It might not happen this week, but at some point soon, the Orioles could have a difficult decision to make on veteran starter Kevin Millwood.

Millwood lost his 14th game Sunday, giving up six runs in six innings to the Texas Rangers, who got three-run homers from Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero. He has two more losses than any pitcher in the American League. He also leads the AL in earned runs (95) and hits (188) allowed. He has surrendered 26 home runs, tied for the second-highest total in the league and tied for the most he has allowed in any season in his big league career.


I bring up those numbers only because the Orioles and new manager Buck Showalter want to get a look at a couple of the organization's young starters before the end of the season.

Showalter all but said Chris Tillman, who has strung together three strong starts at Triple-A Norfolk, will rejoin the club when rosters expand in September. There are also indications that left-hander Zach Britton, the Orioles' top pitching prospect yet to reach the majors, could be summoned to make a couple of September starts. Then there's Rick VandenHurk, who is currently in the bullpen but is another guy team officials want to evaluate.

The problem is finding opportunities for all these guys. Sure, the Orioles could go to a six-man rotation, but starting today, they have five days off in a 32-day span. With a six-man rotation, that stretch would create a situation where guys would go five or six days in between starts, not exactly an ideal way to stay sharp.

They could shut down one of their young starters -- Jake Arrieta would be the most likely candidate because he has already thrown 152 combined innings this year, a professional high -- and insert Tillman, who has logged fewer innings that Arrieta. However, Showalter basically said yesterday that while the team is closely monitoring the young pitcher's workload, it isn't close to shutting anybody down.

Then, of course, there is the option of simply dropping a current starter, which brings us back to Millwood. His struggles, along with the fact that he probably won't return next year, make him the most likely candidate, and several of you have been calling for the Orioles to do just that.

However, that decision isn't as easy as you might think. The numbers are well-documented, but before Sunday's start, Millwood allowed just five earned runs in 21 innings in his previous three outings.

Millwood has been a great soldier, embracing his role as mentor to the other starting pitchers. He is easily one of the most well-liked guys in the clubhouse. He hasn't complained one bit that the Orioles have backed him with no offense and very little defense, even when he was pitching well. Millwood also has a good relationship with Showalter built from their days together in Texas.

I know baseball can be a heartless business and Millwood has been well-compensated by the Orioles. As Showalter is fond of saying, "I get it." But that still doesn't make it any easier to give a proud and classy veteran who has pitched well at times this season his unceremonious release.

The best-case scenario would be for the Orioles to move Millwood, who has cleared waivers, to a contender looking for a veteran arm over the final month of the season. I'm told that the Orioles would be more than happy to let Millwood move on and have a chance to make the playoffs, essentially at little or no cost in return. But his struggles have kept interest at a minimum.

Let's hope this works out for the best because Millwood certainly deserves that much.