The Jeremy Hellickson era officially begins tonight at Camden Yards.
Hellickson is making his first start since the Orioles acquired him from the Phillies late Friday night. He hasn’t pitched since July 22, when he faced the Brewers in Philadelphia and allowed six runs in five innings.
It was the second consecutive start with Hellickson lasting five innings. He had worked seven, six, 6 1/3 and six in his previous four outings.
Hellickson was at his best in the first month of the season, when he won all four decisions and allowed six runs in 30 innings for a 1.80 ERA. He posted a 7.04 ERA in six starts in May.
The Royals provide his first test as an Oriole. Hellickson is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.538 WHIP in eight career games (seven starts) against them over 39 innings.
Alex Gordon is 9-for-18 against Hellickson. Melky Cabrera is 6-for-16 with three doubles.
Alcides Escobar is 3-for-17 with two doubles, Salvador Perez is 2-for-13, Mike Moustakas is 2-for-12 with a double and Brandon Moss is 1-for-12 with five strikeouts.
The Orioles will find out whether Hellickson can follow tough acts. The rotation has allowed only three earned runs in the last 28 2/3 innings.
Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t figured out how Hellickson fits in a five-man rotation or he isn’t ready to divulge it. The Orioles apparently will go with six starters for the next go-around before perhaps making the adjustment.
As Showalter pointed out yesterday, it’s not as simple as just putting one of the starters in the bullpen. None of them are good fits and that’s especially true of Chris Tillman, who hasn’t worked in relief since his early minor league days.
I’d like to provide a spoiler alert, but I really have no idea how it’s going to play out.
I do know that players rave about Hellickson’s changeup. One Oriole referred to it yesterday as a “Bugs Bunny changeup.”
Left-hander Jason Vargas’s 13 wins in 17 decisions tied for the American League before last night. His 3.00 ERA was fifth.
Vargas was especially good in June, going 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 1.098 WHIP in six starts over 41 innings. He went 1-1 with a 7.23 ERA and 1.875 WHIP in four starts last month.
Left-handers are batting .302 against Vargas and right-handers are hitting .242.
Vargas is 2-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 1.042 WHIP in eight career starts against the Orioles and 0-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.091 WHIP in four starts at Camden Yards. Adam Jones is 5-for-28 (.179) with two doubles, Chris Davis is 3-for-14 (.214) with a home run and Craig Gentry is 5-for-21 (.238).
One last note (I hope) on Zach Britton and the non-waiver trade deadline.
The more people I check with, the more it’s apparent that offers for Britton were reflective of the version who twice went on the disabled list and not the dominant closer of 2016. No team stepped up with a group of prospects worthy of a deal, at least in the opinion of the people making the decision. The Astros, Dodgers and Indians tried to get him, but they fell short.
The Orioles simply weren’t going to sell low. And the debate can continue whether they should have adjusted their sights because this isn’t 2016.
I’ve heard from multiple sources that the medical reports on two pitchers offered by the Astros concerned the Orioles and eliminated any possibility of an agreement. Meanwhile, there were no issues with Britton’s medicals.
It didn’t matter how many batters he faced in consecutive outings. He warmed up before each one and his stuff was filthy. Fastball was 97-98 mph. Hitters were beating the ball into the ground or striking out. And he worked on three consecutive days without any discomfort.
As Britton strings together dominant outings, more contenders will regret the lack of aggression in acquiring him. He would have been a real difference maker in October.
Of course, the Orioles remain hopeful that he’s doing it for them as they move within 3 1/2 games of the second wild card and 5 1/2 games of first place.
Of course, plenty of people will argue that they should have taken the best offer and moved on from him. Pick a side.