Following the Orioles’ 17-inning win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter unfolded a piece of paper on his desk that showed the recent pitching schedule at Triple-A Norfolk.
In the 15th inning, Showalter sent left-hander Brian Matusz, who will start today’s home game against the Rangers, to the bullpen. But instead, the manager turned to designated hitter Chris Davis, who threw two scoreless innings. His other player position option was rightfielder Nick Markakis, but putting Davis in the game was an easier switch since he was in the DH spot.
“Chris has some experience with it,” Showalter said of Davis, who pitched in junior college and high school. “The other guy was Nicky. I waited as long as I could before I had to break it to Chris. It's not something you want a guy thinking about for a long time. I just basically said, 'Get your glove, go down and warm up. You're in next inning unless we score.'"
Matusz never even warmed up. Showalter said he didn’t want to throw Matusz because he didn’t want to throw the rotation out of sync.The Orioles’ starters have given 10 quality starts in their last 13 games.
"It was a consideration, but after I thought about it, I wasn't going to throw a whole pitching staff in dissaray and jeopardize a guy who's throwing the ball real well,” Showalter said. “We had a lot of wheels turning in our organization that shouldn't be turning. I'm sure Bobby felt the same way. You reach a point in the game where you're getting diminishing returns, so you've got to keep that in mind."
It all worked out with the win, but the Orioles will need to make a move tomorrow to get some relief depth against the Rangers, who come to Baltimore with an 18-10 record.
"One?” Showalter chirped. “You talk about when it rains, it pours. They're playing a doubleheader at Norfolk, so we're trying to get through that. I started looking at possiblities in the 11th inning. We'll shuffle the cards and see what we come up with."
The Orioles have some flexibility with the move. Right-hander Jason Berken, who made a brief appearance in Baltimore when Robert Andino was on paternity leave, was removed from the second game of the Tides’ doubleheader after two innings Sunday. The Orioles could also purchase the contract of a pitcher not on the 40-man and place left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, on the 60-man DL.
Regardless, the Orioles must do something. A total of 39 innings over the last three games has taken its toll. And credit Showalter for getting the very most out of his bullpen and getting a sweep at Fenway.