As the Orioles limp to the finish line of a season that will likely end as the worst in franchise history, filling out the team’s starting rotation could be a challenge through this year’s final three weeks.
Right-hander Alex Cobb, who left Tuesday’s start with a blister/cut issue, won’t make his next scheduled start Sunday manager Buck Showalter said after the Orioles’ 10-0 loss Wednesday night to the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards. His turn through the rotation will likely be skipped as the team tries to give him extra time for his middle finger to heal, and Showalter said he doesn’t expect Cobb to pitch again until next weekend’s road series at Yankee Stadium.
Showalter also indicated that right-hander Andrew Cashner, who was chased from Wednesday’s game in a 10-run third inning, might have been dealing with an undisclosed physical issue. Cashner didn’t disclose any ailment after the game.
The Orioles continue to wonder whether Thursday’s starter Dylan Bundy’s struggles have anything to do with him reaching a late-season wall. Bundy enters his start against Oakland with an 8.83 ERA over his past 11 starts, and he’s pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in just two outings over that span. Considering the Orioles shut Bundy down with nearly two weeks left in the season last year, he could be shelved again.
The Orioles have shut down rookie left-hander Josh Rogers from making another start. He could receive extended innings out the bullpen, but he’s nearing the team’s innings limit for him with 15 1/3 so far.
That leaves Showalter relying on a group of rookie arms to get the team to the regular-season finish line. Rookie Luis Ortiz will make his first major league start Friday against the Chicago White Sox. Right-hander Yefry Ramírez will be plucked from the bullpen, where he’s pitched well in long relief, to make Saturday’s start. Showalter has yet to announce a starter to replace Cobb for Sunday’s series finale.
“It’s a great time to separate yourself and doesn’t really apply to Cashner or Alex or Dylan,” Showalter said. “But they still want to do that. But running out of gas? I would hate to use that as an excuse, OK. I certainly think there’s some emotional and mental challenges this year that we haven’t had in the past. I’ll give you that.”
So with 17 games left, Showalter is left to piece together his starting rotation. Right-hander David Hess, who was available out of the bullpen Wednesday but didn’t pitch, could be an option if he’s not used. Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis has previously been used as a spot starter at the big league level, though he’s in the bullpen for now. Relievers Mike Wright Jr. (two starts) and Miguel Castro (one start) are the only other pitchers on the Orioles’ 16-man pitching staff who have made starts.
Most of this team’s young pitchers are in the midst of their longest seasons, and the losing has been taxing on rookies and veterans alike, but Showalter scoffed at the notion that his arms have run out of gas.
“It’s always this time of the year you wonder about that, you worry about it, especially with young guys who are pitching in the time of year they’ve never pitched before, most of them,” Showalter said. “But there’s a different type of toll it takes sometimes. That’s also part of the evaluation of some of the young pitchers. You’re looking for that guy who can do certain things this time of year.”
Eleven of the Orioles’ final games, including the last 10, will be against teams currently positioned to make the postseason, and Showalter has often spoken about putting the most competitive team possible on the field for the integrity of the game. But with injuries hitting the rotation, that could be difficult down the stretch.