The Orioles swept a two-game series against the Mets at Citi Field and led the Blue Jays 4-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning at Rogers Centre. I foolishly let myself believe that they were getting on a roll with three straight wins, that they might move into a more respectable neighborhood.
Darren O’Day finally came off the disabled list yesterday and tossed a scoreless eighth inning with two strikeouts. It was one of the few bright spots in a 13-3 whipping, unless we’re also celebrating Chris Davis’ single and his 10th run scored of the year.
Zach Britton is expected to come off the disabled list today, four days earlier than anticipated, and the Orioles will need to make room on the 25- and 40-man rosters.
The latter issue could be solved by transferring someone from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list. Infielder Luis Sardiñas sustained an ankle injury while rehabbing with Triple-A Norfolk. It wouldn’t be a monumental setback to shift him to the 60-day.
If manager Buck Showalter wants to keep a seven-man bullpen, Britton’s arrival is going to create a major complication. Britton, O’Day, Brach, Castro, Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier would appear to be locks to stay, leaving Mike Wright Jr. and Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo for the final spot.
Wright is out of options. Araujo can’t be optioned without passing through waivers and being offered back to the Cubs.
Castro can be optioned, but he’s one of the trusted multi-inning arms.
Wright surrendered a home run Friday night and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings yesterday with four hits allowed and two strikeouts. He’s permitted only one run in 12 1/3 innings in his last eight appearances, though 14 hits, seven walks and a hit batter have ramped up the stress level.
Araujo was overmatched again yesterday, to be expected when a pitcher is making the jump from Single-A Myrtle Beach. He served up two more home runs in the fifth inning, to Teoscar Hernández and Kevin Pillar, and was charged with four runs that raised his ERA to 7.71. He also walked two batters and threw only 13 of 31 pitches for strikes.
He can’t be trusted in tight spots and he’s been challenged to stop the bleeding in games that morph into blowouts. And again, it’s not his fault. Araujo was pitching in the Carolina League last summer.
I brought up this argument in a previous blog entry. Do the Orioles give up on the Araujo experiment, conceding that they can no longer carry him in their bullpen, or do they figure that a team on pace to win 48 games should hold onto him as an investment in their future?
They’d have to believe that he’s still a prospect who could become an established reliever somewhere down the road. Otherwise, it’s a pointless endeavor.
Showalter defended Araujo yesterday in his postgame media session, which is exactly what he’s supposed to do. Not throw the kid under the bus. Showalter has been handcuffed while trying to find the safest spots to use Araujo. The games don’t always allow it. But he won’t vent in public or say something that’s going to remove another chunk of Araujo’s confidence.
“It’s been a challenge for him and that’s to be expected,” Showalter told the media. “He’s got good stuff. He’s got a chance to be a good pitcher in the big leagues. We’re talking to him now, making sure everything’s OK, because you never want to assume something.
“You also want to keep in mind the psyche of a young pitcher like that without a whole lot of experience. Just make sure he and we are communicating with him and know what’s going on.”
The Orioles could keep eight relievers and go with a short bench, but Danny Valencia was out of the lineup yesterday due to an illness that’s spreading through the clubhouse. If he isn’t feeling better today, the Orioles would have only two available reserves.
They’re going to keep a backup catcher, of course, and Jace Peterson is their utility player. They’d have to be willing to part with Pedro Álvarez or choose between Craig Gentry or Joey Rickard, their two right-handed hitting speedy outfielders. Gentry is out of options.