Mychal Givens has been an important part of the Orioles' bullpen since he arrived from Double-A Bowie late last season, but he finds himself at both a personal and professional crossroads as the Orioles begin a lengthy West Coast road trip Tuesday.
Givens worked through a slow start to the season to achieve a 1.80 ERA in his first 24 outings, dominating righties in the process. But he has allowed eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings over his last four appearances.
He hasn't pitched since last Tuesday, thanks in part to a four-game set against a heavily left-handed Tampa Bay Rays lineup, and for the first time Givens' role seems tenuous. It's not solely performance-related, though.
Before the Orioles flew west Sunday evening, manager Buck Showalter hinted that the players whose wives were due to give birth to their families' respective first children would be tough to bring on a trip that long and that far away from home.
Left-hander Ashur Tolliver was optioned after Sunday's game, with his wife, Kelli, due July 7 in Arkansas. Givens, whose wife Tiffani is due July 11, is the other. That's still two weeks away, and falls on the All-Star break. Combine the time off with the fact that Givens lives in Tampa, where the Orioles begin their second half, and he's hopeful that the schedule works in his favor.
"This is going to be my first one," Givens said. "I'm really excited for it right now, and hopefully everything goes to plan with the All-Star break, where I wouldn't have to miss any time. Hopefully, I can do both parts — be happy to be up here and be happy to spend time with my newborn. Right now, it's just a wait. I'm fine waiting."
To get to that ideal situation, however, Givens must be across the country and have a few outings to turn around his slump. Givens said he and Showalter had discussed the situation, and believes his best way to turn things around is to be able to get back on the mound.
"Baseball's s a game of failure," Givens said. "It's a long season, so you're going to have some rough patches, and rough weeks. At the same time, you have to correct everything, get back on the mound and try to take one inning at a time, one pitch at a time."
Givens struggled in his last outing against the Padres, who the Orioles play again this week, and may not get a chance to throw in a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners this weekend, either.
The Mariners have several left-handed regulars spread through the lineup, and left-handers are batting .459/.545/.676 off Givens. He didn't pitch in the three-game series against Seattle at Camden Yards.
Combine that factor with the pending returns of Vance Worley (groin) and Darren O'Day (hamstring) from the disabled list and the fact that T.J. McFarland is eligible to return from being optioned on Tuesday, and the Orioles will have a few moves to make this week.
A few disappointing games leading to a minor league assignment would be hard luck for Givens, who has struck out 35 of the 90 right-handed batters he's faced while holding them to a .178 batting average.
But with so much unknown with him both off the field and on it, there's some sense that keeping Givens out west, especially for a series where the Orioles might stay away from him, might be difficult for all sides to stomach.