I don't understand why the Orioles are "unlikely" to call up Zach Britton? Doesn't it make more sense to take a guy not part of our future like Kevin Millwood out and see what Britton can do? -- Ryan M., Columbia, Md.
First, it's not a done deal that Britton won't be with the Orioles this September. As we've all seen plenty of times before, injury and need can often dictate otherwise. With that being said, Britton probably doesn't factor into the Orioles' callups right now -- with right-hander Chris Tillman expected to get the nod instead. Orioles officials don't want Britton's first taste of the Majors to come out of the bullpen. With the team already looking into adding Tillman and going to a six-man rotation, adding Britton -- with several off days -- doesn't make much sense.
Britton will feasibly make two more starts with Triple-A Norfolk. He probably won't hit the maximum threshold innings-wise, but the Orioles feel it's enough for him to end the year there. He went a career-high 147 1/3 innings in 2008 and last season pitched 140. He's at 142 1/3 now, so with two starts he will certainly set a new high in innings pitched and is expected to contend for a rotation spot next spring. Keep in mind, Britton is also not on the 40-man roster and that the Orioles want to see long man Rick VandenHurk (who they acquired at the deadline for Will Ohman) get a few turns in the rotation as well.
There's really no need to rush the 22-year-old Britton up to the Majors unless the Orioles have an open spot. You don't want guys pitching on seven or eight days' rest -- and you don't want to call up Britton to sit on the bench. While the feeling is he's ready to pitch at the Major League level, is he ready to consistently challenge hitters up here?
As for Millwood, his performance under new manager Buck Showalter has improved. Showalter told reporters in Anaheim over the weekend that the organization hasn't discussed taking the veteran out of the rotation. He's just 1-4 in August but has a 3.54 ERA, his lowest monthly ERA since his first five starts, when he pitched to a 3.38 mark. I wouldn't say he's resurgent, but he hasn't given the Orioles reason enough to just take him out of the rotation without a plan.
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What's the plan with third-overall pick Manny Machado. Can can we expect to see him in Baltimore soon? -- Matt K., Washington, D.C.
Machado worked out with short-season Aberdeen on Sunday and is expected to be in Monday's starting lineup at shortstop against Vermont. The 18-year-old, who was awarded the second-largest signing bonus in team history, will remain with the IronBirds until their season finishes on Sunday and will be in Baltimore for the instructional league from Sept. 21-Oct 1. He is expected to be introduced at Camden Yards at some point during that time -- with the priority right now being on getting Machado as many at-bats as possible.
Machado went 1-for-7 in two games for the Gulf Coast League O's, belting a two-run homer on Saturday. He is already considered the organization's top middle infield prospect.
Showalter joked last week in Chicago that maybe Machado, who drew raves from roving offensive coordinator Mike Bordick, could be ready to compete for a job in 2011. While that's not happening, it gives you an idea of both how high the organization is on Machado and how thin the prospects are behind current starter Cesar Izturis. It will be interesting to see what the organization does in the offseason with regards to Izturis, who will be a free agent this winter, and also what next season's plans are for Machado. Showalter and the rest of the Orioles' brass will get a closer look at the young phenom in next month's unofficial instructional league, which is scheduled to take part at Camden Yards. Considered one of three stand-alone talents in this year's Draft, Machado is certainly a big part of the organization's hope for the future.
A sweep in Anaheim. A winning August. I can't help but feel like the tide is turning for Orioles fans. Am I being overly optimistic here? -- David H., Yonkers, New York
Given that the Orioles have secured their first winning August since 1997, you're probably not alone in that line of thinking, David. The O's are getting quality starts on a near-nightly basis, timely hitting and a certain swagger since Showalter took the helm. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what he's changed -- but whatever it is, it's working. A few starts ago, Jeremy Guthrie likened the Orioles' current play to what everyone had hoped for going into the spring. So while there's certainly reason to get excited, a lot of the optimism going forward will hinge on the health of certain guys and the continued development of their young arms.
With that being said, a banged-up Orioles team will head into a pretty brutal final stretch where they play the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox -- who are all fighting for a postseason berth -- a combined 18 times in September. Adam Jones and Brian Roberts are day-to-day with injuries. While September callups should bring some reinforcements, an O's lineup without Roberts is one that has struggled considerably.
Jones (left shoulder blade contusion) is expected to return to the lineup for Tuesday's series opener -- which would be the first time he's been in the lineup in a week -- and the team is cautiously optimistic about Roberts as well. They were both scheduled to get treatment in Baltimore during Monday's off-day. The initial diagnosis is that Roberts' injury is unrelated to the herniated disc in his lower back, which sidelined him for most of Spring Training and the entire first half.
Roberts had appeared in at least 110 games for the Orioles since he was recalled for good in May of '03. But 2010 has proven to be the most injury-plagued campaign of his career.
So while there is cause for excitement heading into this offseason, posting a winning September will be a significant challenge. Showalter has said that he isn't fond of his team being deemed a spoiler, but the Orioles' play in these final weeks could have repercussions for the rest of the American League East. Of course, any win against a divisional rival in September can only help the O's confidence moving forward.