Orioles Need 13 On Pitching Staff
By Jim Henneman
Like it or not, and you can be sure manager Buck Showalter probably doesn't, the Orioles have no choice but to settle in on a 13-man pitching staff. They did it for the most part during their successful run a year ago, and based on what he's seen lately, Showalter has to be convinced there's no other alternative this year -- especially with the recent implosions in the bullpen.
With rookie Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland considered too valuable to lose, but still being handled with kid gloves as he navigates through the American League for the first time, the Orioles will need the extra arm in the bullpen more than an extra player on the bench. Even with the uncertainty at second base, and the platoon situation in left field, the lineup is basically set, making an extra bat or glove something of a luxury.
With the starters, excepting Chris Tillman, often struggling just to reach the sixth inning and the bullpen showing signs of weakness as well as wear and tear, the toll will be too great for a 12-man staff. It is times like these that used to make former manager Earl Weaver crave a resilient reliever who could work long and often. Diego Segui, father of ex-Oriole David, was one Weaver constantly used as a prime example of the kind of pitcher every staff needed.
For whatever consolation it might be for the local fans contemplating jumping off a bridge as the next exercise, the O's haven't been the only Beltway team caught in a divisional traffic jam. Remember that series between the Nationals and Tigers May 8-9, when both teams talked as if they were playing a World Series preview? Well, things haven't exactly gone too well for either since then.
Counting the two losses to the Nats, the Tigers lost eight of 12 games from May 8-19. Meanwhile, the Nationals lost seven of 11 from May 10-20. World Series talk subsided, and for the first time both teams were looking more at playoff positioning than division races.
The Tigers, perhaps the most prohibitive preseason favorite to win a division, passed the season's quarter pole in second place in the American League Central division, 2.5 games behind the upstart Indians with a record barely good enough to claim the second wild-card spot had the playoffs started this week. The Nationals were in an even tougher position, saddled with the same 23-21 record as the Orioles, which placed them no better than fifth in the wild-card standings.
Of course, just about every other team looks good in comparison with the Angels, who rank first only as the worst team money could buy.
I understand that Fieldin Culbreth, the crew chief of the umpiring gang that oversaw the pitching-change travesty during the May 9 game involving the Angels and Astros, is getting fined and suspended two games for forgetting a rule that's been in place since long before he took up the profession. I also understand that the rest of the crew likewise is getting fined and reprimanded.
But what about those wearing the baseball, not umpire, uniforms? The controversy surely didn't speak well of Astros rookie manager Bo Porter, who compounded his mistake by initially saying the rule had recently been changed. It has been well documented in the past that wearing a uniform does not necessarily guarantee knowledge of the rule book, and there are some cases where it might even be excusable -- but this, for sure, wasn't one of them.
Along a similar line, and while acknowledging that it's been a rather shaky month for the umpiring profession, those fines that resulted from the dust-up between Rays pitcher David Price and umpire Tom Hallion were borderline ridiculous.
I'm not excusing whatever it was that Hallion did or didn't say to Price, but to fine him the same amount of money ($1,000) as Price and the three bench jockeys who came to their teammate's defense practically defies explanation. I might be a little late to this dance, but it needs to be pointed out that the highest-paid umpire in the game (which Hallion is not) makes about $300,000, or roughly 60 percent of baseball's minimum salary for a player, a category Price and friends evacuated long ago.
I hope it won't happen again, but if MLB ever again decides to fine players and umpires on an equal basis, let it be percentages, not dollars.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.
Posted May 22, 2013