Following a night in which he again cracked on the third time through the batting order, Zach Britton finds himself once more riding the shuttle to Norfolk. With Wei-Yin Chen set to come off the disabled list to make the start in Wednesday's game, the Orioles need a spot on the roster for him, and the lefty starter who isn't performing to expectations makes a good target for being optioned.
Additionally, Kevin Gausman has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Corresponding roster moves for either of these were not announced on Tuesday night, though Chen's activation is sure to be one. A fresh bullpen arm would seem to be the ideal player for a short call-up.
Does such a player exist? 40-man pitchers in the minor leagues are: Mike Belfiore, Dylan Bundy (out due to Tommy John), Jair Jurrjens, Josh Stinson, and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Belfiore is a guy with a pulse who throws with his left hand, meaning he could shut down the Orioles, but perhaps not other teams. Jurrjens just made the start on Tuesday night, which probably rules him out. Stinson's last start was July 6, meaning he could come up and pitch in relief. Wada last started on July 5, and his last four starts have been respectable. If he is a real person who exists, he could be a candidate. There is the possibility of a curveball in a non-40-man player like Jairo Asencio, who has a 2.15 ERA for Norfolk in 37.2 innings of relief.
Whether Britton deserved to be demoted is another question. It's never fair to judge a pitcher solely on his most recent outing. In six starts for the O's this year, he's averaging fewer than six innings per start, and he has a 4.76 ERA. Is he the worst culprit with the O's rotation struggles? Jason Hammel has been worse overall, but Britton has an option and Hammel doesn't. Britton also could have pitched better and forced his way back into the big league rotation picture. He hasn't done that either. That's the way these things go in the Dan Duquette era.
What in the hell are they doing with Gausman? If they're trying to break him in to the big leagues as a reliever, what's the point of optioning him now? If he's had more to learn in the minors, why did they have him up as a reliever at all? The plan for him is not evident. He is a guy who figures into future plans for the Orioles, but perhaps not the present, and it's fair to wonder whether their treatment of him in the present will impact that future.
For now, the roster merry-go-round spins again. Tomorrow we'll learn who hops off the next time it stops. For tonight, we bid farewell - how fond of a farewell is up to each one of you on your own - to Britton and Gausman. And we hope that whoever is to come will be the cure for what ails this team, at least for a little while.