By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
7:14 AM EDT, April 30, 2013
Zach Britton gave up six runs, 10 hits and two walks in six innings Monday night against the Seattle Mariners. And that’s not good.
Yet this is one of those starts where the box score didn’t show everything. Several of those hits were grounders that found holes. One catchable, broken-bat soft liner dropped in front of left fielder Nolan Reimold and helped ignite a three-run rally.
After the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked if Britton will get another start and he was noncommittal. But he also defended Britton’s outing, saying it wasn’t as if the Mariners were squaring up every pitch.
My guess is Britton will start again Saturday on the road against the Los Angeles Angels. I say that for a couple reasons.
Britton, at 25, is still considered a potential part of the club’s future. Sending him down after one start doesn’t send the right message to him or to the other young guys in the organization.
Jake Arrieta got four starts. Britton should get that many -- certainly more than one -- before a decision is made.
Besides, with Freddy Garcia essentially agreeing to three more starts at Norfolk (until May 14), you have more time to evaluate Britton without losing Garcia.
Joe Saunders did what Joe Saunders does best on Monday night -- worked quickly, threw strikes and let his fielders do the work. He struck out only two, gave up a homer and three other hits and won a complete game.
And I am sure there are plenty of you that lamented the club’s decision not to re-sign Saunders this winter, when he signed a one-year deal with Seattle.
But, remember, if the Orioles wanted him, it had to be for multiple years. All things being equal, Saunders was taking a one-year deal with the Mariners over one-year deals from everyone else.
Because if you need to have a make-good year (which basically comes with signing a one-year deal) so that you can get a multiple-year contract the next offseason, you want to do it in a pitcher-friendly park. And Saunders is now 8-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 12 career starts at Safeco. That is why Seattle was so attractive to Saunders. And it’s tough to blame him or the Orioles for the way things eventually played out.
Left-handed hitting Nate McLouth wasn’t in the starting lineup Monday because Saunders, a lefty, was on the mound. McLouth wasn’t in the starting lineup Friday because lefty Tommy Milone was on the mound.
I get it. McLouth is a .222 career hitter against lefties (.261 vs. righties). He is a career .251 hitter overall. But in the last nine games, he is batting .517. He is scalding hot, and it makes little sense to me to sit him twice in four games because lefties -- and relatively hittable lefties -- are starting. Especially when your alternatives are right-handed hitters Nolan Reimold and Steve Peace, who are hitting a combined .202 this season (they were 1-for-6 Monday).
And McLouth is the superior defender. I understand the importance of getting Reimold and Pearce at-bats to keep them fresh, but that should not come at the expense of McLouth while he is playing at a whole different level.
I took some heat for calling Luis Exposito “only 26” in this space Monday. Yes, I know that isn’t young in baseball terms. But for catchers, and catchers in this organization, that is relatively spry. It is such a tough position to learn at the big-league level (and to try and balance hitting) that it often takes longer to develop at catcher than at other spots. That’s also why there are plenty of 30-something backup catchers in baseball.
I’m not predicting big things for Exposito, but I’m also not willing to say he can’t be a competent backup at some point in his career. Consider that he was at Triple-A Norfolk while the three catchers at Double-A Bowie, Brian Ward, Luis Martinez and Caleb Joseph, are all older than Exposito. And the guy the Orioles just traded for, Chris Snyder, is 32.
So, in comparison (I should have written), Exposito is only 26.
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