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After season-worst start, Feldman, O's hope to stick together

Belfiore's long wait for game action ends poorly; Davis and the MVP debate

By Dan Connolly

The Baltimore Sun

6:00 AM EDT, September 28, 2013

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Scott Feldman pitched his last game of the season Friday. It was both his shortest and worst as an Oriole: He allowed eight earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in the Orioles’ 12-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Now the question becomes whether this was Feldman’s last start as an Oriole.

He was acquired in July from the Chicago Cubs along with Steve Clevenger for pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop and international signing bonus slots.

At the time, the Orioles knew he could become a free agent at season’s end. They also knew what they were getting: a strong competitor and easygoing personality who didn’t do anything flashy but normally kept his club in games.

In 15 starts for the Orioles, Feldman was 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA. But before Friday’s rough outing, he was 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA in his past eight starts. So he showed he could pitch in the American League East and pitch well down the stretch with the postseason on the line.

“He's going to be 31 years old next year and he's a guy whose statistics have come over to the American League just like they were in the National League,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He's going to be somebody that people are going to want, including us.”

Re-signing Feldman could be tricky because the free-agent market is not flush with starting pitchers. A quick look at what could be out there shows that Feldman in among the top nine to 13 available starters and some of those guys may stick with their current teams.

And everyone will be searching for reliable pitching, as always. So Feldman, despite Friday’s performance, will have suitors. And one or two may be willing to go three years for his services. That might put him out of the Orioles’ reach.

What the Orioles have going for them is that Feldman has fit in perfectly in Baltimore. Several of his friends from his Texas Rangers days, including reliever Darren O’Day, who was in Feldman’s wedding, were here when Feldman arrived.
   
And he seems comfortable with the guys he’s met since getting here. Like any player who has pitched in a World Series, Feldman wants to be on a good team through the length of his next contract. He said last night that he’d like it to be with the Orioles.

“I hope that they want me back. I hope I have the opportunity to come back,” Feldman said. “Really liked the guys in here; the coaching staff’s been great. We’ll see what happens, but I hope so.”

It’s clear that the Orioles would like him back, too. But his market and whether teams offer three-, or even four-year deals may go a long way in deciding that.

** Lefty Mike Belfiore had twice been called up to the Orioles, only to never pitch. He was recalled again Sept. 21 from the club’s minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla., after the Orioles’ 18-inning marathon last Friday. He warmed up in the bullpen last weekend, but again didn’t make his major league debut.

That had to wait until the eighth on Friday, when he entered with two on and two outs and had to face Boston slugger David Ortiz. Belfiore, a Boston College product whom the Arizona Diamondbacks took in the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft, obviously knew plenty about Ortiz.

And after his fourth pitch, they are forever linked. Ortiz crushed a pitch for his 30th homer of the season, tying him with Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. for 45th all time on MLB’s home run list, with 431.

That’s a tough spot for anyone, especially a kid making his big league debut. Belfiore, who allowed three hits, a walk and two runs in 1 1/3 innings, also surrendered a homer to Jonny Gomes.

The important thing, though, is that he got into a major league game. And he’ll have a funny story to tell his college buddies about his encounter with Big Papi once the sting fades.

** Chris Davis set another Orioles record when he hit his 53rd homer of the season Friday night. It was his 28th at home, the most by an Oriole in Baltimore. Frank Robinson had 27 in 1966 at Memorial Stadium.

Davis has two more games remaining to pad his starts and make a final push for the American League Most Valuable Player. The conventional wisdom is that Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera has it locked up, but Davis now leads Cabrera in RBIs (138 to 137) and homers (53 to 44). Cabrera is well ahead of Davis in average (.347 to .287) and on-base percentage (.441 to .370), but they have an identical slugging percentage (.637).

The vote may end up being a little closer than originally thought. Then again, maybe Oakland’s Josh Donaldson or Los Angeles’ Mike Trout will push Davis further down on the list. Votes must be sent in by the final game of the regular season.