Following another subpar performance from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez in the Orioles' 3-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night, manager Buck Showalter indicated that Gonzalez will remain in the team's starting rotation.
As Gonzalez continues to struggle -- he has a 6.46 ERA since coming off the disabled list in late June after rehabilitating a right groin strain -- it has become an increasingly asked question. And recently, Showalter's response hasn't been a rousing endorsement of Gonzalez, but more, "If not him, then who?"
It's true that there isn't much help down at Triple-A Norfolk. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson are both on the DL and neither one has pitched in a playoff race.
Asked if Gonzalez is healthy, Showalter said, "Yeah, as far as I know.
"He's a guy that's pretty honest with us, but everybody's got something [at this time of the year], but nothing that would keep him from pitching well. His innings are managed well. He's fine."
In discussing Gonzalez's struggles, Showalter points to fastball command. Gonzalez is a pitcher who relies on his control, so when he doesn't have it, he's in for a battle. On the home run ball he threw to Kendrys Morales in the second inning, he was trying to go in, but left the ball over the plate. Morales sent the full-count pitch into the fountains in right field.
"There were four or five of them," Showalter said. "Good hitters are going to make you pay for those. Command of the fastball is where it starts with every pitcher."
Walks have also hurt Gonzalez. Over his past five starts, Gonzalez has issued 13 walks in 26 1/3 innings. He issued two walks in the Royals' two-run third inning Tuesday. A free pass to Ben Zobrist came around to score and a walk to Morales extended the inning and set the stage for Mike Moustakas' two-out RBI single.
"That's also command because he's got some sequences set up to make a pitch that he usually does that the guys set up for, and we can't get it there," Showalter said.
"I've just been a little off," Gonzalez said. "I need to keep working on that with [pitching coach] Dave [Wallace] and [bullpen coach] Dom [Chiti]. They've been doing a really good job keeping me to stay focused and not worry about things and not think too much out there. I think that's been the struggle. Obviously, it hasn't been the way we want to, but we've just got to keep working hard."
Even though Gonzalez lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Tuesday night, catcher Caleb Joseph said that he saw improvements from Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who allowed three runs on six hits on Tuesday, performed better than he did in his previous start, when he allowed seven runs on eight hits over five innings in a 15-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
"I think he has a lot to build on today," Joseph said. "There were a couple of times where it could have broke out and he did a good job of winding it back in. Those are the little things that get guys on track and he came out and he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.
"If a couple balls fall here and there, we're talking about how this is a really good outing. He's had a couple outings here where he's been able to build off of three or four innings so it's just a matter of completing that whole process and being able to get six with zero runs on the board."
Joseph acknowledged that Gonzalez's confidence might be shaken.
"It's a different team, they have high chase totals but low strikeouts," Joseph said. "He gave us a chance to win tonight. Confidence is a big thing in this game and when you have confidence you seem to get through games well. When you are kind of teetering with confidence a little bit, it's hard to grind through. He did a good job tonight, gave us a chance to win. We just couldn't get a rally going against their guys."