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Orioles aligning starting rotation for upcoming 33 games in 34 days to complete regular season

The Orioles are setting their rotation for the season’s stretch run and the immediate result may be a long layoff for Miguel Gonzalez or, potentially, a skipped start for Scott Feldman.

Starting Tuesday in Boston, the Orioles will finish the regular season with 33 games in 34 days — with the lone off day coming on Sept. 16. So manager Buck Showalter is hoping to take advantage of the Thursday’s and Monday’s upcoming off days to reposition his rotation.

Feldman would be on turn to start at home against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday, but instead Chris Tillman will make pitch that day on regular rest. Feldman will be pushed back to Sunday, assuming he is not needed to pitch in long relief on Friday or Saturday.

If Feldman is forced into long relief, his start will be skipped and Gonzalez, who pitched Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, would be the starter Sunday — a game which the Orioles currently list as TBA.

Assuming Feldman makes Sunday’s start, Gonzalez will be placed in the bullpen as an emergency reliever and won’t start again until Aug. 30 in New York. That means Gonzalez may go nine days without starting. The layoff would serve two purposes.

Gonzalez has excelled at Yankee Stadium, where he is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in four career starts. And Gonzalez has benefited from extra days of rest in the past, going 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 18 career starts with more than four days of rest compared to 10-5 with a 4.66 ERA in 18 starts on regular rest.

The Orioles are currently scheduled to start Wei-Yin Chen on five days of rest, and Bud Norris and Tillman on four days of rest in the series against the Boston Red Sox that begins Tuesday.

Showalter has been more likely to give extra days to Gonzalez and Feldman because they’ve both pitched in relief in the past. In addition, Feldman went eight days between starts earlier this month and responded well from the extended break, pitching to a 2.25 ERA (3 earned runs in 12 innings) in two outings since.

“Some of the things we’ve done this month with the off days were kind of trying to match up and for the most part helped us a little bit,” Showalter said. “But the pitching hasn’t been the issue in some cases.”

Asked if he’s willing to go to a six-man rotation down the stretch, Showalter said it is a possibility, though he is more likely to utilize matchups. Right-hander Kevin Gausman will likely join the club when rosters expand in September and could be used as either a starter or reliever. Also, Opening Day starter Jason Hammel (strained forearm) should be back from the disabled list in September.

“You could do more than [six] if you wanted to,” Showalter said. “See how everybody’s pitching, how everybody feels physically. It’s a moving target. See what the needs are physically and who we think presents the best option. We’ll do some things match-up wise.”

Understanding the aggressiveness

In their previous seven games heading into Tuesday night, the Orioles had left a combined 59 runners on base, including a season-high 15 on Monday in a 4-3 loss to the Rays. In four consecutive innings they had a runner on third with less than two outs and couldn’t drive him home.

Many of the Orioles’ batters were aggressively attacking Price and seemingly swinging from their heels Monday — and ultimately making unproductive outs. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who was hitting .300 with 25 homers before Tuesday, is often the primary target of criticism for that free-swinging approach.

Although he understands that frustration, Showalter said limiting the aggressiveness can also alter a player’s effectiveness.

“You can rob from Peter to pay Paul,” Showalter said. “Adam, we like Adam. There’s never been a perfect player. That’s why there are, every once in a while, some outs made in the game. And, every once in a while, somebody does strike somebody out.”

Players and coaches often talk about approach and philosophies. But to harp on it continually, Showalter said, can be counterproductive.

“They are not some computer-driven cyborg. They are human beings. This is hard. This is hard to do,” Showalter said. “But at the same time, I see their frustration. It only compounds it if I, and we as a staff and teammates, compound it.”

Around the horn

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is featured on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated’s Aug. 26 issue. It marks the first time an Oriole was on a regional cover since October, when a one featured outfielders Nick Markakis, Endy Chavez and Jones leaping in celebration of a victory. An article on Davis, written by senior writer Tom Verducci, is included in the upcoming magazine. … Hammel said he will play long toss Wednesday and still expects to throw off a mound Friday. … Left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez threw six innings Tuesday and allowed just one run on one walk and five hits while striking out seven for Double-A Bowie. He has allowed just one run in his past 11 innings. … Right-hander Steve Johnson (St. Paul’s) allowed three earned runs on five hits in five innings in Triple-A Norfolk’s 5-3 loss Tuesday. … The first 10,000 fans 15 and over at Wednesday night’s game will receive an Orioles license plate frame.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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