Just as the Orioles were finally on the precipice of a starting rotation worthy of their playoff aspirations, injuries have jeopardized that push at the worst possible time.
Manager Buck Showalter said Dylan Bundy will start the home season finale Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Right-hander Kevin Gausman has been pushed back to Tuesday at the earliest with what Showalter called the beginnings of an intercostal problem in his ribcage.
“We’re hoping he’s our starting pitcher Tuesday or Wednesday,” Showalter said. “That’s what we’re hoping for. But it won’t be Sunday. We’ve got the off-day there to play with. We’ll see how things manage the next few days. … He felt a little bit the start of an intercostal. We think we caught it in time, but we’ll see how it manages. I don’t think it’s smart to have him pitch on Sunday. I know he had, he wasn’t sick, but he had some things happen to his body that meant he might have been a little short on fluids. That may have been some of it. We were hoping it’s more that than anything else. But we’ll see.”
Gausman started feeling the problem during his start Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox, when a three-run home run by David Ortiz in the seventh inning went a long way toward spoiling what was looking to be another front-line start for him. Even with it, Gausman has a 2.94 ERA since the All-Star break and is pitching like the top-of-the-rotation starter the Orioles have needed for years.
The assumption entering Thursday was that whomever Showalter tapped to start Tuesday in Toronto would be in line to come back for the final game of the season Sunday in New York. Starting Gausman on Tuesday would be risky in that sense, as you’d have to be confident the injury wouldn’t crop up again and put the rest of the rotation in flux. Because of that, Showalter said the club might not be able to have anyone pitch twice over the final six games, though Chris Tillman, Thursday’s starter, could also be an option for that.
Tillman is followed in the rotation by Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley.
“We’ve looked at that, but that’s why we wait until after every game, gather information, the dust settles,” Showalter said. “Now Gaus, we’ve got to wait on. We’ll see how Tillman does tonight. We’ll see how Ubaldo [Jimenez] feels. We’ll see how Miley’s issue is. We’ll see when his wife is going into labor. There’s a lot of things we have to gather after each day. I’ve probably missed two or three of them. I know Wade’s going to leave on Sunday [for paternity leave] and join us in New York, unless things happen earlier than that and he feels comfortable leaving and joining us in Toronto.”
Even with all these things hanging over his club Thursday, Showalter said there was no overlooking the importance of Tillman’s start in search of a win over Boston in the context of what could be required of him next week as the team battles for a playoff spot.
“Nothing about next week, nothing about tomorrow, nothing about anything but tonight,” Showalter said. “It’s important for Ubaldo to pitch well last night and he did. It didn’t work out. There’s a lot of different facets of the game that you have to be good at. It makes it easier when you have a really good start, but the baseball gods don’t always cooperate. That’s for sure.”