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Continuing to play matchups will help Orioles maneuver six starting pitchers in second half

OAKLAND – A few days before the All-Star break, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that there will be several starting pitchers available before the trade deadline who won't be as good at the team's existing six starting pitchers.

As the Orioles come out of the break in first place in the AL East, one of Showalter's biggest challenges might be how he manages his six starting pitchers.

It won’t be as simple as keeping every pitcher in line. He’s already started to utilize matchups, slotting right-hander Bud Norris to make his first second-half start in Anaheim (3-0, 0.32 ERA in four career starts against the Angels) instead of Oakland (he’s 0-2 with a 9.35 ERA in his career against the A’s). Miguel Gonzalez, who is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in three starts against the Angels, will also make his first start in Anaheim. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen likely won’t pitch against the Angels, who hit .283 as a team against left-handed pitching.

“Each guy is different,” Showalter said Thursday. “When you talk about six, how exactly do you do that? Do you have one guy go into the bullpen every time? Could Chris Tillman do that? Could Miguel Gonzalez do that? Could Chen do that? Well, he’s never done it before. So how do you know that?"

Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is a wild card, as he’s currently on the disabled list with a right ankle sprain. He felt good throwing off the mound for the first time Thursday and is eligible to return from the DL on Wednesday, but he would likely make a rehab start before returning.

Jimenez has struggled, but the Orioles won’t bury him, because he has a strong track record of pitching well in the second half of the season. Jimenez posted a 1.82 ERA in the second half of last season.

Showalter said he has the rotation lined up tentatively through two starts, but he can’t commit too much further because it could all change quickly.

“We’re going to handle it case by case,” Showalter said. “You’re trying to serve the routine and the pitcher which is the same thing. It’s a challenge. ... I like the idea that we have more than five guys right now, but that could change after two pitches.

“Really to me, you have seven [starters] when you count [T.J. McFarland] in there, too. Whether it’s five, six, seven, whoever pitches that day, our guys know that’s we’re going to put ourselves in the best position to win the game.”

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