The Orioles need to line up Chris Tillman to start every single game against the Mariners. Forget resting a certain number of days. A three-game series should equal three Tillman starts.
The offense stole the show last night, but Tillman deserves to be recognized for the 12 straight batters he retired, and for extending his streak of dominance against the organization that deemed him expendable.
Tillman has allowed three earned runs in 27 2/3 innings against the Mariners. Maybe his elbow could hold up for two more starts at Safeco Field. Let him rest it in Boston and back at Camden Yards.
Manager Buck Showalter will go easy on him and start Wei-Yin Chen tonight and Joe Saunders on Wednesday. He's expected to take the protective wrapping off Miguel Gonzalez on Friday at Fenway Park.
You may remember Gonzalez. Former Mexican League pitcher. Started the season in Triple-A Norfolk's bullpen.
Gonzalez is being handled with care. He gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings in Texas back on Aug. 20 and didn't pitch again until Aug. 31, when he blanked the Yankees over seven innings. Working on normal rest, he allowed five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings in Toronto and didn't pitch again until holding the Rays to two runs over six innings on Sept. 12.
Showalter is holding Gonzalez out of the rotation for nine days before giving him the ball again on Friday. He's making sure that Gonzalez reaches the finish line without having to crawl there on his hands and knees.
Gonzalez has thrown 85 2/3 innings with the Orioles and 44 2/3 with Norfolk. He pitched winter ball before signing with the Orioles. He missed two full seasons because of leg and arm injuries. Showalter is taking full advantage of the expanded roster and a few well-placed off-days to rest him.
Gonzalez has posted a 4.84 ERA in eight starts on regular rest. He threw seven scoreless innings with two hits allowed in his only start on five days rest, and he has a 2.41 ERA in three starts with six days or more of rest.
Losing Tillman and Jason Hammel didn't deter Showalter from taking it easy on Gonzalez. Tillman is back, and Gonzalez will resurface later this week.
Jim Thome could resurface later this month, as he continues to make significant progress down in Sarasota. A few at-bats in the instructional league and he could be ready to come off the disabled list while the Orioles are in Boston, which was their goal when they left Camden Yards after the last homestand.
At the minimum, Thome could be the designated hitter against right-handers, with Chris Davis going back to right field and Endy Chavez going back to the bench. In the meantime, Chavez has seven hits in 16 at-bats since the Orioles selected his contract following Nick Markakis' season-ending injury.
It's been that kind of a year.