Orioles notes and observations (Gonzalez's start, Lough's bunt, Wada, Hendriks)

Miguel Gonzalez gets the start tonight in Pittsburgh – his first since May 10, when he had a quality start in a no-decision against Houston. His last outing was in relief of Kevin Gausman on Wednesday.

Earlier this week in Kansas City, I asked Gonzalez if he knew which day he'd be starting in Pittsburgh, and he said he really hoped it was Tuesday, because his competitive juices were overflowing and he was dying to start again.


He obviously has had some struggles this season (his ERA is 4.76), but there may be no Orioles player who loves pitching and wants the ball more than Gonzalez. I guess that happens when injuries threaten to ruin your career several times.

Gonzalez, by the way, has never pitched in PNC Park or faced the Pirates in his career. The only Pirates hitter who has any history with Gonzalez is catcher Chris Stewart, who has a single and a walk in seven plate appearances.


** Several people have asked me what David Lough was thinking in the fourth inning Sunday when he sacrifice bunted with one out and J.J. Hardy on second with a 3-1 lead. Obviously, getting Hardy to third with two outs didn't do anything for the Orioles. Jonathan Schoop hit a fly out to end the threat.

Lough tried to bunt twice in that at-bat, fouling off the first before pushing the second back to pitcher James Shields, who threw Lough out at first.

It didn't make my game story – primarily because Alex Gordon's bat made that kind of game detail a non-issue – but I did ask Lough about it. And he said he wasn't sacrificing.

He said each time he felt like the Royals were giving him the bunt, and with his speed, he thought he could drop one for a base hit. He has also obviously been struggling at the plate – he's hitting .177 with a .235 on-base percentage in 31 games – so that may have played into his thinking, too.

Here's his quote:

"It was a bunt for a hit [attempt]. Then I tried again [on the second pitch] to bunt for a hit in that situation, and I just didn't put it where I wanted. I feel confident in my bunting ability, always have, always been a good bunter. And I can work that into a game at the right situation. They gave me a bunt for a hit in that situation, and so that's why I did it."

** I meant to post this during the weekend, but I was busy with other stories. And, wouldn't you know, in the meantime a little baseball reality set in to damage its relevance. But it's not going to stop me from giving you the info anyway. I'm like that.

Heading into Sunday, guess who led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League – which is known for its gaudy offensive numbers – in ERA?


I'll give you a hint: He unofficially set the record as the Orioles pitcher written about the most in The Baltimore Sun without ever actually throwing a pitch for the Orioles.

If you said, Justin Duchscherer, I like your gumption, but no.

The answer is 33-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada, who signed a two-year, $8.14 million deal before the 2012 season, but had elbow surgery that year and wasn't quite ready for the majors last year, when he was 5-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 19 starts at Triple-A Norfolk.

Wada is now with Iowa, the Cubs' top affiliate, and had a minuscule 1.31 ERA in seven starts before Sunday, when he allowed six earned runs in seven innings and dropped from first to sixth in ERA. Overall, he is 4-1 with a 2.10 ERA, 38 hits, 12 walks and 51 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings.

Those are excellent numbers, particularly in the PCL. Even so, it's not the major leagues. If Wada does get the call to the Cubs, it's possible he'll at some point pitch in a rotation that includes Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta.

Looks like Chicago is now Baltimore Midwest instead of Baltimore being Chicago East during the Andy MacPhail regime.


** One other flashback for you, though this one only goes back three months.

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The ERA leader in the Triple-A International League is also a slightly familiar name to Orioles fans. Heading into Monday night, Buffalo's Liam Hendriks is 5-0 and led all qualifiers with a 1.48 ERA in nine games (seven starts) for the Toronto Blue Jays' top affiliate.

Hendriks is the answer to an Orioles trivia question: Who was taken off the 40-man roster this February to make room for the free-agent signing of Ubaldo Jimenez?

Hendriks, a 25-year-old right-hander from Australia, was briefly in camp with the Orioles but never pitched a game for them. Right before Christmas, the Orioles claimed Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs (who had claimed him off waivers from his original organization, the Minnesota Twins, 10 days earlier on Dec. 13, 2013).

The Orioles then designated him for assignment Feb. 19 and he was claimed by the Blue Jays on Feb. 21. In 30 big league games – all with the Twins – Hendriks is 2-13 with a 6.06 ERA.

But he has excelled in the minors throughout his career, posting a 2.88 ERA in seven minor league seasons.