OAKLAND, CALIF. — Three days before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, the Orioles dealt for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson out of a seemingly desperate need to stabilize their starting rotation.
Since he arrived, Hellickson has hardly seen those struggles firsthand. He has posted two quality starts in an Orioles uniform entering his third start Sunday, and the rotation as a whole entered Saturday with a 2.51 ERA since July 29, their best stretch of the season.
Even if his acquisition was to help facilitate that, Hellickson doesn't see how things were as bad as they were before he arrived, boasting a 5.99 ERA as a group.
"That's just how baseball is," Hellickson said. "You can go out one game and throw a couple innings, give up six or seven runs, then go out the next game and feel completely different and throw up six, seven scoreless. I've seen all these guys pitch before. I knew what they were capable of and how good they were. That hasn't surprised me since I've been over here. But I think that's just how baseball works — good days and bad days."
Hellickson replacing right-hander Chris Tillman has certainly elevated the overall group, though he's 1-1 in his two starts. In his debut, Hellickson didn't allow a run in seven five-hit innings to top the Kansas City Royals. Six days later, he took the loss after allowing three runs on six hits in six innings against the Los Angeles Angels, though he struck out a season-high nine batters.
"To say the least, he's pitched really well," manager Buck Showalter said. "Obviously, starting pitching has been a challenge for a lot of teams that aren't the Dodgers or whoever, but it's given us a guy who's given us a chance to win twice. We'll see what tomorrow brings."
Tillman at the ready
A day after manager Buck Showalter said there wasn't any urgency to get Tillman into a game for the first time since he moved to the bullpen last weekend, Tillman said the changes he hoped would take hold out there already are as he waits for a chance to prove himself.
"I've been able to go out every day and play catch and work on those things," he said. "I feel like it's more getting comfortable with it now, more of a daily routine as opposed to, 'This is what I need to do.' It's actually in motion now, and I'm able to go out daily and get it done."
Tillman had an 8.10 ERA in 15 starts when Showalter moved him out of the rotation, but there has been no occasion to use him in the six games since he became available in the bullpen. When Tillman does get in, he knows it'll be different, but acknowledged that "pitching is pitching."
In the meantime, he's trying to absorb some of the routines and best practices of his fellow relievers.
"There's also a big difference," Tillman said. "Most of the guys out there have been out there a long time, and that's the rub. I'm out there because I haven't pitched to my capabilities, and I think to get back on track, get where I need to be again. There's a little different mindset, but at the same time, I am taking little tidbits from guys."
Janish to retire
Infielder Paul Janish, who played in 14 games with the Orioles this year as a spare infielder and has been at Triple-A Norfolk for most of the season, will retire at the end of the season and join the coaching staff at his alma mater, Rice University.
"That actually makes everybody that heard the news today just kind of nod and go, 'That's great,'" Showalter said. "He's a quality human being. His priorities are a good husband, a good father, then try to be a good shortstop. He's got things in order. But Paul is a pro. He's one of those guys where you say any question and he raises his hand. ... He's smart. He'll do really well."
Rice announced the hire Friday.
The 34-year-old Janish, a veteran of nine major league seasons, entered Saturday hitting .270 with three home runs for the Tides this season. He has played parts of the past three seasons with the Orioles.
Around the horn
Shortstop J.J. Hardy (wrist) won't be ready to return when he's eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Aug. 18, but Showalter said the team is hoping it's not too long after. "He's progressing right on schedule. He did his work today, and getting a little better every day," Showalter said. "I know he's taking a lot of dry swings, and he's not having soreness there." … Right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez is on track to make his next start after a batted ball hit him on the right leg Friday night. It was the same spot he was hit last month in Minnesota, which was the bigger problem than this contact. "He'll be fine," Showalter said. "The one thing about Ubaldo, this guy posts up." ... Shortstop Tim Beckham's 11-game hitting streak to begin his Orioles career is the longest since Eric Byrnes matched that feat from July 30 to Aug. 10, 2005. The club record belongs to David Newhan, who had hits in his first 15 Orioles games in 2004.