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Orioles starters are putting their bullpen counterparts in jeopardy

By Matt Vensel

3:15 PM EDT, June 29, 2011

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It has been more than two weeks since an Orioles starter went seven innings. It last happened on June 10 when Jake Arrieta managed to keep his pitch count down long enough to hand the ball over to the bullpen before the eighth inning, and it was the only time an Orioles starter has lasted past the sixth inning in June.

No wonder the Baltimore bullpen has allowed more run earned runs than any other team in baseball.

The Orioles are last in the American League with 34 quality starts, and only the Royals have gotten more innings out of their relievers. In pitching 263 2/3 innings in 76 games, the Orioles bullpen is averaging an MLB-high 3.46 innings a night. Imagine where this team would be without Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara.

The starters need to go deep if they want Johnson, Uehara and the rest of the relievers to have arms remaining on their throwing shoulders by the time August rolls around. It could get ugly.

This isn’t the first time I’ve brought this up, by the way.

Arrieta and Zach Britton are young and still feeling their way through the majors, and Brian Matusz clearly hasn’t been himself. Chris Jakubauskas, Wednesday’s starter, has been giving it all even though he is a bit overmatched as a starter at this level. So it’s on Jeremy Guthrie, the staff leader, to set the tone for the rest of the rotation by giving the Orioles seven innings on a regular basis.

Johnson’s elbow and Koji’s hamstrings are begging him.