Over the course of the season to date the 5th Starter slot has been unsettled. Various grifters and ne'er-do-wells have squated on the role, but more often than not these transients have only left behind a steaming pile of dung before being evicted and sent in the Paddy Wagon back to Norfolk.
By utilizing off days built into the schedule the O's have had the good fortune of not having to pitch a 5th Starter during a turn through the rotation a number of times. This is the case for this week. With an off day on Monday the O's won't need a 5th member of the rotation until Saturday, when the O's play in Detroit against expected starter Rick Porcello. The O's will then be able to skip the 5th Starter slot again the following week since there is an off day built in for Thursday. I wish to take a glance at the bona fidas the various options to fill this slot bring to the table, as well as enumerate the charges against.
The player who will fill this rotation slot will in all likelihood come from the options available on the 40-man menu. Such names include: Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, plus a wild card that I'll get to later. Non current-40-man roster options include Dana Eveland. So, what they got? Let's go through the list.
Jake Arrieta is quite the enigma. So much talent. So much raw 'stuff'. So, sooooo bad at the moment. Over 31.1 IP since he was optioned, Jake has pitched to the tune of a 5.74 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP. Worse still is his pitch efficiency, or lack thereof. Here are his pitch counts / strikes thrown / IP for each of his 6 starts:
July 16: 101 / 63 / 5
July 21: 112 / 67 / 6.1
July 27: 100 / 57 / 5.1
Aug 3: 116 / 64 / 5.2
Aug 7: 80 / 48 / 3.2
Aug 12: 91 / 52 / 5.1
Until Jake can learn to get his pitch counts under control it doesn't appear as if he will be a viable option for the major league club. Next...
Brian Matusz has put up some decent stats over his 6 starts. 41 IP, 3.95 ERA, and a 1.12 WHIP. Over his first four starts he was consistently getting far more groundball outs than fly outs (36 GO: 16 FO : 15 Ks), but that trend has stalled over his past 2 starts (8 GO: 10 FO: 8 Ks). However, a stat line can only tell so much, as our own Andrew_G explained in his recent post reviewing Matusz's 4th start on July 25th. Though Brian cruised thru 8 IP allowing only 1R on 3 hits he, to Andrew's eye anyway, did not have particularly impressive 'stuff'. What he had may have been enough to dominate a weak Phillies AAA squad, but one can doubt that that same 'stuff' will be enough to get major league quality hitters out.
Zach Britton was pitching well for Norfolk when his services were summoned northward to Baltimore in mid-July. He must have forgotten to pack his pitching ability, 'cause he stunk in his tenure with the O's. Over 5 starts he managed 23.1 IP of 8+ ERA ball, allowing 5 HRs and 16 BBs to 17 Ks. He has yet to pitch for the Tides since his demotion. So it would seem highly unlikely that he would get called back up without having proven he deserves another shot.
Steve Johnson replaced Zach in the rotation and he pitched a fine game last week, earning his first major league victory. He was then optioned back to Norfolk on Thursday the 9th in order to make room for the ascension of one Manny Machado. Since MLB rules dictate that a player optioned to the minors must remain in the minors for a minimum of 10 days Steve will not be eligible to return to Baltimore until Sunday the 26th. The loophole for this rule is that the optioned player can be brought back up prior to the 10 days having run their course if another player from the major league club is placed on the D.L. So this is something that bears watching. Johnson definitely earned another start. But at the moment it seems as if he may be stuck in Norfolk come Saturday. I'd certainly expect to see him back up come September, when the rosters expand, at the latest.
Dana Eveland.....ugh.....it's bad enough to have Tommy Hunter in the rotation. But there is a case to be made for having Eveland spot-start on Saturday. Lew Ford has failed to hit during his tour of duty with the Birds thus far and could certainly be a DFA candidate now that Nate (Highlander) McLouth seems to have won the LF job. If Lew were to be DFA'd it would open up both a 40-man and 25-man roster slot for Eveland, who could then spot-start on Saturday before most likely being DFA'd right back to Norfolk. If I were a betting man, I'd lay my money on this scenario.
The wild-card idea: Dylan Bundy. Duquette shocked the baseball world when he promoted Manny Machado straight from Bowie to Baltimore. Would promoting Bundy for a couple of starts prior to being shut down for the season once he reaches his impending IP limit be even crazier? Crazy like a fox, perhaps! I'd likely be aghast if DD were to do this, but what do I know? The most likely impediment to such shenanigans, however, would be Dylan's pitching schedule. He is expected to make his debut with Bowie on Tuesday. This would result in only 3 days of rest prior to Saturday's game. So, if he pitches on Tuesday as scheduled this scenario can be ignored. I do still believe Dylan will see major league action come September though, if only out of the bullpen.
So...who do you foresee starting on Saturday? Of the options presents who strikes your fancy, or repulses you the least?