By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
8:37 PM EDT, August 19, 2012
Considering the caliber of lineups the Orioles were going to face on their six-game road trip to Detroit and Texas, manager Buck Showalter wanted to make sure his bullpen — the lifeblood of the team's success this season — was protected.
After taking two of three in Detroit, the Orioles will have some tough roster decisions to make as they try to ensure that their bullpen stays fresh while playing with a short bench.
The O's will have an off day Thursday, but between now and then, Showalter has many options to consider, among them what to do if first baseman Mark Reynolds is suspended for what happened Friday on and off the field when he was ejected from the game and later lambasted umpires. Reynolds definitely faces a fine, but a suspension is also a possibility.
"We will see," Showalter said. "Quite frankly, we kind of wait and see what our needs are if there's any repercussions for the day before yesterday. Every day you have to adjust things, so we go day to day and see how we best present ourselves."
Reynolds is swinging a hot bat. He was 2-for-4 in the Orioles' 7-5 win over the Tigers on Sunday and is hitting .368 (14-for-38) with five walks, eight extra-base hits, seven runs and 10 RBIs over his past 13 games.
Showalter said the Orioles have options at first, including Chris Davis, who made 38 starts at first but hasn't played there since May 28. The Orioles currently have 10 players on the disabled list, and first baseman Wilson Betemit and left-handed reliever Troy Patton — two key pieces — appear to be more than a week away from returning.
With the Orioles heading to Texas, where the Rangers lead the majors in team batting average (.275) and RBIs (574), their pitching will be tested, so Showalter liked having the length in the bullpen. And he's determined to do everything he can to not tire out his key arms.
That's where right-hander Steve Johnson comes in. He's served in a long-relief role the past two games, but the Orioles have been able to avoid using him, which is key heading into Texas.
Johnson was a candidate to start Saturday's game against the Tigers — along with Zach Britton — but he threw two relief innings against Boston and hadn't pitched before then in a week. Showalter said the Orioles have their starters set through the first two games of the Rangers series, with Miguel Gonzalez starting Monday and Chris Tillman going Tuesday.
"It's kind of wait until the smoke clears a little bit after Wednesday, probably, and we will see what's best for us and Steve," Showalter said. "It's one and the same. That's why I didn't feel comfortable with him, didn't think it was best for him and our club to start that one day. He's been pitching too well to [have] something back that up."
The Orioles will likely keep Britton with the major league club after he threw seven shutout innings Saturday night, but how the team will handle Thursday's off day — if they go to a five-man rotation and simply push each starter back a day — is unclear.
Machado continues to adjust to hot corner
Orioles rookie third baseman Manny Machado continues to impress with his physical skills at a new position despite the fact that he only played two minor league games there before he was called up Aug. 9.
Machado, who played shortstop throughout his minor league career, has adapted well at third base, especially charging balls and throwing on the run. In Saturday's 3-2 win over the Tigers, he made what might have been a game-saving play on a tough chopper by Omar Infante in the eighth, corralling the ball on the run down the line and making a strong throw across the infield to get Infante.
Showalter said Machado has leaned on shortstop J.J. Hardy and infield coach DeMarlo Hale.
"It's just a different clock," Showalter said. "Getting to know the speed of the guys, who you have to hurry on, who you don't. I see [Hardy] all the time give him a little hand signal to a guy, what he can do. He looks to DeMarlo all the time about the plays for the bunters and the non-bunters.
"He gives himself a chance to be good. I don't underplay the changes the angle and what have you, but there is a lot of similarities. He's done real well with it so far."
Around the horn
After two hits Sunday, including an RBI double, right fielder Nick Markakis is hitting .333 (51-for-153 with 10 doubles, a triple, five homers and 16 RBIs in 36 games in the leadoff spot. … Nate McLouth hit his first triple of the season. … Closer Jim Johnson has registered a major league-leading 15 "quality saves," which are defined as one in which the pitcher enters with the tying run in scoring position or protects a one-run lead for at least one inning. Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan is second with 13. … Adam Jones is homerless in his past 84 at-bats, his longest stretch of the season without a homer. … Machado was hitless in four at-bats Sunday. He entered the day having hit safely in seven of his nine games.
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