Orioles manager Dave Trembley issued the challenge Wednesday, imploring his starting pitchers to throw more strikes, attack hitters and work deeper in games. "If they don't get better, that opportunity won't be there forever," Trembley said.
Unlike Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz, who are still novices in the major leagues, Daniel Cabrera's opportunity has lasted more than four seasons and he still hasn't proved he can be consistently relied on to do anything more than take the ball every fifth day.
In his matchup with Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay yesterday, Cabrera continued his regression after a fine start, allowing a season-high seven earned runs in five-plus innings of the Orioles' 7-1 loss before an announced 23,329 at sun-splashed Camden Yards.
The Orioles also fell, 5-1, yesterday in the resumption of their rain-suspended Wednesday night game, scoring just one run in 13 innings on a long and frustrating afternoon. They lost three of four to the Blue Jays and are 48-53, a season-worst five games under .500.
"Today was a tough day," Cabrera said. "It looked like everything I threw out there, they could hit it like they know it's coming. It's tough."
In fairness to Cabrera, he would have had to been nearly flawless to out-duel Halladay (12-7), who held the Orioles to Luke Scott's sacrifice fly over seven innings and is 18-4 against them in his career.
But Cabrera didn't give his teammates much of a chance. The leadoff batter reached against him in five of six innings, and he allowed runs in every inning from the third to the sixth. And only Nick Markakis' strong throw to retire Matt Stairs at the plate prevented the Blue Jays from scoring in the second.
"He threw a lot of pitches that were supposed to be sinkers and they were just over the plate," catcher Guillermo Quiroz said. "He didn't have the two-seamer working. Every time he threw it, he didn't have success with it."
With Halladay on the mound, the Blue Jays (51-51) all but put the game away with two runs in the third inning, one scoring on a wild pitch and the other coming home on Lyle Overbay's single.
Cabrera (6-6) surrendered 11 hits, walked two, hit a batter and also tossed two wild pitches. His performance continued a disturbing trend for the Orioles, who thought the right-hander, 27, had turned the corner by allowing three earned runs or fewer in nine of his first 12 starts this season.
But he has surrendered four earned runs or more in seven of his past 10 starts. He has just one win over his past 12 outings. His ERA during that span is 6.15, and he has pitched more than six innings just twice, essentially leaving Jeremy Guthrie as the one starter Trembley can count on to log innings and keep his team in the game.
"I don't know," Trembley said when asked about what is causing Cabrera's struggles. "We'll just have to keep working and see if we can get him back to that."
Cabrera said he hasn't been getting much movement on his two-seam fastball, but he attributed his problems to location and pitch selection, not his mechanics.
"He hasn't changed much for me," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "He's still confident. You're going to have ups and downs in this game on the mound. I'm sure he'll bounce back. He's going to Yankee Stadium, and we'll see if he can go there and pitch well. I'm sure he will."
When Wednesday's game was halted by heavy rains, the Blue Jays had just taken a 2-1 lead off Guthrie in the sixth inning. Thirteen hours, 29 minutes later, play resumed with Lance Cormier on the mound and barely a cloud in the sky. Toronto broke the game open with three runs in the eighth, the big play being first baseman Kevin Millar's two-run throwing error.
Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the inning, the Orioles had runners on first and second, but Adam Jones bounced into a double play. The offense didn't threaten again in the game and was barely heard from in the regularly scheduled contest either.