Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez said the right groin injury that forced him from Tuesday's game against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning is similar to a tweak he felt a couple seasons ago that caused him to miss a start.
He didn't go on the disabled list at that time -- and is hopeful he can stay off the DL now. He is currently slated to start Sunday against the New York Yankees.
"I hope so. I hope I can," said Gonzalez, who dropped his ERA to 3.33 with 4 1/3 scoreless innings Tuesday. "[In 2013], I kind of did the same thing, missed a start and I was able to go after that."
This time, it's a little more complicated. It might best serve the Orioles if Gonzalez goes to the DL for 15 days, even though it means losing one of the club's more consistent starters for two weeks.
Because of left-handed reliever Brian Matusz's eight-game suspension, the Orioles are currently one player short on their 25-man roster, and are subsequently using a six-man bullpen. Since Gonzalez didn't get through five innings, the Orioles had to use three relievers Tuesday. And they have four more games to play against the Red Sox and New York Yankees before Matusz can be reinstated Sunday.
"It's going to be a real challenge for us to get to Sunday without making a pitching move," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We all know that, especially with the teams we're playing."
For now, Showalter said his bullpen is fine -- but with the high-intensity divisional chess matches that seemingly always require multiple pitching changes, reinforcements likely will be needed. And putting Gonzalez on the DL before Wednesday's game would allow Showalter to pick from any player in the minors, including lefty reliever Cesar Cabral who was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday.
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"We'll be fine for tomorrow physically. Everybody will be available tomorrow," Showalter said. "It's just whether we want to continue down that path right now and are we going to know a whole lot more [about Gonzalez] in one day?"
If the Orioles sense that Gonzalez will miss at least one start, the most logical move is to DL Gonzalez, give him 15 days to rest the groin strain and recall Cabral. (Normally a demoted player must be stay in the minors for 10 days, but that requirement is waived if he replaces a DL'd player.)
The Orioles could keep Cabral through Saturday, and then send him down and bring up a starter -- such as Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson to fill Gonzalez's spot in the rotation. They will also get Matusz back Sunday, so Cabral's presence would no longer be needed.
It all makes sense, but it certainly isn't what Gonzalez prefers.
"It's tough. I understand that things are going to happen in the field, and it's part of the game," he said of the injury. "Sometimes you don't want it to happen but when you're competing, things will happen."
Gonzalez felt discomfort on the last pitch of the fourth inning, a Mookie Betts' fly out to Delmon Young. Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace noticed the pitcher's grimace and he and Gonzalez discussed it. Gonzalez faced two batters in the fifth, giving up a double and a ground out, before Wallace, Showalter and athletic trainer Richie Bancells came rushing out of the Orioles' dugout. Moments later, Gonzalez walked off the mound and T.J. McFarland entered to pitch.
"I really thought I could keep going but in the fifth inning I just didn't feel quite right," Gonzalez said. "This year I've been feeling really good. Just felt it in that pitch, the last pitch to Mookie Betts. But other than that, I'll be all right. Treat it, see what happens and hopefully I can make my next start."