The Baltimore Orioles are in first place in the AL East, currently own the number two seed in the American League and are enjoying a phenomenal two month period of very good starting pitching, but the hot topic is not any of that, it's what with the Orioles do when Ubaldo Jimenez returns from the disabled list?
Jimenez is likely to return from the DL late this week, and Orioles fans have wondered what will the O's do with him, especially since the starting rotation is pitching so well.
The $50 million man has been a disappointment thus far in 2014 as he is 3-8 with a 4.52 ERA and has a 1.54 WHIP.
First, we will try to predict what the Orioles will do when Jimenez returns. It is hard to fathom that a pitcher making the money that Jimenez is, will do anything but start for this team, especially since the organization gave Jimenez the biggest free agent contract for a pitcher in franchise history.
When he returns, which is likely to be this weekend, we see Jimenez getting the nod as a starter by the Orioles and the Birds going with a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks. None of the current five starters have done anything to deserve being moved to the bullpen, so the odds of Baltimore simply moving one of the current five are pretty slim. With a six-man rotation, the pitcher who's throwing day it is could serve as a reliever on that day as the bullpen would be reduced to six in the wake of a six-man rotation. Odds are, T.J. McFarland or Brad Brach will be optioned to make room for Jimenez.
ESPN is currently listing Jimenez as the starter for the Orioles on Saturday, but the Orioles officially have Saturday's starter listed as TBD. Now, we can't imagine the Orioles giving Jimenez more than two starts if he struggles mightily in both of them and at that point, Jimenez could have an "injury" pop up or be moved to the bullpen.
So that's what we think they will do, but what should they do?
Honestly, if the scenario we just presented as what the Orioles will do comes to fruition, that is exactly what we believe they should do. Jimenez has been a phenomenal pitcher before, and this break is what was needed to get him back to his top of the rotation potential, then that is like acquiring a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. On the same note, if Jimenez struggles in two starts, then you cannot continue to send him out there when you are trying to win your first division title since 1997.
Jimenez could be the wildcard that the Orioles could need to take the big pot on the table that is the American League. If Jimenez can pitch the way he did in the second half of 2013, the Orioles starting rotation gets even better and if you have six starting pitchers that are all pitching very effectively, that is a problem that any team in baseball would love to have.
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