With the Orioles limping through the final five games of the season, the club will have more of an opportunity to evaluate some of its younger players on a major league stage.
When the Orioles took the field for Tuesday night’s interleague opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, they fielded a starting lineup that included a season-high four rookies — outfielder Austin Hays, catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Anthony Santander — all of whom have joined the active big league roster the past six weeks.
“I think everybody you see here will probably play at some point in the next five games,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Tonight, we felt like this was the best way to go. It’s not any message other than, OK here we’ve got 45 innings, barring extra innings, to look at certain things. We’re not going to get rained out in Tampa [Bay] and we’ve got to make good use of that and also not put somebody in harm’s way who doesn’t need to be.”
Showalter is pondering whether to shut down center fielder Adam Jones — who left Sunday’s game with leg soreness and has looked fatigued the past two weeks — for the rest of the season. Shortstop Tim Beckham missed his second straight game with a right hamstring injury. Right-hander Dylan Bundy has likely thrown his final pitch of the season after he was scratched from his start Sunday with a mild hamstring strain.
And right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, whose acquisition before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline has backfired on the Orioles, might have pitched his last game of the season because of back stiffness.
“He’s been fighting through it,” Showalter said of Hellickson. “He’s kind of fought through a lot of different things that all pitchers do between starts. He was talking to [head athletic trainer] Richie [Bancells] about it today, that it’s usually a lot better a day or two after, and today, it’s pretty stiff. We were contemplating whether to start him again anyway, but it’s kind of if not him, then who?”
Asked whether Bundy has anything to gain from attempting to pitch again this season, Showalter flatly said, “No.”
“Sometime I might show you our charts and the way we mapped it out,” Showalter said. “It went just about the way we had hoped and he’s in a real good position to go forward. I’m not sure what purpose it would serve other than to give us a better chance to win a game.”
Showalter hasn’t announced his starting pitchers for the season’s final series this weekend at Tampa Bay, and he might have to summon reinforcements from the organization’s taxi squad to supplement the reliever depth if he has to pluck a starter from the bullpen.
Beckham could be available for the Tampa Bay series. Jones is considered day-to-day, Showalter said.
“Adam’s still pretty sore,” Showalter said. “Something that he’s kind of played with for a while and he doesn’t have to now, so we’re going to take some precautions with it. We talked about it today, among other things, and we’ll take it day to day.
Around the horn
The Orioles’ trip to PNC Park is their first since 2014. They entered Tuesday 3-5 all time in Pittsburgh. They are 8-10 all-time in regular-season interleague play against the Pirates, including 2-0 this season at Camden Yards.