NEW YORK — As the final week of the regular season begins, the Orioles' postseason pitching plan is becoming clearer.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Monday's series opener against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium that he plans to use four starters in the American League Division Series.
Right-hander Chris Tillman is on turn to start with one extra day of rest in the Orioles' series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Friday, which also puts him in line to start Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 2, also on one extra day of rest.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen line up to pitch Games 2 and 3, respectively, but the day off between those two games could allow the team to switch them. Right-hander Bud Norris is the most likely option for Game 4, if necessary, with right-hander Kevin Gausman being used out of the bullpen.
Showalter said he has his rotation set through Sunday's regular-season finale in Toronto. That starter likely will have a short day as Showalter said he plans to pitch most of that game out of the bullpen in order to give his relievers much-needed work with three days between the end of the regular season and Game 1 of the ALDS.
"I don't want them sitting around for more than three days," Showalter said. "Same with position players, I don't want to see them sitting around for six days and not play in Toronto. We're trying to win games, try to make sure everybody's ready.
"There will be a starter. It may be that somebody comes in and throws to one hitter. I just think everybody needs to get the ball in their hand on Sunday. If someone has to pitch on Saturday, extended, that might change. We will be trying to win those games, but we will have a starter from that six starting that game."
Showalter said he plans to give the entire team Monday off and hold workouts Tuesday and Wednesday in the days leading up to the ALDS.
An expanded roster has allowed Showalter to keep his relievers fresh throughout the month.
"I think the last five or six days since we clinched, we haven't pitched anybody back-to-back that we know is going to be on the postseason [roster], but don't hold me to that," Showalter said. "We're managing a couple of minor things with guys … so we're not going to be foolish not to take advantage of the time and not try to clear up some of these things."
By that thinking, the Orioles will pitch relievers likely to be on the postseason roster Sunday but not Saturday in Toronto.
The Orioles went into Monday's game trailing the Los Angeles Angels by 2 1/2 games for the American League's best record, and Showalter insists the club will try to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Showalter will give each starter an extra day of rest — slotting Ubaldo Jimenez into Tuesday's start — going into their final regular season start and also heading into the postseason.
"You don't want starters to sit around more than an extra day," Showalter said. "After you get past one, it's a little iffy, depending on who it is. We've got it wired out through the end of the first round, but we're going to wait and see a couple things. How everybody feels. And also not being sure who you're playing yet."
Around the horn
Right fielder Nick Markakis returned to the lineup Monday. He had missed the last four games after he was hit in the back of the right shoulder by a pitch. "It's one of those things, it's not like it's a bruise that he can do something that's going to set him back, I'm hoping, once he gets in the flow of everything," Showalter said. "He wants to play today. He wanted to play yesterday. See how it goes." … Left-hander Zach Britton entered Monday with the most saves (35) in the major leagues since May 15. … The Orioles' .638 winning percentage against the AL East heading into Monday (44-25) ranked fourth-best in club history.