Zach Wilt: For starters, O’s have options to replace Arrieta

Yesterday, the Orioles sent Jake Arrieta to Triple-A Norfolk after his disappointing start against the Dodgers. Personally, I’m optimistic about Arrieta, as he’s a hard-throwing righty who has movement on his pitches and has shown dominance at times when he commands his pitches. The Orioles believe he has the stuff to help them down the road and think his emotions are what affects his mechanics.

For now, the O’s will replace Arrieta with relief pitcher Alex Burnett. They’ll need to add another starter Wednesday to avoid Jason Hammel pitching on short rest because of Saturday’s doubleheader, and they seem to have a number of options to replace Arrieta in the starting rotation.

If they wanted to stick with their current 25-man roster, Buck Showalter could hand the ball to Brian Matusz or T.J. McFarland. Showalter has been outspoken about giving McFarland opportunities in Baltimore and Matusz has shown dominance since converting the bullpen last season (25 appearances, 1.35 ERA, 6.25 K/BB, .154 BABIP). But based on Showalter’s comments Monday, I’m thinking the O’s will tap into the farm later this week for a starter to replace Arrieta until he shows he can consistently command his pitches.

Many in Birdland have predicted that Zach Britton will get the nod to make his first appearance with the O’s in 2013. Britton pitched a solid six innings for the Tides on April 18 and would have five full days of rest before getting the start. He is a groundball pitcher, with an outstanding 10.33 groundball-to-flyball ratio in Triple-A this season. My only concern with Britton is his 7-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If the Orioles are looking for a more pitch-efficient replacement for Arrieta, he probably isn’t their guy.

Veteran Freddy Garcia, who Dan Duquette added after he was released by the Padres during spring training, has impressed over his first three starts at Triple-A. Garcia is 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA over 17 2/3 innings with a dazzling 6.00 (12/2) K/BB ratio. He’s scheduled to pitch for the Tides on Tuesday against the Charlotte Knights, so the Orioles would have to skip his start in order for him to join the team in Baltimore on Wednesday. Garcia is out of minor league options, so if he’s called up he’s here to stay - or he must be exposed to waivers in order to be sent back to the minors.

Of course, former Braves All-Star Jair Jurrjens is another option. He’s thrown 24 innings with Norfolk this season and has held batters to a .233 average. Like Britton, Jurrjens’ strikeout-to-walk ratio (13/11) leaves a bit to be desired. His last start was April 21, so Showalter would have to juggle the rotation for make room for the 27-year-old righty.

I suppose the final option for Arrieta’s replacement would be Josh Stinson, who the O’s claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on April 4. Stinson is 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA over 13 2/3 inning pitched in two starts with the Tides.

Showalter has stressed that Arrieta would still be in Baltimore if the Orioles didn’t need a long reliever. His short start combined with the doubleheader taxed the ‘pen over the weekend. While the situation isn’t ideal, it’s nice to see that the O’s have depth in the farm to reach down to when they need it as opposed to bringing up unproven pitchers out of necessity as they had in previous years. It certainly says a lot about what Duquette has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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