Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez returned to the Baltimore Orioles rotation for a start on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a roster move that coincides with the demotion of top prospect Kevin Gausman back to AAA Norfolk. Gonzalez pitched a solid 6 innings of 1 ER ball with 7 Ks against the Bucs.
While the Orioles offense hasn’t quite hit its stride early on in the 2014 season, the starting rotation has been better than advertised, keeping Baltimore in the top half of the AL East standings.
The rotation has come on extremely strong especially in May. Top starter Chris Tillman hurled a complete game shutout his last time out on May 16th against the Kansas City Royals, limiting the bats of Hosmer, Gordon, Butler and company to just 5 hits while striking out 3. Tillman has been one of the many consistent Orioles starters recently, as he has allowed three ER or less in eight of his last nine starts; he gave up 7 ER to the Toronto Blue Jays on April 23rd.
In order for Tillman to continue to see success, he has to try and continue to pitch to contact while avoiding high pitch counts. He hasn’t worked extremely deep into many starts this year. While it may seem tempting to try and record as many strikeouts as possible, it is important to be able to give the bullpen a break every once in a while.
Joining Tillman in the group of consistent Baltimore starters is right-hander Wei-Yin Chen. Chen, who also earned a win against the Royals with 1 ER over 5 1/3 innings in his last start, has been perhaps even better than Tillman, as he has given up 2 ER or less in his last 4 outings, while picking up two victories. However, there could be cause for concern with Chen, because as of before his most recent outing, he had only allowed 3 home runs despite a high total of 73 flyouts, making it seem like he could be susceptible to the long ball in the future.
Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched like many predicted he would in 2014; he has been extremely inconsistent. He really struggled in April, but in early May he has really impressed. Ubaldo began the month of May only allowing 1 earned run in his first three starts, the first of which was a masterful 7 1/3 inning 10 K performance against the Minnesota Twins.
Even no. 5 starter Bud Norris has been giving the O’s the chance to win every time he pitches. Last time out, he managed 7.1 innings of 1 run ball, but fell victim to Royals starter Danny Duffy’s near perfect game, as he was saddled with the loss. Norris has been able to improve on his mediocre finish to 2013 after being traded from the Astros, and has become the pitcher the Orioles expected to get in the deal, pitching to an impressive 3.58 ERA with 33 punchouts next to just 14 free passes.
The Orioles rotation has done its part so far, but the offense is still looking to hit its stride here in mid-May. If Manny Machado can catch fire and Chris Davis (who hit another bomb on Tuesday) can get back anywhere close to his 2013 form, the Orioles have to be considered the favorites in the AL East race.