With rosters having expanded on September 1 and minor league seasons drawing to a close, the Orioles took the opportunity to add a number of players to their roster for the last month of the major league season. The O's have added three pitchers to take some workload off of a tired rotation and bullpen. They have also added four position players. Will any of these additions be able to help contribute meaningfully to a hot September that could boost the Orioles into the playoffs?
The pitchers added to the roster are: Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Josh Stinson
The position players are: Chris Snyder, Steve Clevenger, Ryan Flaherty, Henry Urrutia, Jonathan Schoop
Note that Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was so excited about September call-ups that he managed to finagle the roster to get Gausman onto the roster before September 1. This is not surprising from Duquette, who has said repeatedly that he will do everything he needs to do to give the Orioles the best roster they can have from day to day. Unlike most GMs who say something like this, he acts frequently to show it.
It's Britton who will have the first chance to really make an impact. He has been inserted into the starting rotation and will be starting Wednesday's game. What could possibly go wrong with having a player with a career 4.74 ERA in the big leagues starting a crucial game against one of the other contenders for the second wild card spot?
The good news about Britton is he gets over 50% ground balls even when he has struggles. His struggles are due to command, with a walk rate of nearly four per nine innings in his MLB career. He will face the Indians on Wednesday, who have the fifth-highest walk rate of any team in MLB. This is a must-win game and we have to hope Britton turns in a special performance, the likes of which he's seldom shown us, even at the Triple-A level this year, where he had a 1.53 WHIP.
Gausman has pitched three scoreless innings of relief since being recalled. His name has been thrown around as a potential starter as well. Even if he's only used out of the bullpen, he should help stabilize a unit that's been a mess recently. Manager Buck Showalter alluded yesterday to unspecified relievers having nagging injuries going on that makes him want to shy away from relying on them heavily. The high-90s fastball combined with Gausman's devastating change-up should keep him as a useful contributor in relief.
Stinson is another pitcher who will be out there in the bullpen to share the workload and keep pitchers like Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter from having to be used as much. Whether this is something he will do successfully is another story. He is a career fringe prospect, just the sort of player you might have expected to add something to last year's Orioles. It's not 2012 any more.
As for the position players, Snyder and Clevenger can be ruled out as contributing immediately because they are backup catchers, and they only do good things when the year is 2012 and they are Taylor Teagarden. They will play sparingly because Matt Wieters does not get rest, and they will probably not do anything when they play.
Flaherty is unlikely to do much either, because he is Flaherty. Then again, he does have playoff experience, and even a playoff home run, which is more than many other players on the team can say. How much of a chance will he even get to play? Showalter seems to favor the switch-hitting Roberts, who has some game in his old legs, even if not much range. Unlike before rosters expanded, there is a whole host of options to use at designated hitter at any point in the game.
Urrutia is another one of those options. Perhaps he can be speed on the basepaths later in a game. Is he even fast? I don't know. He barely hit anything for extra bases in his previous big league tenure, though he showed a little more power after getting kicked back down to Norfolk. His chances will probably be few and far between. It only takes one big hit to impact a game and the season. Do you think Urrutia has such a hit in him?
Last but not least is Schoop, who is a wild card. Is he up to get any significant playing time at all? With beat writers like Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun quoting Showalter about how "players can learn from being in a pennant race regardless of how many at-bats they receive", it does not seem like there is a major role envisioned from him. He could be a late-inning defensive replacement as he gets a taste of the big leagues, perhaps with the Orioles eyeing helping to get him ready to be the starting second baseman next season.
Even the 2012 season did not have much in the way of meaningful September additions, with key contributors like Nate McLouth and Manny Machado being added in August. The 2013 Orioles don't figure to have added much in September either.
Still, if the O's are going to pull off the 20-5 record they need to equal last year's record, contributions are going to have to come from unlikely quarters. Most likely, that will need to be a starting rotation that has collectively struggled all year. Britton or Gausman could be a sixth man in the rotation for the month, but the bulk of the games will be pitched by the other five. That could also mean under-performing regulars like Nick Markakis and Wieters.
They are only three games out, which isn't that far, and like the Orioles Magic song says, you never know who's gonna hear the call...