It seems every year the Orioles call on their bullpen to work a lot of innings. Over six months and 162 games, that creates a strain and drain on the the bullpen hurlers.
As American League teams begin play this Sunday, right now the Orioles rank last in the AL in starting pitcher innings at 179 2/3.
There are extenuating circumstances, of course, when you have a young rotation and some of the pitchers are still learning and developing. Some may not be able to give you the amount of innings over a full season that others can pitch, although manager Buck Showalter said that is not a major concern.
“We’re in pretty good shape there. The organization has worked very hard and with the exception of one guy, all these guys are capable of going 200 innings this year, if their abilities and the opposition lets them,” Showalter said of his starting pitchers.
The exception would be Zach Britton, who pitched 153 innings in the minors last year after going 140 in 2009 and won’t be pushed to 200 this year.
But Showalter also knows he has to think about a lot more each night with young starting pitchers than just winning that game that night. He wants them to get through the season strong to the end.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a juggling act, but you are constantly aware of the bigger picture. But you are always trying for those three hours to win that game, but you have to keep certain things in mind.
“Like giving guys an extra day here and there when you can, even though statistically, you might do it different later in the season if you are in a pennant race. But, every inning, every day you buy makes them better,” he said.
Ranking Orioles’ pitchers in average innings per start:
6.29 - Jeremy Guthrie
6.14 - Zach Britton
5.62 - Jake Arrieta
5.13 - Brad Bergesen
4.60 - Chris Tillman
The Orioles have had a starter go seven innings or more just five times in 32 games. Guthrie has done that three times while Arrieta and Britton have gone seven once each.
As the season goes on, Showalter will continue the juggling act. Trying to do right by his young pitchers, while at the same time wanting them to go deep in games and lessen the innings load on his bullpen.