Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Thursday's game that he faced some difficult choices in selecting the team’s American League Division Series roster, but he said the decision to add right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez gives his 11-man pitching staff a dynamic that he likes.
Showalter selected Jimenez, who struggled throughout the season with his control and was eventually demoted to the bullpen before pitching well in his final three appearances, while leaving left-handers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland off the roster against a predominantly right-handed Detroit Tigers lineup.
“It was tough, they are going to get introduced and be in the bullpen,” Showalter said of leaving the two lefties off the roster. “It was tough conversations, but some of the precedent, some of the things we’ve done with the starters and everything. They understand it and made a point in the advanced meeting we had yesterday and the get together we had, making sure everyone understood why. If we are fortunate enough to advance, they will be very much in the mix for the next round. It’s just who we are playing more than anything.”
Jimenez won his last two starts and overcame a leadoff two-base error before striking out the side in a scoreless relief inning in the Orioles’ regular-season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Sunday. Still, Jimenez has been a career starter and has made just three relief appearances since his major league debut in 2006.
“Why does he not have much experience in the bullpen? He’s been a good starter and he’s had good stuff over his career,” Showalter said. “His last three outings have been good. If you look at his numbers against Detroit, it’s a good what if. [Pitching coach] Dave [Wallace] and I intentionally brought him in against [Jose] Reyes, [Jose] Bautista and [Edwin] Encarnacion.”
Jimenez, who pitched against the Tigers often while with the Cleveland Indians, is 5-9 with a 4.93 ERA against Detroit. Jimenez threw one of his best outings of the season against the Tigers, tossing seven shutout innings May 13, striking out seven batters and walking two. He was 1-2 with a 6.92 ERA against the Tigers last season.
Showalter said there were other factors in selecting Jimenez, who has three years remaining on the four-year, $50 million contract he signed with the club -- the longest and most expensive deal handed to a free-agent pitcher in club history.
Showalter said left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start in Friday’s Game 2, which was expected. Also as expected, right-handers Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, who likely will start Games 3 and 4 in Detroit, will be available in relief tonight in a pinch.
“We’re going to try not to [pitch them],” Showalter said, “but that’ll happen if needed. As you saw in the Kansas City game, you better be prepared for what if. He’s presented himself well. I told the players, this is a different dynamic. [Darren] O’Day could pitch in the third inning or [Tommy] Hunter. It is what it is, so you want to be sure you can cover it the whole way.”
Regarding his 14 position players, Showalter said it was a difficult choice leaving speedster Quintin Berry off the roster.
"That was a tough one, but their starters' ability to hold runners, their relief pitchers do a nice job of holding runners. [Catcher] Alex Avila's one of the better throwers. We also think with David Lough and Jimmy Paredes have quality foot speed. Kelly [Johnson] doesn't clog the bases. We feel like we're OK there. That was a tough one, though, because he's obviously been a contributor with that. Sometimes, that's something that can be negated in the playoffs if they want to, by times to the plate, holding runners. That can be negated. But that was long.”
Showalter said Matusz and McFarland, as well as third catcher Steve Clevenger, will stay with the team throughout the postseason.
Berry and utility player Alexi Casilla will go to Sarasota, Fla., to play in instructional league games case they are needed down the stretch. Ryan Webb, Evan Meek and Christian Walker have already gone to Sarasota, and left-hander Joe Saunders has gone back to his home in Virginia.
Here are today's starting lineups:
Nick Markakis RF
Alejandro De Aza LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Steve Pearce 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Nick Hundley C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Chris Tillman RHP
Ian Kinsler 2B
Torii Hunter RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
J.D. Martinez LF
Alex Avila C
Nick Castellanos 3B
Austin Romine SS
Rajai Davis CF
Max Scherzer RHP