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Orioles Set For Big Week In Chicago; What's Next For Ubaldo Jimenez?

August 18, 2014

Leave it to me to state the obvious, but there are only four ways a team would have an opportunity to spend a full week in the same city: New York, which would mean two-series straight between the Mets and Yankees; Los Angles, with the Dodgers and Angels; the Bay area in northern California where you have the A's and the Giants; or Chicago, which is where the Orioles are going Aug. 18-24. 

I'm not sure how the Chicago trip could have snuck up on you, but I noticed it soon after the O's schedule came out. The Orioles will have three straight at Comiskey Park Aug. 18-20, and then will play at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field Aug 22-24.

And lest you forget, the three games against the Cubs are all day games, leaving you plenty of time to carouse the night life in America's second city.

Both the White Sox and the Cubs have records worse than .500. The White Sox are 59-65, and 9.5 games behind the first-place Royals, while the Cubs are 53-70 and 16 games behind the first-place Brewers. 

Nonetheless, the Birds will face four stout starters during the next six games:

• Monday: Bud Norris versus Chris Sale

• Tuesday: Chris Tillman versus Jose Quintana

• Wednesday: Wei-Yin Chen versus Hector Noesi

• Friday: Miguel Gonzalez versus Jake Arrieta

• Saturday: Kevin Gausman versus Kyle Hendicks

• Sunday: Unannounced

On Aug. 24, the Cubs' likely starter will be one of Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette's former signees, Tsuyoshi Wada. Both Wada and Chen were star starters for the Japanese League. Chen has fashioned together three good seasons that have seen him go 31-22 with a collective ERA of 3.96, while Wada needed Tommy John surgery within the first couple months of the 2012 season. Due to his arm problems, he never ended up pitching a single inning for the O's. So far in 2014, Wada is 2-1 during six starts with the Cubs. His ERA is 3.15, with a WHIP of 1.17. 

The starter Aug. 22 is another familiar name -- Arrieta. Always a frustrating member of the Orioles' rotation, Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop were acquired by the Cubs in July 2013 for Scott Feldman.

In 2014, Arrieta blossomed into an elite National League starter. During 18 starts, the right-hander has gone 6-4 with a 2.61 ERA and a stellar WHIP of 1.02.

As the Orioles' Rotation Turns

During the telecast of the Orioles-Cleveland game Aug. 17, MASN showed the graphic of a quote from manager Buck Showalter concerning the sticky-wicket starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has become during the first year of his four-year, $50 million contract. Showalter had not yet announced who his Aug. 22 starter would be against the Cubs, but he had made it clear Chen, fresh off a brilliant outing in Cleveland Aug. 15, would pitch Aug. 20 against the White Sox.

Orioles 2014: Ubaldo Jimenez (with Buck Showalter, Opening Day)
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

It had been almost assumed that Gonzalez, who would be eligible to return to the Orioles Aug. 19, would make that start. But while announcing Chen would move up, Showalter said they are always going to put the best foot forward out there. A quick translation seemed to strongly imply that at this point in the 2014 season, Gonzalez is the better option as opposed to Jimenez. 

After hearing that, it came as no major surprise to read Gonzalez was set to start one of the games at Wrigley.

All of that begs the question as to what to do with the highest-paid pitcher in Orioles history -- Jimenez? There are no easy answers. But for these past six weeks of the regular season, plus the postseason, the answers may have become obvious. If unable to find a legitimate reason to put Jimenez on the disabled list once again, the O's are likely to make him an expensive bullpen option when the score of games will either see the O's ahead by six or more runs, or, possibly, behind early by 4-5 runs.