Heck, three of the Orioles' four primary outfielders have spent significant time on the DL and the one who hasn’t, center fielder Adam Jones, is playing through constant pain in his hands/wrists. So it’s not as if they have been pain-free in 2012.
But what happened Friday night is a little bit different, a little more daunting.
Right-hander Jason Hammel has been the club’s biggest surprise. He’s also been the Orioles’ best starting pitcher and one of only two that has been consistent all year.
When he hobbled off the mound in the fourth inning Friday after re-injuring his balky right knee on a pitch, an argument can be made that the Orioles suffered their worst blow of the year. An MRI is slated for 1 p.m. today, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if some damage is discovered. After all, Hammel has been dealing with pain there for months, and the Orioles have helped him manage it by getting him an extra day’s rest whenever possible.
If he has to be put on the DL, the Orioles’ paper-thin rotation officially can qualify as “in tatters.”
Three-fifths of the Opening Day group is already at Triple-A Norfolk. What’s left is rookie Wei-Yin Chen and two guys who have made one big-league start this season: Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman.
The Orioles already need to fill Tuesday’s vacant slot, probably with Zach Britton. And they likely will have to reach down and get one of the guys they just demoted to fill Hammel’s spot.
Or, of course, they could make a trade for a starter. In fact, this could make them more desperate for a starter – which is not necessarily a good thing. If Hammel is out, the Orioles would really need two starters from outside of the organization. One starter, at that point, would be a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.
What they really need is for one of their castoffs from earlier this month – Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta or Tommy Hunter – to reach down deep inside and come back and be the pitcher he should be.
“Somebody’s gonna have to step up,” Orioles infielder/outfielder Chris Davis said. “We’ve got some guys that are capable of doing it that aren’t here and it’s going to be time to figure it out and make it translate up here.”
Good teams get past tough injuries. This one, admittedly, could be devastating to the club’s tenuous playoff chances.
If Hammel is out, we’ll see quickly if the Orioles still have a chance of being a good team.