Top offseason acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez again failed to pick up his first win as an Oriole, but the club had a more pressing concern following Friday's 5-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
First baseman Chris Davis, the majors' reigning home run and RBI champ, was pulled before Friday's fifth inning with a strained left oblique. It's being called day-to-day right now, but oblique injuries tend to linger. The Orioles just hope they caught it in time.
“We'll get a better idea of what we've got (Saturday),” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “So hopefully we got ahead of it. We'll see.”
Showalter said he removed Davis from the lineup for precautionary purposes after seeing him grimace during his third inning at-bat and then watched him move around tentatively in the fourth. He didn't give Davis a chance to argue.
“There was no asking. He basically said, ‘You are done.' So, it's probably smart right now,” Davis said. “If he had left it up to me I would have stayed in there. It's probably why he didn't. If we can get ahead of it right now and make it something that's just a bump in the road as opposed to a big obstacle. It's better off.”
Davis still had his sense of humor in tact after the game, telling reporters that he had “a broken clavicle,” and that he would be out “48 to 65 weeks.”
But when asked whether he was concerned that the oblique injury might sideline him several weeks, Davis wasn't joking.
“I've never had an oblique strain or whatever you want to call it, but it doesn't feel so bad right now that I can't move or anything like that,” said Davis, who played in 160 games last year and all 22 so far this season. “So I think right now we'll just take it one day at a time.”
Davis was replaced in the fifth by Steve Lombardozzi, who played second base while Ryan Flaherty switched from second to first and Jonathan Schoop moved from second to third base.
The injury made a soggy, chilly night in Baltimore even more painful for the announced crowd of 22,478, which endured a 55-minute rain delay before the first pitch and another sub-par performance from Jimenez.
The lanky right-hander, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal in February, allowed four runs on six hits and four walks in six-plus innings Friday. After a rocky first in which he permitted two runs on a walk and three consecutive singles, Jimenez (0-4) settled down and pitched five scoreless innings.
“I couldn't find the strike zone at all (early),” Jimenez said. “I was able to step off the mound and regroup. And kept throwing strikes. I tried to give the team a chance.”
At one point, Jimenez retired 12 of 13 Royals, but he failed to get any outs in the seventh, walking the leadoff batter and then giving up two singles before exiting.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland gave up another RBI single — with the run charged to Jimenez — before escaping in the seventh. McFarland allowed another run in the ninth on a double by Orioles killer Billy Butler. The Royals DH also had a run-scoring single in the first and has 36 RBIs in 48 games against Baltimore in his career.
After throwing three innings Friday, McFarland was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles will announce a corresponding move Saturday – and it is expected to be a position player to help fill the void with Davis at least temporarily out.
The six innings tied Jimenez's longest outing as an Oriole — matching the six he pitched in his club debut April 2. He has lost four of his five starts with his new team, and the club has lost all five games he has started.
“I'm trying to do everything possible to be there for the team. That's pretty much it. I know things have to change,” Jimenez said. “I'm really happy that April (is ending), this is my last start in April. Hopefully I can get it going in May. It seems like every time I go out there I find a way to lose the game.”
The Orioles offense couldn't do anything against 22-year-old fireballer Ventura (2-1), who pitched eight scoreless innings. He allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out eight and has surrendered two or fewer runs in three of his four 2014 starts.
The Orioles were hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position against Ventura.
“That kid's special, to say the least,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “He's got a 95-100 (fastball). His change-up I think is the pitch that keeps people off his fastball. His curveball was filthy. I don't like to tip my cap but the guy's got some good stuff and he went out there and showed it.”
The Orioles (11-11) fell to .500 as the Royals (11-11) improved to .500.
They'll have difficulty if they have to go a lengthy period without Davis. Flaherty is the backup at first, especially after the club designated Steve Pearce for assignment Tuesday to make room for McFarland on the roster.
The Orioles had 10 days from Tuesday to release, trade or place Pearce on waivers. They are not able to pull him back; though they could bring him back if he passes through waivers unclaimed. Like all teams, the Orioles don't announce when they have placed someone on waivers – but it is a 48-hour process once it occurs. It's hard to imagine anyone could replace Davis' production for a long period of time.
“(Davis) is a big, big part of our lineup and part of our plan. Whatever it is, you just want him to take his time and not rush it because it could be longer,” Jones said. “A big, strong guy like that, I think he wants to rush back. But something like that, it's early in the season, make sure you're 100 percent before you come back on the field.”
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