I was asked before the Orioles left for their 11-game, three-city swing out west what would constitute a successful trip. I said 6-5. Luckily I wasn’t asked to amend it after the Orioles won three of four in Oakland.
They ended up 7-4. And that has to be considered a success even if they were just 4-3 in their last two cities, Seattle and Los Angeles. It’s tough to travel out west and bounce in and out of several cities and come out above .500. The Orioles did that.
What’s most impressive is that they are winning without consistent, quality starting pitching. What’s most concerning is that they aren’t getting consistent, quality starting pitching.
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The bullpen has been great. But it can’t be asked to pitch three-plus innings most nights. Or it is going to be burned out by July, no matter how careful manager Buck Showalter is with his relievers.
The addition of Freddy Garcia gives the Orioles another guy who knows how to get into the latter part of the game. That, right now, is the club’s biggest need. Maybe Garcia, 36, won’t be that guy all season, but if he can do it for a few weeks, it’ll be a huge boost for the rotation and bullpen.
The guy who really needs to step it up is Jason Hammel, who has recorded an out in the seventh inning just once this season (strangely, in his only loss).
Hammel is 5-1 with a 4.10 ERA in seven starts. He has allowed 41 hits and 16 walks while striking out 26 in 41 2/3 innings.
He has been fine. He has gutted it out. He has kept his team in the game and they’ve won six of his seven outings. But the Orioles need more out of the guy who is their No. 1 starter.
This isn’t a shot at Hammel. Because he’ll look you in the eye and tell you the same thing.It’s why his teammates like having him around. Hammel understands what he is charged to do and he takes it seriously. So he has to be better for this team to continue to succeed (and save its bullpen).
The flipside, though, is that Hammel has not pitched nearly as well as he expects so far this season and he is 5-1. He’s in line for a real strong year if his fastball command improves some and he stays healthy.
Right-hander Zach Clark was the story of early last week when he finally made the majors after parts of eight seasons in the minors. Things quickly nosedived for the UMBC product as he gave up three runs in his lone appearance and then was taken off the 40-man roster.
He cleared waivers Monday and was sent down to Double-A Bowie. Here’s the interesting twist. He’ll go down there and experiment in games with a knuckleball -- he’ll even work with knuckler legend Phil Niekro on Thursday. Niekro is tutoring Orioles farmhand Eddie Gamboa, whom he worked with this spring (as well as knuckleballer Zach Staniewicz).
Clark is 29 and the ultimate baseball rat. He’ll do whatever he needs to do to get back to the big leagues. And this is an interesting option. Remember, Showalter suggested the same thing to a guy who bounced up and down several years ago with the Texas Rangers. R.A. Dickey has done pretty well for himself.
One last item, and though it’s not really Orioles’ related, it’s still worth mentioning. Chicago White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd will have surgery Tuesday to repair his ulnar collateral ligament and a torn flexor muscle in his right arm. He will miss between 14 and 19 months, meaning he may not be able to pitch in the 2014 season.
That’s terrible news for a good guy. The 30-year-old Floyd grew up in Severna Park and graduated from Mount St. Joseph. And he has been on the Orioles’ radar forever (even back when the Philadelphia Phillies were looking to deal the former first rounder).
Floyd is a free agent at the end of this season, and I assumed the Orioles, before this news, would make a run at him in the offseason. He always seemed genuine in his excitement to pitch in Camden Yards and didn’t hide his childhood exuberance for the Orioles (unlike others).
I interviewed Floyd several times and he was unfailingly polite and engaged in the discussion. Whoever signs him will be getting a quality person, but will be rolling the dice that he’ll be able to contribute at some point next season.