TORONTO — While watching right-hander Miguel Castro become a valuable multi-inning reliever in the second half of the season, the biggest wonder moving forward is whether his future is as a starter, especially with the Orioles needing to fill two to three rotation spots next season.
It's been a topic of discussion through the organization as Castro — a former top prospect with the Toronto Blue Jays who has found a new life with the Orioles — has gone on to compile a 2.77 ERA in 55 1/3 innings this season.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Monday night's series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre that there is a long-term plan for Castro moving forward and it could be in the team's rotation.
"[Pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and I, we have planned the whole thing for it," he said. "There is a lot of thought put into it, not just for the rest of this year, but for next year, too. Like all of young pitchers, they are precious commodities and we want to make good decisions about them. Because we don't have many to pick from right now."
Castro has allowed runs in each of his past two outings, but still has a 2.22 ERA in 28 1/3 relief innings since Aug. 1. Over that stretch, he has gone one stint of six innings and seven others of two innings or more. He's been one of the team's most valuable relievers in terms of bridging the middle innings while keeping the game close.
He came up with the Blue Jays as a starter before being fast-tracked into the closer role, struggling and then being traded to the Colorado Rockies.
“I don’t think it’s [a] change,” Showalter said. “I just think the environment’s been that he’s been comfortable with being himself. … He’s always ready out there. … That’s how you make good decisions on players, and I think he really appreciates and likes what the organization has done with him and for him. He knows we kind of get him. … People talk about him starting and whatever. You take him out of the bullpen and he comes in and starts and struggles, will he still be able to go back and do the other? It’s about winning and it’s also about developing players.”
Gentry to return Tuesday
The Orioles will activate outfielder Craig Gentry from the disabled list when he's eligible to return Tuesday after Gentry — currently on the DL with a right finger fracture — received clearance from a hand specialist to come off the bench as a base-running option .
Gentry wasn't cleared to hit or defense, but as one of the club's fastest runners, he can still affect a game on the bases, and Showalter didn't rule out the possibility of Gentry's being able to contribute in other ways later in the month.
"We've got to get somebody on base [first," Showalter said. "But anytime you have a player that makes the other team play to a different speed. Whether the pitcher has to be faster to the plate, catcher has to speed up and that might take away some pitches. Might not want to throw a breaking ball or changeup that is slower to the plate. He really helped us on defense and was a big upgrade for us. He was really swinging the bat well, too, at the time. We'll take that one skill this time of year."
Gausman shrugs off blister
Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman, whose start was pushed back a day to Wednesdaynight because of a blister on his right index finger, said he deals with blisters to varying degrees during every start.
"I get it after every start and this one was a little bit bigger than they have been, but I threw a 'pen yesterday, and if I needed to pitch on normal five days' rest I could," Gausman said. "It's one of those things, I think they obviously wanted Bundy to pitch against them and also giving me an extra day is not the worst thing, so you take those days when you can get them."
The move will allow Gausman to pitch with on five days' rest, and he has a 3.89 ERA in eight starts this season on five days' rest, compared with a 5.08 in his 22 starts.
Gausman threw his between-starts bullpen session Sunday without incident and said he'd never miss a start because of the blister.
"Honestly during the game I really don't feel it," Gausman said. "I think it's more that there's a lot more important things going on that I don't feel it. I don't think about it. I don't think it affects anything. I've had games when it's been bad from the first pitch and I've gone seven scoreless. It's just one of those things. It's not going to change anything. I'm not going to miss a start for it ever or anything like that. I think it was more about just getting an extra day."
Showalter remembers Didier
The death at age 90 of longtime baseball man Mel Didier hit Showalter hard. Didier, who was a scout and executive for more than 60 years, was Showalter's player development director in the first days of the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise that Showalter managed.
"I go way back with Mel," Showalter said. "He was the epitome of a baseball man and never had a bad day. He was scouting just two or three months ago. He impacted a lot of lives. Real sharp and very sincere. This is tough. … Boy, he loved the game, everything about it. He was a great ambassador of the game. Everything that is good about our game, Mel stood for."
Didier worked as a well-regarded talent evaluator for eight organizations, including the Orioles, and Showalter said Didier, who died at his home in Arizona on Sunday night, was ahead of his time with gauging talent.
"I feel bad for a lot of people, the way front offices are now, they are not able to have a Mel Didier around to show them the parts of scouting that are as important as the number crunching," said Showalter, who said he spoke with Didier as recently as last week. "And Mel could crunch the numbers as well as anyone. He bridged both. .... He was a rock."
The death of Didier, who most recently worked as a scout for the Blue Jays, comes just days after Showalter lost another close baseball friend, former New York Yankees executive Gene Michael.
Around the horn
The Orioles had yet to completely survey the Ed Smith Stadium spring training facility in Sarasota on Monday after Hurricane Irma hit the state's Gulf Coast on Sunday, giving employees time to be with their families after the storm that forced mass evacuations throughout Florida. … On-field personnel wore the American flag on the side of their caps in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001. Proceeds from the retail sale of these caps will be donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the Pentagon Memorial in Virginia and the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania.