The “Cavalry” have arrived, and Orioles fans can only wait and hope that what they have is enough to form into a decent pitching staff. With Jake Arrieta’s arrival, the last piece of the team’s starting rotation-to-be made the majors, without the aplomb or fanfare one might have expected given the hype and excitement before the season. Fans had visions of Matusz, Tillman, Arrieta, Bergesen, and perhaps David Hernandez forming the nucleus of a front-line staff, without one of them having to be signed to some exorbitant free agent contract, and all having either been drafted by the organization or spent significant time in the minors with the organization. Through and through, it was to be an Orioles bred rotation. Last night we saw some of the hope for the future, and the reasons so many fans are a bit more than concerned about whether those visions were just mirages.
Jake Arrieta pitched a solid game, a great bounce-back start in only allowing one run over 6 innings despite giving up 7 hits. Most impressive to me was his 2 walks, the part of his game he had to work the most on this season. While he still carries around an ERA of almost 5, at least Baltimore knows that his first two starts weren’t just the result of a lack of competitor’s scouting. The guy can pitch, but we said the same thing about Chris Tillman before he started to look like a AAAA pitcher. I have seen few pitchers who dominated so thoroughly at AAA but struggled as mightily in the majors as Chris Tillman did- you see it all the time among hitters or even relief pitchers, but starters generally have the makeup to adjust and react to the situation, and to the talent they are facing. Tillman has already pitched a no-hitter and a one-hitter at Norfolk, yet he is lugging around an abhorrent 8.40 ERA in 4 starts so far in Baltimore.
Many people are wondering whether Tillman’s recent success should give him the start on Saturday with Millwood going to the DL; I am going to say no. While I am tempted to give him another shot, I don’t want to happen to Tillman what has happened to Brad Bergesen, being yo-yo’d back and forth between Norfolk and Baltimore every time he has a good or bad start. You either let the kid work on his mechanics (in Bergesen’s case) or new pitches (in Tillman’s case) for an extended period of time or you let it ride in the majors. The Orioles had no problem watching Jason Berken struggle start after start last season, and he found himself this season in his relief role. Let the player know what the plan is or that uncertainty will creep into every start he has.
Whatever happened to the Oriole Way? No, I am not talking about how bad the team is, just the style of bringing up pitchers. It used to be that a top prospect would be brought up from the minors to ply his trade in middle relief, then be used as long relief, and eventually ease himself into the starting rotation. It was a process that alleviated anxiety on the part of the pitcher and allowed him to understand major league hitting over time. More importantly, he knew his role and what it was going to be. I understand that given the lack of existing talent in the rotation some moves are being made faster than even they would like, but there is a better way to manage these prospects. Brian Matusz has benefitted from being able to stay in the majors, and I cannot help but think that Jake Arrieta is better off having spent an extended amount of time to Norfolk- if only the organization would handle Tillman and Bergesen with a committed approach, perhaps they wouldn’t be scrambling to figure out where these prospects are.
A worse plan pursued consistently is better than a better plan pursued inconsistently. Right now the Orioles can’t make up their minds with how to handle the “cavalry” and all Orioles fans can do is hope that the players themselves are talented and strong-minded enough to overcome the organization’s indecision.