The rainout last night further complicates the decisions for manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor concerning the rotation. Showalter has committed only to Zach Britton starting tonight's series opener against the New York Yankees and Jeremy Guthrie starting Thursday. He wouldn't go beyond that because, frankly, there are so many variables. If the rotation stays as is, it would be Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman starting in the weekend series against the Washington Nationals. But what happens if Tillman's back acts up again? What do you do with Alfredo Simon, who pitched six shutout innings last night for Double-A Bowie and has to come off the restricted list this weekend? Where do you slot in Brian Matusz, who is expected to make another rehab start Saturday and could rejoin the rotation as early as May 26? I'm sure Showalter and Connor don't mind several of their young starters getting an extra day here and there, but I'm also pretty confident that they don't want guys regularly going six days between starts. Last night's rainout combined with Monday's off day and scheduled off days June 2, 9 and 13 certainly give the Orioles the option of going with a four-man rotation for a while. But that's not as easy a proposition as it was a couple of weeks ago when Guthrie, Britton and Arrieta were pretty much the Orioles' only three reliable starters. It certainly would be a much-debated decision if Bergesen were sent to the bullpen or even demoted to Triple-A Norfolk after throwing a shutout in his last start or if Tillman were moved out of the rotation after holding the opposition to one earned run over his past 11 innings.
Nobody asked me of course, but I'd lean toward bringing back Simon in the bullpen, at least for the time being. The Orioles could use him as their primary long man while also occasionally working him in later in the game to help serve as the bridge to Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara and Kevin Gregg, a role that Jason Berken, Jeremy Accardo and Michael Gonzalez are struggling to fill right now. It doesn't have to be permanent, but now, for the sake of winning games, the Orioles need a whole lot more help in the bullpen than they do in the rotation.
Beyond the rotation and Simon, here are a couple of other questions that Showalter will be asked to answer before tonight's game: With Derrek Lee likely headed to the disabled list, do you feel comfortable enough to play regular left fielder Luke Scott at first base regularly, allowing Felix Pie to get more playing time in left field? How concerned are you about the defense at first base, whether it is Scott, Brandon Snyder or Jake Fox playing there? Who will bat third? With all the off days ahead, do you need to carry a 13-man pitching staff? And can you afford not to have another catcher on the roster if Fox is getting some starts at first base? It should be an interesting pre-game media session for Showalter.
Single-A Delmarva shortstop Manny Machado, the organization's top prospect, could start throwing and performing other baseball activities this weekend, possibly as early as Friday, said Orioles director of player development John Stockstill. Machado hasn't played since May 5, when he dislocated his left kneecap. Once he is cleared to begin baseball activities, the 18-year-old will probably be five to seven days away from returning to game action, putting his projected return to the Shorebirds' lineup around June 1. The Orioles could send the shortstop down to their minor league complex in Sarasota, but that decision hasn't been made. Double-A first baseman Joe Mahoney (strained quadriceps) is rehabbing in Sarasota and is not expected back until early next month.
In his first mock draft, ESPN's Keith Law projects the Orioles to select Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick. Law knows a heck of a lot more about the draft than I do, but I did mention in this space earlier this month that if Bundy is still available when they pick, the Orioles will be awfully intrigued. I said that for two reasons: One, Orioles director of amateur scouting Joe Jordan lives in Oklahoma and has been watching Bundy, whose fastball is the mid to high 90s, for several years. Two, Bundy's older brother, Bobby, is in the organization, pitching for the Single-A Frederick Keys, so the Orioles know the family and probably what it would take to sign the talented right-hander. But would Jordan, who is in the final year of his contract, take another high school pitcher when he got so much criticism for selecting the rehabbing Matt Hobgood with the fifth overall pick in 2009? Jordan has said since Day One that he'll take the guy the club foresees developing into the best player, but as good as Bundy might be -- and I've heard nothing but rave reviews -- he might be a tough sell for a fan base that is waiting for the organization to prove that it wants to win now, not several years down the road. There are also a handful of college starters who are projected as early first-round picks.