Top pitching prospect Zach Britton will start tonight for Triple-A Norfolk, and what happens in that game could go a long way in determining whether struggling Brad Bergesen makes his next start. If Britton, who will likely be on an innings limit and shut down before season's end, is scratched or has an abbreviated outing, I think that's a good sign that he'll be pitching Saturday in Kansas City opposite Zack Greinke. Chris Tillman, another option, is scheduled to pitch Thursday for the Tides, but he did not have a good last outing for Norfolk, and you would think the Orioles have played this game long enough with yanking him back and forth from the minors to the majors. An internal option is to give Mark Hendrickson or Matt Albers a spot start, but with the starters going so short in games, it's hard to imagine the Orioles being able to hold one of those guys out to use in the rotation. Either way, I'd be surprised at this point if Bergesen makes his next start. In three outings since the All-Star break, he has allowed 19 earned runs, 29 hits and six walks in 16 1/3 innings. Ouch.
In their past two games, the Orioles have allowed 19 runs, 22 hits and 14 extra-base hits. I don't have much to add to that.
We keep hearing from team officials that things are still relatively quiet on the trade front with the deadline now about five days away. The Phillies and White Sox were among the teams that had scouts at last night's game, but neither should be too surprising. The Phillies, who were represented by former Orioles scout Dave Hollins, have been at pretty much every Orioles game since the All-Star break, and the White Sox have two series against the Orioles over the next five weeks, so their guy is probably doing some advance work. The last I heard was that talks between the Orioles and Phillies regarding Miguel Tejada and Ty Wigginton were dormant, but that could obviously change as we get closer to the deadline and the Orioles' asking price drops. There has been speculation that the Phillies have at least tepid interest in Jeremy Guthrie, too, and they have been represented at his past two starts. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is very tight-lipped about the trade stuff, as are his lieutenants. But if I were to guess, I'd predict the O's make two small moves, one being Wigginton and the other being Will Ohman. I still think they are in position to trade Kevin Millwood after the deadline because he still has a lot of money on his contract, and that coupled by his struggles makes you think that he'd clear waivers.
Tejada has had his ups and downs at third base, which I pretty much expected in his first year at the position. He hasn't hit with much power, which I also expected as his power numbers have declined over the past couple of years. But if there's one area I've been disappointed with Tejada in, it's his performance with runners in scoring position. He's hitting just .223 in such situations and made two big outs last night. It's harder to overlook Tejada's free-swinging and first-pitch-hacking ways with numbers like those.
In case you missed it from my notebook, Jim Johnson threw a 25-pitch live bullpen session yesterday in Sarasota. He said he felt fine and was able to knock off some rust. He's scheduled to throw one inning in a simulated game Thursday, and then a rehab assignment won't be far away. Look, it is really, really hard to come up with positive things to say about this team in any facet, but it would be nice if Johnson got and stayed healthy. With him, Alfredo Simon and David Hernandez, plus Jason Berken in a middle-relief capacity, that is the start of a decent 'pen.
I'm sure the only way to keep hope or your sanity as an Orioles fan is to try and find one thing to feel good about from each game. Last night was a no-brainer. Those were the best four consecutive plate appearances I've seen from Matt Wieters since he has been up here. It was nice to see him turn on that first one and send it into the second deck in right field, but I liked the patience that resulted in walks in his first two trips to the plate. When you have Buster Posey doing what he is doing in San Francisco and Carlos Santana holding his own in Cleveland, it's very hard to keep excusing Wieters for some of his poor numbers because he plays a tough position that can swallow up a prospect. But a few more games like last night's and there will be no need.