A pressing question for the Baltimore Orioles this week is how to fit Ubaldo Jimenez into the pitching staff and rotation. He is ready to return from his rehab and stint on the disabled list.
The dilemma is this: The Orioles certainly cannot leave their $50 million guy in the garage, yet at the same time the pitching is going so well that it would appear to be dangerous to tinker with the current rotation and relief.
Would the Orioles move someone from the present rotation into long relief? Would they move to a six-man rotation? And who is going to have to be sent down to make room on a staff that currently already has 12 pitchers rather than 11 – all performing at least reasonably well?
Over recent years we have often seen this sort of pending dilemma somewhat solve itself. For example, it is not unusual for something unfortunate to happen – most often an injury. Therefore there is no reason to announce a move days in advance, even though behind the management doors of the organization there are varied possibilities being considered.
There really is no pressing reason to move any of the current five starters out of the rotation. Here are the stats for each of them over their past five starts:
The total of these 25 games is a 3.09 ERA. What is there to replace? Apart from an unforeseen event in the coming several days … nothing!
So, since Ubaldo Jimenez will be coming back soon, for better or for worse, how about making a six-man rotation? This would also involve the bullpen shrinking from seven arms to the more conventional number of six relievers. And this is what I believe will happen.
So, who will get sent down? There are currently three right-handers and four left-handers in the bullpen. The two possibilities who still have options are Brad Brach (RHP) and T.J. McFarland (LHP). There is no way Brach is going down and leaving the pen with four lefties and only two righties. Therefore, McFarland will have to be the one to go.
McFarland has had more than a few good outings, though he has had a couple of the other sort as well. Certainly Buck Showalter likes him and would like to retain him. McFarland is 4-2 with a 3.19 ERA, though his WHIP is 1.465 and batting average against is .307.
This is only a guess of what will happen this week, though I think it is logical. Jimenez pitched this past Sunday. I speculate the Orioles will throw Chris Tillman against the Cardinals on Friday, with Jimenez on Saturday. Therefore, McFarland will be sent down after Friday’s game … so look for T.J. to burn up some innings on Thursday or Friday.
And here is an additional thought to remember: the rosters expand in September. McFarland’s demotion will therefore be for only three weeks (barring any other circumstances, injuries, or contingencies). He will re-join the Orioles again at that point, as will a number of other relievers like Evan Meek and Ryan Webb. The six-man rotation over these next three weeks will set up the staff for the final push in September. And these extra arms in the bullpen will prove a deadly resource for Showalter’s management.
The only question is a scary one that is unanswerable until we see it happen. How effective will Ubaldo Jimenez be, and will he be able to throw strikes? Would you take a wager on that?