ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – About 90 minutes before Monday night’s game, the Orioles still hadn’t announced who would be cut from the roster to make room for Kevin Gausman.
Buck Showalter seemed much more pensive than he usually is before moves. He doesn’t enjoy telling players they’re going to the minor leagues or being cut loose from the team, but this time he was dreading what was about to come up.
Showalter asked a few reporters what they would do. That’s something he does occasionally. The team’s collective mind was already made up, and the answers given by reporters weren’t the correct ones, anyway.
Surprisingly, the Orioles optioned Ryan Flaherty, a player who Showalter has found multiple uses for over his five seasons in Baltimore.
Flaherty’s stay in Norfolk is likely to be brief. If someone goes to the disabled list, Flaherty won’t have to even spend the required 10 days with the Tides.
The move was surprising because it leaves the ultra-prepared Showalter without a backup middle infielder. Monday’s bench consisted of backup catcher Caleb Joseph, who can play first and third and two pure outfielders Hyun Soo Kim and Nolan Reimold.
Showalter explained after the game that the move wasn’t because of anything Flaherty hadn’t done, and he’d probably move J.J. Hardy to second base if something happened to Schoop.
His real fear was what if there was a relatively minor injury, one that didn’t require a trip to the DL.
Showalter values defense, and it’s obvious the move, which temporarily leaves the Orioles with 13 pitchers uncomfortable.
Too many five inning starts have left the Orioles bullpen, which has been extraordinarily effective, at risk.
If the starters can’t go deep into games, the team must rely on T.J. McFarland and Vance Worley, two pitchers who seemed possible candidates to be lopped off the roster.
During spring training, Showalter sometimes talks about hard decisions, but good hard decisions he has to make about the composition of the roster.
Monday’s was a hard decision, to be sure, but not a good one.