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The Orioles should adopt a six-man rotation with the return of Ubaldo Jimenez

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The high-priced but struggling starter returns without an obvious place to slot in. The team should just add a slot.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

A funny thing has happened for the Orioles in the absence of Ubaldo Jimenez, who's on the way back from a DL stint due to an injured ankle.  Their other five starters have been tremendously effective, which is a strange thing to write about five Orioles starting pitchers.  But baseball is a strange mistress, and the Orioles have survived a tough stretch of schedule, even without most of their offense firing, because the rotation has stepped up in a big way.

Which brings us to the return of Ubaldo Jimenez.  Jimenez, the Orioles' top offseason signing, has struggled mightily to live up to his four-year, $50M deal, posting a 4.52 ERA with an alarming 5.4 BB/9.  He's had trouble repeating his delivery, and it's shown.  The best hope for the Orioles is Jimenez's reputation as a second-half pitcher, and indeed the team has expressed that they don't plan to move Jimenez into a relief role, expecting him to start a game by this weekend (though exactly when has not yet been announced).

The important thing for the club, then, is not to demote a superior (or at least currently hotter) starter to the bullpen just to make room for Jimenez.  Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman, Wei-Yin Chen -- these are not aces, but they've all gotten the job done (and then some, in a few cases) for two full turns through the rotation now, and a club holding onto a comfortable but non-dominant division lead shouldn't tip that apple cart if they don't have to.

The good news is, they shouldn't have to.  A six-man rotation might put a few guys on an extra day's rest this week and next, when the team has a pair of off days, but the team plays 20 consecutive games from August 22 to September 10, meaning a six-man rotation isn't going to put anyone on ice more than a normal off day would.  The only real disadvantage to the team is going a man short in either the bullpen or the bench, which is only an issue until rosters expand on September 1st.

And of course, any or all of these issues go away immediately if one of the six struggles mightily or gets hurt, as is not entirely unlikely with the Orioles rotation.  But with a six-man rotation, that's the kind of problem that solves itself.  Additionally, the team can absorb being down a man in the 'pen (sorry, TJ McFarland) by using the starter on the longest rest as a swingman if someone completely implodes.

I'm not entirely convinced that Jimenez has earned his way back into this well-performing rotation, but it's hard to demote a $12M starter when you're not the Yankees.  Jimenez will get his chance to try again.  That's not the end of the world, as long as the Orioles don't penalize a more deserving starter for someone else's contract.

Now, about those walks...