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Optioning Miguel Gonzalez a tough call for Orioles, but there are worse problems to have

When The Baltimore Sun's Orioles writers were asked for their 2014 predictions before the season began, I picked the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series.

I also thought that while the Orioles would have a successful season, they would just miss the playoffs.

And now, after watching the Orioles outscore the defending National League champions 22-5 in the first two games of their three-game interleague series, it’s pretty obvious that there’s a big gap between the clubs these days.

The Orioles are rolling. This is fact. Ever since their 5-4, walk-off loss in Oakland in their first game out of the All-Star break, the Orioles are 15-6. They have a six-game lead in the American League East over the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, their largest since September of their wire-to-wire 1997 division-championship season.

They’ve hit a combined nine homers in the past two games, spread out among eight players, and lead the majors with 147 homers through 116 games.

“We knew that at some point, this team was going to bust out,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, who has homered in five straight games. “You hope it’s seven days a week, not just one day a week, but we’re realistic and we know you’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are.”

It wasn’t that long ago — Thursday, to be exact — that Orioles manager Buck Showalter was being peppered with questions about his offense's inability to score runs.

The toughest decision this club now faces is how to fit a sixth starting pitcher into the rotation. But there are much worse decisions to have.

In order to make room for right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, the Orioles optioned right-hander Miguel Gonzalez to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday.

The move was a difficult one for Showalter, especially considering how well Gonzalez has been pitching. But it’s another example of the Orioles' methodical handling of their pitching staff.

The move had to be made before Saturday’s game, and Gonzalez was unfortunate enough to be the starter who had pitched most recently and who could be optioned to the minors. He allowed just one run over six innings in the Orioles' series finale Thursday in Toronto.

Right-hander Chris Tillman, who had no options, couldn’t be sent down, and Showalter has seen him thrive in a routine and wants to keep him as close to regular rest as possible.

The Orioles will use Thursday’s day off to limit the damage of Gonzalez’s loss while giving him a little extra rest. He is slated to pitch for Triple-A Norfolk either Tuesday or Wednesday, according to Showalter, but Wednesday would seem to make more sense, as it would give him an extra day of rest and allow for another extra day before he could return to the Orioles on Aug. 19.

Thursday’s day off also comes at a perfect time, allowing the Orioles to go through the rotation another turn without needing a starter to replace Gonzalez.

Rosters expand less than two weeks after that, so the Orioles won’t have the roster crunch they do now. And if the rotation is still pitching as well then as it is now, there won’t be much to complain about, pitching-wise.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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