Orioles news and notes: lineup changes, Pie, roster moves
Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a hard guy to read, so I say this without much confidence or conviction, but I’d almost be surprised if we head down to the clubhouse tomorrow afternoon and there isn’t some sort of shakeup. Now, I’m not talking about J.J. Hardy being activated, which most of us expect to happen either tomorrow or Wednesday. I’m also not talking about a flurry of roster moves with four or five guys coming and going. I am talking about some lineup alterations and perhaps one or two roster moves. I have no inside information at this point, just a feeling from observing Showalter and listening to his responses yesterday that he’s seen enough and he feels like he’s given everyone -- his veteran hitters, specifically -- an opportunity, and they are still not producing. Today’s day off will give Showalter ample time to ponder things, though I’d be willing to bet that is all he has been doing lately. I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions and change for the sake of change, but it’s getting late early, as the expression goes, and the Orioles' offense is showing no sign of waking from a slumber.
We’ve talked many times about potential lineup changes, about moving Nick Markakis from second to third, about moving Derrek Lee down in the order and moving Matt Wieters and Adam Jones up. I’m fine with all that, but here is one change I’d like to see more often: Felix Pie somewhere in the lineup. I’m not saying Pie should be in there every day, but with the offense desperately in need of a jolt of speed and energy, why not give Pie three or four consecutive starts to see if he can get something going? Why not put him second behind Brian Roberts and see whether they could get on base a little, create some havoc and open up some holes and some RBI opportunities for Nick Markakis and Vladimir Guerrero? I know Luke Scott has been swinging the bat better and it’s tough to take him out of the lineup when the left fielder appears to be getting hot. But a day off for Scott, especially with his shoulder hurting, couldn’t hurt. It couldn’t hurt Markakis to get a day off as well, or Lee to spend a night on the bench and Scott to play first base, sacrificing some defense in the hopes of jump-starting a punchless lineup. Pie has started only six games all season, the fewest among the position players. Three of those starts came in the first week of the season with Scott nursing a groin injury. I’m not saying he’s the answer here, that he’s going to be the catalyst. I am saying the offense is in desperate need of some energy and exuberance and Pie brings both of those characteristics.
To create roster space for Hardy, the path of least resistance would be to demote Clay Rapada and go with the more traditional 12-man pitching staff. That’s also appears to be the most likely move unless the Orioles suddenly feel that they can no longer carry two utility infielders and do something with Cesar Izturis. The only other option that I see is to skip Chris Tillman’s Wednesday start and send him down to the minors, keeping an extra reliever for a little longer at a time where the bullpen has been heavily taxed. Because of today’s day off, the Orioles could go with a four-man rotation for a little while, but they’d still need a fifth starter on Saturday. So basically it would amount to delaying the inevitable for a couple of extra days of bullpen security.
This is something to look for down the road, but it’s worth noting that Brian Matusz and Alfredo Simon, two candidates to join the rotation, are both on the same schedule in terms of pitching days. They are both scheduled to pitch May 11, May 16th and May 21st. The member of the big league rotation that is on that same schedule? Chris Tillman. That may not mean much because with off days and other juggling, that could change pretty quickly. But it’s obviously no secret that Brad Bergesen and Tillman each have about two starts left before Matusz and Simon are ready, and they are running out of time to save their rotation spots.