New, old faces make team feel com­plete

Hunter stead­ies bullpen; Pearce, Stubbs, Bourn shore up out­field

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES - By Jon Me­oli jme­oli@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/JonMe­oli

Com­ing out of their Sept. 1 day off, the Ori­oles have had an up­beat feel­ing. Be­fore Sun­day’s 5-2 loss to the New York Yan­kees, man­ager Buck Showal­ter, in a round­about way, pointed out why.

Be­tween their bench ad­di­tions and the re­turn of key con­trib­u­tors from their 2014 Amer­i­can League East cham­pi­onship team, it seems the 2016 Ori­oles are a com­plete team for the first time in months.

Start with the bullpen, which has had vet­eran Tommy Hunter rais­ing spir­its for a week. Hunter has pitched three times in that span in games that were out of reach, and taken stress off the late-in­ning trio of Zach Brit­ton, Brad Brach and My­chal Givens. Those three lined up for three score­less in­nings be­hind a su­perb out­ing Satur­day by Kevin Gaus­man, in part be­cause they haven’t needed to pitch in other sit­u­a­tions re­cently.

“It’s hard to win a ma­jor league game, and it’s hard to have that chain,” Showal­ter said. “My­chal did his job. Brad did his job. Zach did his job. It all started with Gaus­man do­ing his job. That’s why you want to get as deep as you can with a starter, be­cause that chain is hard to have fit ev­ery night. And if you’re do­ing that ev­ery night, the pitch­ers can’t do that phys­i­cally. You just can’t do that to them.

“That’s what’s been good about get­ting Tommy here. You just need some­body — they may not go out and get six guys out in a row, but they don’t im­plode. They take the stress out of a game that you’re way be­hind or way ahead, and al­low you to have some bul­lets to fight an­other day. But we’re in that stage of the sea­son where you’re not do­ing the, ‘Let’s do this for two months down the road.’ If we don’t do it well, we’re not go­ing to have two months down the road. But a lot of things have changed.”

Since Hunter joined the bullpen, the Ori­oles re­liev­ers have com­bined to al­low four earned runs in 172⁄ in­nings, and the whole out­fit seem­sto have been­sta­bi­lized by his pres­ence onand­off the field.

The other area com­pleted was the out­field, thanks to the July 31 trade for Steve Pearce and the Aug. 31ad­di­tions of Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn. Pearce added a right-handed bat who is an alternative to Hyun Soo Kim in right field.

Pearce was handed Sun­day’s start over Kim be­cause he has a good track record against Yan­kees starter Michael Pineda, but also be­cause Showal­ter wanted to get him two starts and keep him in­volved.

Since be­ing ac­quired from the Tampa Bay Rays, Pearce has hit .244 with three home runs and an .842 OPS while bat­tling el­bow prob­lems. In that same span, Kim has hit .273 with a .715 OPS. It hasn’t been the typ­i­cal left-right pla­toon that was ex­pected, how­ever, and Showal­ter noted how all the re­cent im­prove­ments have given the Ori­oles a lot of op­tions off the bench that they didn’t have be­fore.

Even if Bourn and Stubbs are here pri­mar­ily for their de­fense, the lack of hit­ters on the bench has also been hard for the Ori­oles to man­age this year. “It’s nice to have both of those guys,” Showal­ter said. More ros­ter con­sid­er­a­tions made: Left-han­der Brian Duensing was in the Ori­oles’ club­house af­ter Sun­day’s game, and Showal­ter said he’d be added to the ros­ter for to­day’s game against the Rays.

That will re­quire the cre­ation of a 40-man ros­ter spot, as will an­other pos­si­ble move, Showal­ter said. He men­tioned re­liever Pe­dro Beato and in­fielder Paul Jan­ish as pos­si­ble non-ros­ter ad­di­tions. Till­man, O’Day on re­hab track: Right-han­der Chris Till­man (shoul­der bur­si­tis) and re­liever Dar­ren O’Day (ro­ta­tor cuff strain) had bullpen and half-mound ses­sions, re­spec­tively, Sun­day, and came through well, the team said. Wi­eters watch: Catcher Matt Wi­eters was hit with a pitch on the right kneecap in the fourth in­ning Sun­day. Showal­ter said it could be a con­cern for to­day.

“That will be sore to­mor­row,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

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