-for-13 (.308) with a double, Machado is 6-for-27 (.222) with two doubles, Adam Jones is 3-for-23 (.130) with a double and a home run, Hardy is 2-for-13 (.154) with a double and home run, and Caleb Joseph is 1-for-11 (.091) with a double.
Fans keep asking why the Orioles don’t sign free agent Doug Fister. Well, he held out for a major league deal and received one yesterday from the Angels.
Fister isn’t ready to step into a major league rotation and reportedly has agreed to be sent down to the minors and build up his arm and innings. There isn’t an instant fix.