I don't want to take anything away from a solid performance from David Hernandez last night and his first win since last August, but the performance only reaffirmed my belief that the hard-throwing right-hander's best role is in the bullpen. In 27 career starts, Hernandez has only pitched six complete innings 10 times, and he still struggles to establish all his pitches and maintain his command through the course of the game, evidenced by the five walks last night. Putting him in the bullpen would serve numerous purposes, including allowing Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta, who are both pitching well at Triple-A Norfolk, to join the rotation. It could also significantly upgrade the bridge to the back-end of the bullpen, and give manager Dave Trembley one more reliever capable of a multi-inning outing. Plus, I think Hernandez and his mid 90's fastball would be way more effective one time through the lineup.
Speaking of the bullpen, a lot of people have asked what's going to happen in the closer spot when Michael Gonzalez comes off the disabled list, which is likely before the end of the month. Trembley hasn't really addressed the question, saying he just wants Gonzalez to be healthy and build up his arm strength before determining his role. But I have a very hard time believing that they'd throw the left-hander right back into the ninth inning. I would think they'd use him in less stressful situations until he shows he can consistently get big-league hitters out. He did sign a two-year, $12 million deal so I'm sure the Orioles want him back in the ninth inning at some point, but he has something to prove before that happens.
I think it has been fair to question Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz's usage of reliever Matt Albers in several games this season. However, I don't think last night was one of those times. Jason Berken was unavailable and probably will be again today after pitching in back-to-back games, including a 75-pitch, 4 1/3 inning outing on Thursday. Because of Berken's situation, you want to stay off your other long man, Mark Hendrickson, in case a starter is knocked out early the next two days. Koji Uehara was also unavailable, still recuperating from Wednesday's 30-pitch outing. Cla Meredith had pitched on back-to-back days, though Trembley had to use him a third straight day anyway. Will Ohman, who has had elbow and shoulder problems in the past, already leads the A.L. in appearances, and it's simply unfair and dangerous to ask him to pitch a full inning every time he goes out there. So if you're saving Alfredo Simon for the ninth inning, Albers was the only option last night.
The team on the field at the end of last night game was a battery of Craig Tatum and Alfredo Simon, an infield of Scott Moore, Julio Lugo, Cesar Izturis and Miguel Tejada, and an outfield of Lou Montanez, Corey Patterson and Nick Markakis. Four of those players (Simon, Moore, Montanez and Patterson) started their seasons with Triple-A Norfolk. One of them (Lugo) wasn't even in the organization until a week before spring training ended, and another (Tatum) was given absolutely no shot to make the club.
With Monday's off day looming, there has been plenty of speculation, including some in this very space, that Trembley's tenure as Orioles' manager could be nearing an end. I obviously am aware that the patience of some key members of the organization is wearing thin with the team's play, and something will have to change sooner rather than later. That goes without saying when you have the record that the Orioles have. But Andy MacPhail has been consistent in saying that the organization's focus is on improving the roster, not bringing in a new manager, and he did spent basically the entire week, watching his Triple-A club and not hovering over the shoulder of his beleaguered manager. Angelos has stayed out of it to this point, leaving MacPhail to make the call. Obviously, there is some thought from people who have been around the club for a while that a losing weekend against the Nationals would spur Angelos to demand a change. But what happens if they win the series? What happens if they sweep? Does it even matter at this point because the decision has already been made? MacPhail and Angelos are keeping the answers to those questions very close to their vests, and while I obviously wouldn't be at all surprised to see a change made any day now, I don't think it's necessarily a formality either.