During yesterday’s pregame session with the media, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked to explain how his bullpen had allowed only one run in the last 29 2/3 innings.
“Well,” he replied, “now that you’ve jinxed it ...”
Showalter was kidding at the time, but look what happened. Evan Meek was charged with four runs and Brian Matusz was charged with five in a 12-7 loss to the Rays at Camden Yards.
Lesson learned. Don’t talk about it. Just appreciate it.
Showalter extended Matusz to 2 1/3 innings and 47 pitches, an unusual occurrence dictated by circumstances. He wasn’t going to use three of his relievers yesterday and Matusz basically had to take one for the team.
Not that Showalter was risking Matusz’s health. He just knew that he could squeeze one more inning out of the left-hander and save the other arms.
Showalter is extremely careful when it comes to regulating innings and the number of pitches thrown, whether it’s in a game or in the bullpen.
“You watch our bullpen (and) when we get a guy up, he’s probably coming in the game,” Showalter said. “We don’t get him up three innings later and get him up again. If a guy gets hot and something happens, a double play ball or something, and he doesn’t get in the game, you probably won’t see him again. That’s where you get guys in trouble, when you yo-yo them back and forth.
“I didn’t want to pitch Darren (O’Day) yesterday because he had gotten a hitter away from coming into the ballgame before we went ahead the day before, so Darren was a guy I did not want to pitch yesterday only because (he was) all the way hot the day before in the bullpen and didn’t pitch. That’s just like pitching. We take a lot of pride in trying to keep those guys healthy and putting them in situations that take advantage of their abilities. And they have some abilities. So the credit goes to them. I hope we don’t have that much need, but you better be equipped.
“Every day, I wish you could sit down with the conversations that Wally (Dave Wallace) and Dom (Chiti) and I have a half-hour before they can go out. Go through every scenario. This guy gets hit with a line drive first pitch of the game, what are we doing?’ But you do it the day before. If you’ve got to do it that morning. ...
“We went through the whole bullpen before we left last night. How many innings can he pitch, how many can he pitch, who do we need to stay away from? And then we talk to Dan (Duquette). Here’s where we are. We’re in harm’s way tomorrow. And if you are, you get an arm in here.”
Showalter is more satisfied with his bullpen’s versatility, with some guys doing a better job of defending themselves against both right-handers and left-handers.
Left-handers batted .309 against O’Day last season and right-handers hit .154. This year, left-handers are batting .262 and right-handers .231.
Right-handers and left-handers batted .244 against Ryan Webb in 2013. This year, right-handers are batting .230 and left-handers are hitting .178.
Left-handers hit .294 against Tommy Hunter last season. Their average was down to .255 going into yesterday’s game, and he retired three in the ninth inning on only three pitches. However, right-handers have gone from batting .141 in 2013 to .345 this season.
“We don’t want to be just a pure right-on-right, left-on-left,” Showalter said. “I think Darren, one of his points of emphasis this spring was trying to defend himself against left-handed hitters. Same way with Ryan Webb. Ryan’s done a good job. So it’s not like we have to use so many guys to get through one inning as much anymore. Sometimes, we will when it’s that stage of the game.
“I think there’s some versatility there. In the American League, it’s hard to carry more than one or two situational guys. I’ve said many times length in the bullpen in the American League is different than it is in the National League. You look at Evan Meek, a guy with a cutter who can defend himself against left-handed hitters, if you look at his lifetime numbers. Brad (Brach), the way he’s worked on his changeup. If you notice the board and the number of changeups that Ryan’s able to throw now, that’s something he didn’t come equipped with when he got here very much. I’m not going to talk about what Darren’s done to help himself, but I think that’s a lot of it.”
As for tonight’s game, the Rangers are sending left-hander Joe Saunders to the mound, which may be a good time for the Orioles to slip Delmon Young into the lineup. He’s collected six hits in his last eight at-bats and 14 in his last 29. Also, he’s 4-for-13 (.308) with a double and home run lifetime against Saunders.
Chris Davis went 0-for-3 yesterday, his average dropping to .212. He’s 4-for-21 (.190) with a home run and seven strikeouts against Saunders. Does he play tonight?
Nelson Cruz is 11-for-35 (.314) with a double and two home runs, and Adam Jones is 7-for-22 (.318) with a double and home run.
If Manny Machado begins serving his suspension today, keep in mind that Jemile Weeks is 3-for-6 against Saunders. Just saying ...
Weeks was in short-season Single-A Aberdeen’s lineup again last night, going 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and two walks.
The Orioles must decide today what they’re going to do with outfielder Nolan Reimold, who completed his injury rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie. It’s believed that they’re exploring trade options before deciding whether to designate him for assignment.