It’s getting more serious.
The Orioles and Royals will work out today at Camden Yards, with the intensity ramped up prior to Friday night’s opener of the American League Championship Series. The Orioles take the field at 5 p.m., 30 minutes after manager Buck Showalter meets with reporters and other media types.
Brady Anderson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Mike Bordick will be made available for interviews earlier in the day. They know a thing or two about the ALCS.
It’s been a combined 60 years since the Orioles (1983) and Royals (1985) have reached the World Series, the longest combined drought in ALCS history.
James Shields and Yordano Ventura will start the first two games for Kansas City. I wouldn’t expect Showalter to announce his rotation beyond the Game 1 starter, who almost assuredly will be Chris Tillman. He may keep us guessing on the order of Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez.
Norris, as I’ve pointed out, is 0-1 with a 0.68 ERA in two starts against the Royals. Chen is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts in Kansas City. Showalter could flip-flop them, with Norris starting Game 2 instead of Chen.
What about Gonzalez? He hasn’t started since the final regular season game in Toronto. He pitched a three-inning simulated game on Tuesday at Camden Yards.
Gonzalez is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in three career starts against the Royals and 0-1 with an 11.57 ERA in one start in Kansas City - allowing six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings on June 25, 2013.
They’re all small sample sizes and Gonzalez shouldn’t be judged on one start at Kauffman Stadium last season. Better to judge him on how he allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his last 15 starts, on his 2.19 ERA in the second half and .222 opponents batting average.
Beyond the order of the rotation, the biggest curiosity is whether Showalter will go with 12 pitchers and add left-handers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland. My guess is they’re expecting it after being kept off the Division Series roster.
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas hit .172 against left-handers this season, which makes Matusz more valuable in the later innings. However, Moustakas hit .223 against right-handers. It’s not as though he challenged for the batting title.
Ubaldo Jimenez and infielder Jimmy Paredes seem to be the most vulnerable players as Showalter constructs his ALCS roster, but most of us were wrong about Jimenez’s inclusion on the Division Series roster. Showalter came close to including outfielder Quintin Berry and infielder Alexi Casilla. Does he try to make room for one of them?
As for the catching situation, I’d still expect Nick Hundley behind the plate for Tillman despite Caleb Joseph having the better arm and percentage of throwing out runners attempting to steal. Hundley has caught Tillman’s last 14 starts.
As far as I know, Joseph is healthy and full-go for the series. It’s been reported elsewhere that he’s injured and may not be able to play, but three people in the organization told me yesterday that it’s not true.
One official said Joseph is “100 percent.” Another official said if Joseph is hurt, that’s news to him.
Also, the players aren’t voting on whether Chris Davis is included on the ALCS roster, despite the report on TBS. Davis would have to miss five games and the Orioles aren’t playing shorthanded.
Billy Butler is a career .313/.366/.545 hitter in 54 games against the Orioles, with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and 38 RBIs in 211 at-bats. He’s hit .318/.371/.561 in 26 games at Camden Yards, with six doubles, six homers and 17 RBIs in 107 at-bats.
Don’t be too alarmed. Butler was 8-for-30 (.267) with two doubles, four RBIs and six strikeouts in seven games against the Orioles this season, and 6-for-25 (.240) with two doubles and a home run in seven games in 2013.
I’d worry about Alex Gordon. Besides reminding us that he’s a Gold Glove left fielder, he also went 10-for-29 (.345) with two doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and five runs scored against the Orioles this season.
Gordon was 7-for-23 (.304) with a triple, three home runs, seven RBIs and six runs scored in six games in 2013.