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Orioles thoughts and observations: Rotation, Garcia, Gonzalez and Flaherty

The San Diego Padres might be better than their sub-.500 record indicates, but losing two games to them over a span of 18 hours this week has to be a bitter pill for the Orioles to swallow.

Following today’s off day, the Orioles will play 17 games in 17 days, opening with 10 straight against American League East teams. So as much as the recent injuries to the starting rotation didn’t impact the Orioles dramatically because of three off days in an 11-day span, they now have some holes to fill.

Jair Jurrjens will likely fill Saturday’s empty starter spot. His numbers at Triple-A Norfolk -- he’s 4-1 with 3.14 ERA -- deserves the shot to show he can provide the consistency the rotation desperately needs now. When the club sent him down late in spring training, it was to gain strength in that right leg and to work on his fastball command.

He has a 2.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Norfolk and has allowed fewer hits (44) than innings pitches (51 2/3). Those are good signs. And if Jurrjens can show he can return to his All-Star form of two years ago, we all could be looking back on Jurrjens’ signing as a steal.

Freddy Garcia didn’t look good on Wednesday. After the game, he said he was behind in counts, but taking a closer look in the game, the Padres chose their spots to be aggressive against Garcia and attack him early in counts. That didn’t allow him to establish his breaking ball pitches early and pitch backward to keep hitters uneasy.

So after three starts, we’ve already seen the good and bad of Garcia. When he’s able to mix speeds and establish an array of breaking balls (and his stuff is on), he can do what he did in Anaheim -- which was take a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

But when Garcia is unable to get into a rhythm, it can be a short night for the 36-year-old right-hander. Right now, Garcia will remain in the rotation because, with the injuries to Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen, he has to stay there. But having Garcia as your No. 5 starter versus your No. 3 starter is a huge difference.

Speaking of Gonzalez, there’s still a chance he can fill the team’s starting rotation spot Tuesday, which would be a huge jolt to the rotation. The blister on his right thumb looks like it is healed, so now the question is whether it can withstand the pressure for an entire throwing session without a bandage.

That’s why he’s pitching in a simulated game Friday as opposed to a minor league game. It’s easier to control the conditions, and he can work on all his pitches without the pressure of allowing runs.

Given the need, it would be very tempting to throw Gonzalez out there Tuesday. Gonzalez can be activated Sunday and Showalter has tossed out the idea that he could be available at any point thereafter. You want him pitching against the New York Yankees, who play here Monday through Wednesday, given his success against them and the alternatives.

You’re starting to notice a lot more boos for second baseman Ryan Flaherty at Camden Yards. When Flaherty lost a ball in the sun Thursday, it cost the Orioles a run. Every player is going to lose a ball every once in a while, but it’s compounded by the fact that Flaherty has struggled so much at the plate this season.

Both Showalter and Flaherty said that Flaherty is starting to work better on his at-bats. He should have been on base three times Tuesday, but Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso snagged a high line drive out of the air for a double play. That’s tough luck, and it’s exactly what happens when things are going wrong.

The Orioles have never been concerned about Flaherty’s bat. Their concern has been his ability to handle defensive duties on a daily basis, and he’s made tremendous strides there. His double-play turns have improved greatly.

Given the season-long struggles at the bottom of the order, he’s being depended on to produce offensively. But one thing to keep in mind is that Flaherty doesn’t have a proven track record at the major league level, and ideally he’s not starting five games a week.  

And we can see Flaherty’s frustration first hand. But at this point, you might have to chalk it all up to a young player finding his bearings.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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