Back at FanFest in January, a fan asked Mike Elias what kind of goals he had as far as the Orioles winning games in 2019. His response included a phrase that has stuck with me as the O’s have failed their way through the season: “I don’t want to place undue emphasis on something that’s not strategically relevant.” That’s what he said.
Elias was not wrong to say that. The Orioles were never going to be good this season. Nothing he could do could change that fact. This problem has no quick solution. Even knowing that was his philosophy, there have been times where it’s been almost a shock to see it in action.
Take the case of tonight’s starting pitcher, Luis Ortiz. The 23-year-old righty has been summoned from Triple-A Norfolk to start tonight because Andrew Cashner is dealing with a blister on his pitching hand. That blister cut short Cashner’s last start and hasn’t subsided yet.
The Orioles made this determination about Cashner only yesterday. This ruled out using Dylan Bundy on regular rest for tonight’s start, because Bundy had a heavy side session on Wednesday. Gabriel Ynoa having a short start on Thursday eliminated the possibility of trying to use a bullpen game.
Enter Ortiz, part of the return in last July’s Jonathan Schoop trade, who is already on the 40-man roster by virtue of a late September call-up last season. Ortiz was already the scheduled starting pitcher for Norfolk today. Nothing weird about using him in Baltimore instead, right? Except for this: Ortiz has a 7.01 ERA in 11 starts with the Tides this season, with 14 home runs allowed in 52.2 innings, and only 41 strikeouts with 23 walks issued.
This game is not strategically relevant. In all likelihood, Ortiz himself is not strategically relevant, a statement I make (along with the following) with apology to any friend or family of Ortiz who may happen to read it. He is not the hot prospect getting his chance. He is the food being dropped into the raptor pen.
As Ortiz is averaging fewer than five innings per game started, he may not even be of much service in the way of innings eating. Perhaps he will surprise us all... but probably the result will be a disgusting one for O’s fans.
Here’s the Orioles starting lineup, which will be going up against former O’s pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez:
- Hanser Alberto - 3B
- Trey Mancini - RF
- Renato Nunez - DH
- Pedro Severino - C
- Anthony Santander - LF
- Jonathan Villar - 2B
- Chris Davis - 1B
- Keon Broxton - CF
- Richie Martin - SS