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Orioles' Miguel Gonzalez to start Game 4 of ALCS against Royals

Orioles' Miguel Gonzalez to start Game 4 of ALCS against Royals
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez hasn't pitched since the Orioles ended the regular season Sept. 28, but he's not particularly worried about how a 16-day layoff will affect him Wednesday in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

"It's been two weeks, but I've been preparing myself to stay focused," said Gonzalez, who threw three innings of live batting practice Oct. 6 and a bullpen session Sunday. "I'm excited. I'm excited to go out there and give my team a chance to win a ballgame."

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Gonzalez, who was 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 27 games this season, was particularly good toward the end of the year. He had a 2.19 ERA in his final 11 starts of 2014.

"Confidence," Gonzalez said, explaining his upswing down the stretch. "I moved toward the middle of the pitcher's plate, and I felt a lot more comfortable there. … I felt a lot better the second half."

Gonzalez was scheduled to start Game 4 of the American League Division Series in Detroit, but the Orioles won the series in three. He then was scheduled to pitch Tuesday, but a rainout pushed the entire series back a day.

That created the possibility that Game 1 starter Chris Tillman could pitch again in Game 4 on Wednesday and Gonzalez could be skipped again.

But manager Buck Showalter sent Gonzalez to the pregame news conference Tuesday, a slot reserved for the next day's starter, and he said Gonzalez would start unless he was needed in an all-hands-on-deck Game 3.

Showalter said he wasn't worried about Gonzalez's layoff — it's similar, Showalter said, to that of the Kansas City Royals' Game 3 starter, former Orioles right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who hadn't pitched since Sept. 26.

"Same thing with Jeremy, and they'll be fine," Showalter said. "They don't get to this level using things like that as an excuse."

Gonzalez has pitched just one playoff game in his career — in the 2012 ALDS, when he allowed just one run in seven innings against the New York Yankees in a no-decision.

"I felt good coming out of that game," he said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win that game. But it's definitely exciting again to be in this position and be able to play in the ALCS."

Hundley gets the start

Showalter said he talked to several people, and it was basically even on who should start behind the plate for the Orioles on Tuesday. He eventually decided to pick Nick Hundley, a seven-season veteran who has more overall playing experience than rookie Caleb Joseph.

"I talked to everybody and it was 51-49, take your pick," Showalter said. "We feel good about both of them. Caleb's gonna probably catch [Wednesday], the day game."

Joseph had been in an 0-for-33 slump before getting two singles and a sacrifice fly in Game 2, while Hundley had just one hit in 12 at-bats this postseason heading into Tuesday. Joseph has the superior arm, throwing out 40 percent of would-be base-stealers during the regular season.

The way the Royals run the bases — they led the major leagues in steals this season — curtailing the running game normally would be a major factor into the decision at catcher. But the Orioles' Game 3 starter, Wei-Yin Chen, is a left-hander with a good pickoff move, making arm strength behind the plate less of a concern. Showalter wouldn't go into any more specifics as to what gave Hundley the edge.

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"We've had two catchers all year, and we feel real good about either one of them being there," Showalter said. "And [there's] just a very small tiebreaker now that we decided to go with."

Showalter's switch analogy

Those who pay attention to Showalter's pregame news conferences are accustomed to his homespun tales, country analogies and asides that seemingly stop short. But on Tuesday there was some headshaking when Showalter veered off on a tangent that ended up inadvertently referring to a hot-button topic — something he has done in the past without issue.

Showalter was asked about the Royals and whether they were built to win, and he tried to spin an analogy about how even though you may not like something — such as currently losing to the Royals — you have respect for it.

This is how it came out: "They're built to win, period. … They've done a great job. There's a part of you, just like when your grandmother makes you go get a switch to whip your own butt with, it's not much fun. Don't come back with a little one. There's a part of [you] that really pulls for people like them."

Nothing was said about Showalter's comments, but there was a sense in the room filled with national media that he had tiptoed around a now taboo subject — especially since Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was suspended indefinitely after being charged with punishing his son with a "switch."

Guthrie makes the playoffs

At 35, right-hander Jeremy Guthrie became the oldest player in Royals history to start a postseason game Tuesday, passing Paul Splittorff, who was 34 when he started Game 3 of the ALCS in 1980.

Guthrie became the oldest starting pitcher to make his postseason debut since New York Mets right-hander Steve Trachsel in Game 3 of the 2006 NLDS. Trachsel and Guthrie were Orioles teammates in 2007 and 2008.

The Orioles dealt Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies before the 2012 season.

Around the horn

In Game 4, the Royals will start left-hander Jason Vargas, who is 2-3 with a 1.94 ERA in eight starts against the Orioles. … Nelson Cruz is expected to start in left field Wednesday, with Delmon Young acting as the designated hitter against Vargas. … Kansas City outfielder Nori Aoki was just 2-for-7 in the major leagues against Chen coming into Tuesday's game. But, according to the Japanese media reports, Aoki was 14-for-36 (.389 average) when the two faced each other in the regular season and postseason in Japan.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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