Pitching for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides on June 13, Yovani Gallardo could only watch as his seventh offering of the game sailed over the fence, courtesy of Charlotte Knights lead-off man Carlos Sanchez. Having pinned the hitter with an 0-2 count, the blast stung the 30-year-old starter, who was with Norfolk trying to pitch his way off the 15-day DL due to the right shoulder tendinitis that has kept him out of the O’s rotation since April 22.
Fortunately for Gallardo, he did not allow another hit or run, throwing five innings in what was deemed his final of three rehab starts. Gallardo, who the Orioles signed to a two-year, $22 million deal with an option for 2018 this past February, will rejoin his team on Saturday on full rest and pitch against the Blue Jays.
There was a brief debate on who Gallardo would be replacing, but a brief look at the numbers might have been all the homework Baltimore needed to figure it out. Ubaldo Jimenez has been getting shellacked for most of the season, to the tune of a 6.89 ERA through 13 starts. Things had not improved for quite some time for the 32-year-old veteran, and recently he had seemed to bottom out.
This is the shortest outing of Ubaldo Jimenez's career. He went just 1 IP on 7/30/11 vs. SD, his last start w/ Col B4 being traded to Cle.— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) June 12, 2016
For a team constantly under attack near the top of the AL East, having a starter surrender 12.8 H/9 and 5.0 BB/9 is an easy way to be left vulnerable. The same day that Gallardo was suppressing the Charlotte Knights, Orioles manager Buck Showalter admitted that what Jimenez was giving the team wasn’t enough.
“We have to look at other possibilities,” Showalter said. “But if we do something, he’s going to hear about it from us long before he reads about it.”
That “something” wound up being reassignment to the bullpen. Jimenez has thrown 6.1 IP as a reliever in his 11-season career, allowing 6 H, 4 ER, and 4 BB in that span. Admitting that Jimenez “might have been our best starting pitcher last year,” Showalter announced the move on Tuesday, hoping that the pressure relief is enough to get his starter back on track.
The situation parallels one from 2014, in which a 4.83 ERA saw Jimenez kicked out of the rotation as well. Jimenez would suffer an ankle injury and eventually be left off Baltimore’s playoff roster. He is currently in the third year of a four-year deal worth $50 million.
The Orioles may be even closer to full strength after injured shortstop J.J. Hardy began an at least three-game rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie, going 2-for-3 with two singles in six innings.