Hess gets another turn, thoughts on Villar and Valera

The second series of the homestand concludes today with the Orioles starting another rookie, right-hander David Hess, for his first career outing against the White Sox.

Hess is back in the rotation after being put in the bullpen to provide insurance as a long reliever. It’s done out of necessity with Alex Cobb pushed back due to the blister/cut on his right middle finger.

Hess-Pitching-White-Sidebar.jpgHess has worked a combined nine innings in his last two starts, the most recent on Sept. 8 at Tropicana Field, and allowed six earned runs and 11 total with 16 hits but no walks. His last home start came on Aug. 27, when he shut out the Blue Jays over six innings.

Manager Buck Showalter told the media yesterday that Andrew Cashner’s knee isn’t responding to the cortisone injection and the veteran won’t start Monday night against the Blue Jays. An MRI didn’t show any structural damage in the knee, but Cashner has patellar tendon bursitis and it’s lingering.

The rotation remains a riddle.

Lucas Giolito, another pitcher who came to the White Sox from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade, is 10-10 with a 5.76 ERA and 1.425 WHIP in 29 starts. His 81 walks lead the American League and are second in the majors. His 102 earned runs are first in the majors, five more than runner-up and teammate James Shields.

Giolito faced the Orioles on May 24 and allowed seven runs and six hits with three walks in 1 1/3 innings. Trey Mancini and Adam Jones homered off him.

The former first-round pick has five quality starts in his last six outings.

One more loss and the Orioles will tie the club record of 107 set in 1988. They’ve lost 12 of their last 14 games and 20 of 25.

The Orioles are continuing their evaluation of Jonathan Villar at both middle infield positions. He moved back to second base last night, with Tim Beckham playing shortstop.

Villar had made 32 starts at second base and eight at shortstop since the Orioles acquired him from the Brewers in the Jonathan Schoop trade.

Under a different set of circumstances, Villar would be an ideal utility player for the Orioles with experience at second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield.

More teams are carrying 13 pitchers and going with a three-man bench, so the utility guy needs to expand his versatility beyond the infield. And Villar can steal a base in the late innings, a skill that’s been sorely lacking on Orioles teams.

However, the Orioles aren’t a loaded contender. They aren’t the Red Sox or the Yankees or the Indians. Putting Villar on the bench is a luxury.

He’s a necessity with the Orioles and that’s fine.

Villar is eligible for free agency following the 2020 season and the Orioles might use him as a trade chip, since contention in another year or two probably isn’t a realistic goal. In the meantime, he gives them a nice offensive presence high up in the order and can be a full-time replacement for Schoop or Beckham if the latter’s role is changed or he’s non-tendered.

Beckham is going to get another raise this winter based on his arbitration status and he’s already making $3.35 million. What the organization decides to do with him will be one of the more interesting stories of the offseason.

The rebuild can’t really begin until the Orioles are done tearing down the roster. It’s still going to be a process after the final game of the season.

More dollars will come off the payroll. Beckham could be vulnerable if he isn’t viewed as an everyday player at a position.

Breyvic Valera could factor into this equation because the Orioles need to figure out whether he’s a utility candidate next spring - there’s no shortage now with Jace Peterson and Steve Wilkerson also on the roster - or if he could handle second base on at least a semi-regular basis.

(There’s no crime in moving around multiple players and expanding the flexibility of the roster, as the Rays demonstrated with such skill this year.)

Valera is 7-for-22 (.318) with the Orioles, which is much closer to what he’s shown at baseball’s lower levels. He’s 13-for-61 (.213) in the majors, but a career .299/.357/.388 hitter in nine minor league seasons.

The Orioles tried to acquire Valera previously and finally got him in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers. Keep running him out there this month. Figure out what you’ve got with him and whether he could influence the decisions on other players.

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