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BOSTON - If the Orioles handed out an Unsung Hero award, reliever Darren O'Day would need to start preparing his speech.
O'Day might get overlooked in a bullpen that includes Jim Johnson, who set the franchise's single-season record for saves last night with his 46th, but as manager Buck Showalter said, "It depends on who's doing the looking. We certainly don't."
O'Day stranded another runner last night - only six of 41 inherited have scored off him - and he retired all five batters that he faced to lower his ERA to 2.37.
"He's just been solid," Showalter said. "He had - what's half of a hiccup? - a little blurp after the All-Star break and I think that had something to do with the little prank I played on him. I still feel responsible for that. And he's gotten back in step.
"Darren's been a rock. He's really come on, too, about defending himself against left-handed hitters. Darren's a pitcher. He's not just one of these guys who throws one pitch underneath. He throws three down there and it's been fun to watch. He's been very honest with us about when he needs a day and when he doesn't. I think this whole thing has been about trust for all of us."
O'Day could be more of a presence in set-up situations while Pedro Strop struggles to regain the form that made him so dominant for most of the season.
Strop didn't pitch last night. Asked about O'Day being used instead, Showalter replied, "Pedro couldn't pitch. We're giving him a day. He's still a good option for us down there. Darren was a more healthy option for us tonight."
I checked on Strop later. He said that he's fine physically.
Strop has posted a 7.36 ERA in his last 15 games since Aug. 18, raising his ERA from 1.20 to 2.26. He's let 10 of 22 inherited runners score this season.
Showalter isn't giving up on Strop - he's got a long memory - but he's going to take advantage of O'Day's effectiveness and dependability. That's one of the perks of having a deep bullpen. There are other choices when you're patience runs a little thin.
As for that prank:
Update: I rode the elevator with Robert Andino this morning, and he said the CT scan was fine. He wants to play today. In fact, he didn't want to stop playing last night.
The Orioles weren't taking any chances after a 94 mph fastball slammed into Andino's batting helmet.